This is the fifth article of our “On the Stage” series, where the goal is to get to know each and every single candidate vying for the chance to take on President Donald J. Trump in the 2020 election as the Democratic nominee. As the first of the Democratic debates approach, we try to understand each of the candidates and their campaigns better.
Who is Tulsi Gabbard?
Tulsi Gabbard is the current four-term representative of the state of Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district. She is an American-Samoan and also the first Hindu to serve in the House of Representatives. She saw time in Iraq as a soldier, and attributes her foreign policy views to this period. Before her career in national politics, he was the youngest legislator to be elected to the Hawaii state legislature at 21 years old.
How is Rep. Gabbard doing in the polls?
RealClearPolitics currently has Tulsi Gabbard tied for the 16th to 20th spots in the race, having a polling average of 0.3 percent along with Congressmen Eric Swalwell and John Delaney, author Marianne Williamson, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. In all the statewide polls on record, Gabbard only has not seen numbers in California and Texas. In the early primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire, Gabbard is at the 11th and 10th places with 0.8 percent and 0.5 percent averages to date. In Nevada, she is tied for 9th with 1.5 percent, while at South Carolina, she has the 10th highest numbers with 1 percent. Her best status is currently in Massachusetts, where she is tied for eighth, also with 1 percent.
What are the key ideas of the Gabbard campaign?
On climate change. Tulsi Gabbard is massively progressive on climate change. She calls for a complete ban on hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” to extract oil and gas. In 2017, she proposed the Off Fossil Fuels for a Better Future Act to radically transition the United States to 100 percent dependence on renewable energy by 2035. Gabbard has been comparatively more moderate as of late, and instead advocates for eliminating fossil fuel usage by 2050.
On education. Rep. Gabbard has called for making public colleges tuition-free in all states, although only for citizens with family incomes below $125,000 annually. She proposes that these be funded by placing taxes on gains from trading stocks and bonds.
On healthcare. Gabbard is an advocate for Medicare for All and expanding funding for this by raising taxes on the top 5% of income earners, establishing a progressive excise and payroll tax system, and for imposing taxes on stocks and bonds and not just the gains from trading these. Unlike other proponents of Medicare for All, she does not intend to fully eliminate private insurance but will retain this as an option.
On the military and foreign policy. Congresswoman Gabbard has a relatively unconventional foreign policy. Although she supports the removal of American troops from Afghanistan and Syria, she has raised some eyebrows in her personal meetings with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. While she defended these by asserting that this was a move for a peaceful, diplomatic approach to addressing the conflict in Syria, she has been highly criticized for not having consulted with Democratic leadership in the House before proceeding with these meetings. Besides these, Gabbard has said that President Assad is not the enemy in this issue, although the latter has been accused by the international community of war crimes against his own people. She is also against using the term “Islamic extremists” to describe, well, Islamic extremists, and she has raised controversy from both sides of the aisle for her actions. As a whole, she is an anti-interventionist, and is highly against American intervention in international conflicts.
On gun control. Gabbard, like other Democrats, proposes a ban on assault weaponos sales and universal background checks in all cases, aiming to close the “gun show loophole” which she sees as a big problem.
On social issues. Tulsi Gabbard was raised a social conservative, especially on issues involving the LGBTQ+, and remained one throughout her early political career. In 2004, she opposed a bill that allowed civil unions for same-sex couples in Hawaii. In 2016, the LGBTQ+ caucus of Hawaii withdrew their initial endorsement for her. However, she states that her time serving in Iraq led her to question her views, and now is much more liberal on these issues being a supporter of same-sex marriages. She also advocates for decriminalizing and removing penalties for abortions beyond 20 weeks, and for allowing transgenders to serve in the U.S. military.
What’s Next for Tulsi Gabbard?
She has already made history by being the first Hindu-American in the House of Representatives. In a landscape where diversity is a priority and identity politics are ever rising, she has the choice of using her aforementioned status as a religious minority as well as a female politician and American Samoan, to gain popularity. On the policy aspect, she does not have much positive differences that would allow her to stand out from the rest of the progressive Democrats. Her positions on foreign affairs, however negative their receptions, are still unique to her, and she may attempt to gain more publicity through these. Whether good or bad, publicity is publicity. In this crowded Democratic primary race, she’ll have to be satisfied with that.