Tulsi Gabbard, a charismatic, two-time Veteran of the Iraq war, and congresswoman from Hawaii, is turning the Democratic Party on its head. Refusing to play partisan politics, she instead opts to cosponsor policy that could be best described as common sense. Despite falling very much on the Progressive side of the ideological scale, she has caught the ire of many Democrats. She has committed three egregious sins in their eyes; the first being her apparent willingness to work with President Trump, as she demonstrated by her post-election visit to Trump Tower in late November. Secondly, she was one of the most outspoken Democratic critics of President Obama’s foreign policy. She condemned the former President for not using the words “Islamic extremism” — a favorite attack line of Republicans, including the then candidate Donald J. Trump. Finally, as Vice-Chair of the DNC, she refused support for the rigged Democratic Primary, and instead resigned. In the process, she rebuked Clinton stooge and DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and backed populist candidate Senator Bernie Sanders in a coup de foudre. She was totally vindicated five months later when WikiLeaks exposed high level corruption which then ultimately forced the resignation of Wasserman-Schultz. This would be the first, but not the last, time she demonstrated her incredible political instincts.
Her meeting at Trump Tower in New York, and her comfortable appearance as a guest on Fox News with Tucker Carlson, should not come as a surprise but rather indicate a calculated political strategy. She is reaching out to a demographic that has been written off by the DNC. She may be one of the only Democratic politicians who, left in the wake of November’s election, truly gets it. The election was less about identity politics than the left so desperately tried to define it as, and was more Americanism vs. globalism. It was no coincidence Senator Sanders and President Trump’s campaign had similar anti-globalist and anti-government corruption themes. This is why candidate Trump tried to appeal to disenfranchised Sanders voters in the fall out of Clinton’s nomination; a demographic taken for granted by Clinton. Congresswoman Gabbard saw the power of populism in the meteoric rise of the Sanders campaign, and started hedging her political aspirations; backing Sanders over Clinton shows she is laying groundwork for a similar campaign in 2020 and beyond.
Further demonstrating her populist appeal is the Hill.com’s report that Congresswoman Gabbard is a favorite of Steve Bannon, the populist architect of the Trump campaign. It also explains why she was an early consideration for Secretary of State in the Trump Administration — an option which still may be on the table for a second-term Trump presidency as part of a “sweetheart deal” to keep her out of the race as a challenger. She has real potential as a future Presidential candidate as far as electoral math is concerned. As William F. Buckley once said, “The Average American is not ‘a liberal’ nor is he ‘a conservative.’ He may have liberal leanings or Conservative leanings; but it is a mistake to think of him as a conscious agent.” Here is where Congresswoman Gabbard stands to capitalize: her progressive Democratic platform has appeal on the Liberal coasts, but her refusal to take a hard-line stance on gun control and her disdain for globalist trade deals could bring the “Aloha Spirit” to Trump Republicans in the Midwest. Her common sense legislation like the “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” and general opposition of foreign conflict could garner her support with Libertarians and other ideological moderates. She also fits many different political demographics as a mixed race woman and Veteran if a race was defined as around identity politics. Most importantly, she is maneuvering away from the herd: when Democrats are happy to settle for obstructionism, she is looking like a pragmatist.
In four years, an exhausted Democratic Party establishment, tired from battling President Trump, will be primed for a shocking primary defeat to a populist candidate, akin to the Republicans in 2016 after eight years of battling Obama. That candidate is Tulsi Gabbard.