On February 28th, 2016, the Democratic Party was in the midst of an intense primary battle between establishment favorite, Hillary Clinton, and populist democratic socialist, Bernie Sanders.1 Nearly all of the members of the Democratic establishment supported Secretary Clinton, but Tulsi Gabbard, who was Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee at the time, resigned to endorse Senator Sanders. She was the first female representative to endorse him. This was a move that required a lot of bravery and courage, but Tulsi has been brave and courageous throughout her life.
Tulsi Gabbard was born on April 12th, 1981, in Leloaloa, American Samoa, to Mike and Carol Gabbard. When Tulsi was two, her family moved to Hawaii. Mike Gabbard was also born in American Samoa, but Carol Porter was born in Decatur, Indiana. Tulsi’s father, who has been a member of the Hawaii State Senate since 2002, is known for his socially conservative views, especially when opposing the legalization of same-sex marriage in the state. Unlike Tulsi’s Catholic father, her mother was a practicing Hindu, and Tulsi herself became a member of the Hindu faith in her teenage years.
In 2002, Tulsi ran to represent the 42nd House District in the Hawaii House of Representatives, and won. At 21 years of age, she became the youngest person ever to be elected to the Hawaii State Legislature. She planned to run for reelection in 2004, but she decided, instead, to join the Hawaii Army National Guard and was soon after deployed to Iraq, where she served two tours in the 29th Support Battalion Medical Company. “I stepped away from my campaign, and volunteered to go to Iraq because I knew there was no way I could stay back in beautiful Hawaii and watch my brothers and sisters march off into combat,” she once said. “I knew that some of those soldiers wouldn’t be coming home. I had to stand with them.”2 She currently serves as a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard.3
Once she returned from Iraq, she went to Washington D.C. to serve as a legislative aide to Senator Daniel Akaka. She advised Akaka on issues such as energy resources, veterans affairs, and homeland security. While working for the senator, she built a grassroots network with many veterans in Hawaii. After she returned from her second tour in the Middle East, Tulsi ran a successful race to serve on the Honolulu City Council. While serving, she led on issues such as Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, medical waste, dengue fever, and new opportunities for Honolulu’s sister cities. In 2012, Tulsi ran for the U.S. House of Representatives seat in Hawaii’s 2nd Districts. She won with over 80% of the general election vote and has held it ever since.
Although she is very liberal, conservatives purportedly like to work with her. Steve Bannon, President Trump’s chief strategist, “wants to work with her on everything,” a source close to him said.4 She has deviated from her party’s wishes and common stances on issues on many occasions, and has found no fault with being independent-minded. She tends to align more with Republicans than Democrats on the issue of Syrian refugees. She has also taken a hard line on “radical Islamic terrorism,” as she calls it. These areas for compromise have made her a popular Democrat within Republican circles.
Tulsi Gabbard is not your average politician. She doesn’t fit into a specific box designed by corporatists and party-elites. She isn’t afraid to stand up for her beliefs. This independent-mindedness has made her popular among liberals, like Bernie Sanders, and nationalists, like Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. Her popularity among different ideological groups, as well as her unique background and vast experience will afford her an important role in the future of American politics. Gabbard is the future of America for two different reasons. In a metaphorical sense, she represents the fact that American politics no longer comprises merely elderly white men. In a literal sense, she gained name recognition and support among progressives when she dropped the DNC for Bernie. Although she doesn’t have the power within the party that people like Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker do, her name is already popping up in 2020 presidential race conversations.
Her uncommon heritage, her military and political experience, and her bravery are a breath of fresh air in Washington. All of these qualities have helped her reach her current status in the political world. Tulsi Gabbard is a name that Americans should grow accustomed to hearing, because she is rapidly rising through the ranks of Democratic politics. Tulsi Gabbard, in short, is the future of America.
- Wise, Alana. “Congresswoman Quits Democratic National Committee, Endorses Bernie Sanders.” Reuters. Reuters, 28 Feb. 2016. Web. 23 Feb. 2017. ↩
- Tamayo, Tulsi Gabbard. “London Visit Makes Loss Clear.” London Visit Makes Loss Clear. The Honolulu Advertiser, 8 Aug. 2005. Web. 23 Feb. 2017. ↩
- “About Tulsi.” Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, 13 Feb. 2017. Web. 24 Feb. 2017. ↩
- Swan, Jonathan. “Bannon Set up Trump-Gabbard Meeting.” TheHill. The Hill, 21 Nov. 2016. Web. 07 Mar. 2017. ↩