The Democratic Party’s establishment has never liked Tulsi Gabbard — certainly not since she resigned her Vice Chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee to endorse Bernard Sanders‘ insurgent 2016 campaign.
At the time, the DNC was being roundly criticized for rigging the primary against Sanders — with fundraising arrangements structured to help Hillary Clinton, the scheduling of debates on Friday and Saturday nights to mitigate their impact, and a system of superdelegates designed to ensure that those who control the party today always will.
They were infuriated by Gabbard’s resignation because her endorsement of Sanders jolted his campaign and confirmed all of the criticisms against the DNC in one fell swoop.
As a rhetorical tactic intended to dismiss her campaign, party political operatives have cast Gabbard’s policy positions as ‘broadly similar’ to those of other 2020 Democratic primary contenders on healthcare, climate, education, infrastructure, and criminal justice reform.
But that’s always been a smear — like the more well-known and more laughable smear from Clinton, that Gabbard is somehow a ”Russian asset’ — that’s offended many Gabbard supporters who admire her, particularly as the first female combat veteran to ever run for President.
In fact, her policy positions bring great nuance and an extraordinary third option in a primary that Big Media tells us has narrowed to two. But that paradigm, in which Joe Biden is cast as the establishment and Sanders is cast as the socialist, is too stale and tired a narrative to keep the attention of Gabbard’s supporters.
Gabbard criticizes what she describes as a push by the “neoliberal and neoconservative war machine” for US involvement in counterproductive and wasteful foreign wars, arguing that recent interventions in the Middle East have not made the United States any safer and have the unintended consequence of sparking a New Cold War and a nuclear arms race.
While she rails against the interventionalist tendencies of the defense establishment, she describes herself as a hawk on fighting terrorism.
Gabbard’s domestic policy platform is both economically and socially progressive.
Drug policy and criminal justice reform
Gabbard has been outspoken against a “broken criminal justice system” that puts “people in prison for smoking marijuana” while allowing pharmaceutical corporations responsible for “opioid-related deaths of thousands to walk away scot-free with their coffers full”.
Gabbard has said that as president she would “end the failed war on drugs, legalize marijuana, end cash bail, and ban private prisons”. Bills she has introduced include the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act and the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act (MORE Act).
Gabbard protested the construction of the final leg of the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016. She has spoken in favor of a Green New Deal but expressed concerns about vagueness in some proposed versions of the legislation and its inclusion of nuclear energy. She advocates for her own Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act (“OFF Act”) as legislation to transition the United States to clean renewable energy.
On January 18, 2017, Gabbard went on a one-week “fact-finding mission” to Syria and Lebanon, during which Gabbard met various political and religious leaders from Syria and Lebanon as well as regular citizens from both sides of the war, and also had two unplanned meetings with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
In April 2017 Gabbard expressed skepticism about claims that Assad used chemical weapons against civilians in Khan Shaykhun and which were followed by a military attack against Syria by the United States. Gabbard said, “a successful prosecution of Assad at the International Criminal Court would require collection of evidence from the scene of the incident” and that she supported the United Nations’ efforts in this regard.
Gabbard also criticized the Obama Administration, in more than 20 appearances on the Fox News network between 2013 and 2017, for “refusing” to say that the “real enemy” of the United States is “radical Islam” or “Islamic extremism.”
On December 20, 2019, the Stop Arming Terrorists Act that she introduced in 2017 became law as part of National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, § 1228 to prohibit the Department of Defense from “knowingly providing weapons or any other form of support to Al Qaeda” or other terrorist groups or any individual or group affiliated with any such organization.
For five years, Gabbard was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). When asked about her involvement in it, she said that while many in CFR did not share her worldview, “If we only sit in rooms with people who we agree with, then we won’t be able to bring about the kind of change that we need to see.”
Healthcare and GMO labeling
Gabbard supports a national healthcare insurance program that covers uninsured as well as under-insured people and allows supplemental but not duplicative private insurance. She has called for addressing the national nursing shortage and supports clear GMO labeling, voting in 2016 against a GMO-labeling bill she said was too weak.
Impeachment of Donald Trump
Gabbard voted “present” when the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Trump in December 2019. In two video messages and a press release, she cited The Federalist Papers essay No. 69 and described her vote as a protest against “a political zero-sum game”.
Gabbard introduced H. Res. 766, which would censure Trump for several of his foreign policy decisions and “send a strong message to this president and future presidents that their abuses of power will not go unchecked while leaving the question of removing Trump from office to the voters to decide.”
A week later, Gabbard said she had serious concerns that the impeachment would increase the likelihood that her party would lose the presidential election and its majority in the House of Representatives.
In 2012, Gabbard apologized for her “anti-gay advocacy” associated with her father’s campaign in the late 1990s in support of an amendment to the Hawaii constitution, enabling the legislature to limit the definition of marriage to being between a man and a woman.
In 2012 she pledged that she would “fight for the repeal” of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). In June 2013, she was an initial co-sponsor of the legislation to repeal DOMA. After launching her presidential campaign in 2019, she apologized again and said that her views had been changed by her experience in the military “with LGBTQ service members both here at home and while deployed”.
She has been a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus during her first, third, and fourth terms in Congress, and received a 100% rating in her third term (improving from 88% and 92% in her previous two terms) for pro-LGBT legislation from the Human Rights Campaign, a group that advocates for LGBT rights.