Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), one of the rising voices in modern American politics, has recently been plagued with controversy. Last Friday, the firebrand progressive announced her candidacy for the 2020 presidential election after cultivating a grassroots following of expected populist leftists and, surprisingly, members of the dreaded far-right. Our publication has decided to investigate her alleged ties with authoritarian foreign leaders, the domestic white nationalist movement and why establishment figures of the left and right are scrambling to smear the anti-war politician as persona non grata.
Since taking political office in 2013, Gabbard has earned her record as the solitary Democrat untied to the party’s scripted orthodoxy. At age 37, the former military veteran turned public servant has shown unquestionable support for environmental causes, universal healthcare, gun control, electoral reform and non-partisan critiques of the military industrial complex. This lead to the infamous meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad following alleged chemical weapons attacks on his citizens (which former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis admitted wasn’t a formally investigated attack), while also seeking firsthand accounts from those citizens alongside fellow traveler in former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).
Initially, Gabbard was only viewed as a left-wing aspiration following her decision to resign as vice-chair at the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) during the 2016 election, later criticizing that very same institution for unethically tilting the election against the progressive candidate. In time, Gabbard was collecting the backing of both Planned Parenthood and the worst excesses of the right such as former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon who considered her name as a foreign policy appointment for Trump’s cabinet. While universal support is the aim in a democratic system, what exactly is the hidden agenda behind their endorsements?
It’s safe to say this wasn’t of Gabbard or her leftist supporters (which does include myself) given her responses to notorious Ku-Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke. “Tulsi Gabbard for Secretary of State,” Duke declared in multiple posts on Twitter, “An example of the need for political realignment. God bless [her] for speaking the truth. Please be safe.” Unlike the 2016 rhetoric of President Trump who continually avoided condemnations of the man, Rep. Gabbard immediately spat his endorsement back in his face. “Until you denounce your racist views,” she responded, “I don’t want your ‘support’. I respect all regardless of race or religion; you should too. [You] didn’t know I’m Polynesian/Cauc? Dad couldn’t use ‘whites only’ water fountain. No thanks. [Your] white nationalism is pure evil.”
Even despite these harsh words, Bannon, Duke and their base still support her to this day. In fact, the support among the far-right has only grown since. This can be seen in Richard Spencer, the online right’s most famous white nationalist and alleged domestic abuser, who has endorsed the woman for her 2020 bid. The reasoning? Surprisingly, it’s their somewhat progressive stance on Syria, crediting how the civil war has resulted in an estimated half-million deaths at the lavish expense of the US government’s federal budget.
The Intercept first reported this phenomenon during the Unite The Right rally where chants of “Support the Syrian Arab Army!” and “Assad did nothing wrong!” were underreported by the mainstream media, attributing love to his far-right ideal of a “homogeneous” authoritarian state which they seek to replicate, as opposed to the jihadist rebels of ISIS, Al-Nusra and Al Qaeda who are also perpetuating the civil war over religious extremism. Jews, after all, aren’t the only religious opposition to the far-right’s cause, though her nuanced position on Israeli-occupation of Palestinian land, while also embracing the non-controversial term “radical Islam”, also has their eye.
“She at the very least pays lip-service to Israel,” Duke wrote on his website. “Everyone on Capital Hill does. Let’s face it, Zionism is the established religion in America, and there IS a religious test for office... but there is one more significant benefit of Gabbard… It could help trigger a badly needed realignment of American politics. As people like Ralph Nader have long been telling us, there is no significant difference between Democrats and Republicans. That is because the most divisive issues in politics are not the existential issues that face our society and the world. If there has been one litmus test in politics during my lifetime, it has been abortion. It may engender strong emotions, but it hardly ranks with nuclear war as a threat to humanity.”
To Duke’s credit, the debatable life of a zygote is simply incomparable to the number of confirmed lives taken during needless wars. Even racists can see Gabbard, while a person of color, is given warm reception due to the belief she’s there to keep the (white) world safe, at least according to the numerous threads about her on 4chan’s Politically Incorrect (/pol/) board and the blacklisted social network Gab.
This isn’t to say her positions have been entirely secure or share the intentions of the far-right. In 2015, she joined a minority contingent of Democrats who endorsed a Republican bill to restrict refugees coming to the United States from Syria and Iraq unless each individual case were signed off by three leading immigration and defence leaders (which would possibly increase the vetting process by several years for increased immigration security).
In the last few days, Gabbard was under fire for her past voting record and commentary on LGBTQ rights, seemingly sharing the view of the far-right of their way of life being a “disagreeable lifestyle” they view as degenerate and sub-class. This was refuted by her latest statement citing her recent pro-LGBTQ actions in Congress thanks to her “political evolution”, which is understandably commendable to admit. This is in addition to previous apologies years prior to her presidential or Congressional announcements.
These pushbacks against her far-right supporters, however, have been seemingly lost in the mainstream narrative, starting her campaign with impossible bumps that will be interrogated until she’s blue in the face as establishment progressives seek a replacement. According to The Daily Beast, she was rejected an endorsement from the progressive group Daily Kos in stating “our community has no tolerance for apologists for murderous dictators.” This was referring to Assad, the questionable murdering dictator who wasn’t given a proper due process, not her alleged support for the far-right Hindu nationalist movements of India which do deserve answers.
Gabbard’s foreign policy is key to her support from the left and the right, though the Indian problem could be the deadly contradiction leaving more to be desired. According to The Intercept, Gabbard has expressed admiration for the American supporters of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the man continues to establish a totalitarian, undemocratic control of a loyal Congress. Modi, positioned as a nationalist, also has a dark history of fostering violence against religious minorities, such as the 2002 outbreak leading to 1,000 Muslims murdered during his time as chief minister. This is a drip in the bucket of India’s 1.3 billion population, even though murder should be disqualifying of a public servant, at least if there’s an investigation which finds them guilty.