When it comes to partisan politics, few states sit quite as firmly on the democratic side of the aisle as Hawaii. With a State Senate consisting solely of Democrats and a House of Representatives where only 6 of 51 seats belong to the Republican Party, the state really bleeds blue. It should be no surprise that all four of Hawaii’s national representatives, two senators and two members of the House, are members of the Democratic Party. And yet, you shouldn’t be too quick to lump them together, because one of these Democrats, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, is not like the others.
For a so-called liberal, Gabbard has an unprecedented amount of support from the right. From frequently appearing on Fox News, to having a meeting with Trump shortly after his win, this “progressive champion” has no issue jumping across the aisle whenever possible. This is not an inherent issue, though I know her Democratic constituents back home in Hawaii would be less than pleased with a few of her partnerships.
The case can be made that partisanship is a dividing issue here in America, and one that needs to be addressed through bipartisan projects. No matter whose party they’re in, the vast majority of Americans can safely say that they have a strong distaste for authoritarian figures who preach hate. Unfortunately, it seems as though Tulsi Gabbard does not have such qualms.
There is a growing contingent of Hawaiian voters who have begun to question the actions and sentiments of Gabbard after her recent trip to Syria, and the criticism has not hailed from her home state alone. Major papers have recently attacked her trip to Syria, in which she visited authoritarian leader and internationally recognized dickhead, Bashar Al Assad.
Articles and op-eds published by “The Washington Post,” “The Daily Beast” and “The Atlantic” have all raised questions concerning the issues surrounding her “fact-finding” trip to Syria. One of the most glaring of these is the fact that she was accompanied by Elie and Bassam Khawam, both of whom are officials in the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, a party actively engaged in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Assad regime. To visit an authoritarian regime, while accompanied by two gentlemen who greatly support it, in front of a global audience, can serve to legitimize authoritarian rule.
If this were her first time stepping into the realm of dictators, hardliners and alt-right leaders, perhaps I would be inclined to cut her some slack. She could have had the best intentions but naively miscalculated the consequences of her actions. Perhaps she didn’t realize that she was setting herself up to be the mouthpiece of Assad. Unfortunately for her, history would indicate that this Hawaii Democrat has a taste for authoritarian politics.
Bashar Al Assad was not the first authoritarian leader with whom Gabbard has had a questionable relationship. Over the course of her career in Congress, Gabbard, as the first Hindu in the House, has spent a fair amount of time garnering support and making connections with Indians, both in America and in India. Strangely enough, this “progressive Democrat” chose to align herself with the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and their party leader, India’s current prime minister, Narendra Modi.
Modi has been accused of a multitude of human-rights abuses, including attacks against Muslims and homosexuals. Despite these accusations, in 2013, when members of the House introduced HR 417, a bill that called on India to improve its human-rights abuses, Gabbard publicly opposed it. The congresswoman argued that the timing of the bill would have an effect on the Indian election, the election in which Modi was running for prime minister. The bill was never voted on, and Modi became prime minister of India.
These examples of authoritarian world leaders buddying up and sharing values with a progressive congresswoman is disturbing, yet it doesn’t stop there. The support that questionable Americans have shown her presents more food for thought.
Ever heard of David Duke? He’s a man most famous for cross burnings, dancing around in a white hood and working his butt off to keep racism alive in the 21st century. The dude was a former grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan. And guess what? In a 2016 radio interview, this racist relic from a bygone era spoke up and said that he was a huge fan of Congresswoman Gabbard. Now hold the fuck up. If this doesn’t make your spidey senses tingle, I don’t know what will.
Tulsi Gabbard is a mixed race, progressive woman, who hails from one of the most liberal and ethnically tolerant states in the Union. Why on earth would a racist, misogynistic, alt-right, former-KKK grand wizard support her? If I had to guess, I’d wager it may have to do with her admiration for the intolerant hardliners that I mentioned earlier. Though Gabbard quickly renounced the Klansman’s support, such an endorsement should raise more than a few eyebrows and just as many questions.
So, why does this matter? Who really cares about the off-color allies and supporters that a congresswoman from Hawaii might curry? Sure, she’s a political figure, but do her actions really affect Americans outside of Hawaii?
To answer this question, you need only google her name. If Tulsi Gabbard’s name is entered into Google’s search bar, suggestions will pop up, the most frequently searched phrases involving her name. The top two will include words like Trump and Syria, but third or fourth from the top, you will find Tulsi Gabbard’s name followed by the number 2020.
If you do a little research, you will find that there is a large number of Americans across the country who want Gabbard to make a run at the Oval Office, and as a young, mixed race, female veteran, who is capable of garnering support from both the far left and far right, she has a good shot at winning. Though her admiration for hardlining authoritarians may not seem like a pressing issue now, it may prove to be a far more serious issue four years down the line.