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Jacobin - May 2017

"Which brings us to Gabbard’s other major red flag. Given her support for drones and special ops strikes, it’s not surprising to find that Gabbard never mentions US foreign policy as a catalyst for anti-American sentiment in regions like the Middle East, despitecopious evidenceto the contrary.

So what is the cause of terrorism, according to Gabbard? Islam, of course.

Before she became a progressive darling for endorsing Sanders, Gabbard became a conservative darling for relentlessly hawking the idea — later popularized by Trump — that Obama’s foreign policy was failing because he refused to use the term “Islamic extremism,” or some variation of it."

Hawaii representative Tulsi Gabbard is the new progressive darling. She’s young. She surfs. She’s a “rising star” in the Democratic Party, we’re toldrepeatedly. She might even win the presidency in 2020.

Much of Gabbard’s elevated stature is due to her endorsement of Bernie Sanders at the end of February 2016, a seemingly principled, politically risky stand that led her to resign as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

But that wasn’t all. Before stepping down, Gabbard earned the ire of Democratic insiders when she called for more than the paltry six debates the party had scheduled under Hillary Clinton ally Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. She continued to needle the establishment on the eve of Clinton’s nomination, and offered a less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of the Democratic standard-bearer in the general election (“Given the remaining choices, like Bernie Sanders, I will be casting my vote for Hillary Clinton,” she said in August). At the Democratic National Convention, she was reportedly swamped with attention from other state delegates. “They like Tulsi because she stood up to the Democratic Party establishment,” said one.

Gabbard is also a pretty reliably progressive voice in the House on a host of domestic issues. As far back as 2012, she was calling for restoring Glass-Steagall. She opposed any cuts to Medicare or Social Security under the Obama-backed Simpson-Bowles proposal. She believes Obamacare didn’t go far enough and supports universal health care. She’s against nuclear energy, pushed to curb the NSA’s bulk collection of data, and personally protested the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Yet the starry-eyed anointment of Gabbard has obscured the more unsavory aspects of her politics — so unsavory, in fact, that White House adviser Steve Bannon has reportedly spoken well of her. From her vigorous opposition to the Iran nuclear deal to her obsession with “radical Islam” to her love for the far-right Indian leader Narendra Modi, Gabbard is far from the progressive hero many assume her to be.

Conservative Beginnings

Despite her progressive image today, Gabbard has conservative roots. Her father is Mike Gabbard, a former Honolulu city councilman, state senator, and high profile anti-gay activist who led a campaign against same-sex marriage in Hawaii in the 1990s. He founded the educational nonprofit Stop Promoting Homosexuality and bought himself a show on a local radio station to denounce LGBT people.

Early in her career, Gabbard took after her father. She opposed abortion and supported a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. After Honolulu Magazine emailed her father to ask about his former ties to a conservative Hare Krishna splinter group for a 2004 profile, it was Gabbard who replied angrily, accusing the magazine of “acting as a conduit for The Honolulu Weekly and other homosexual extremist supporters of Ed Case [her father’s opponent].” The same year, she used her platform as a state representative to testify against civil unions, calling the claim that they were different from same-sex marriage “dishonest, cowardly, and extremely disrespectful to the people of Hawaii,” who had voted in favor of Constitutional Amendment 2 in 1998, empowering the legislature to withhold marriage from same-sex couples.

“As Democrats, we should be representing the views of the people, not a small number of homosexual extremists,” she said at the time.

Gabbard has since done a 180, citing her military service in the Middle East as the impetus for her conversion to social liberalism.

“The contrast between our society and those in the Middle East made me realize that the difference — the reason those societies are so oppressive — is that they are essentially theocracies where the government and government leaders wield the power to both define and then enforce ‘morality,’” she wrote in a December 2011 post. “I began to realize that the positions I had held previously regarding the issues of choice and gay marriage were rooted in the same premise held by those in power in the oppressive Middle East regimes I saw.”

She effected a similar about-face on abortion, even receiving an endorsement from EMILY’S List during her 2012 congressional run despite her history of opposing reproductive rights.

And why not? Gabbard was only twenty-three when she expounded her socially conservative views, and it’s not unheard of for people’s thinking to evolve.

But suspicion of Gabbard lingers. Her state Democratic Party LGBT caucus, for instance, openly distrusts her, and backed her Democratic primary opponent in 2016. When questioned why the LGBT caucus, which had actually supported her three years earlier, had turned against her, the chairman cited two things. One was her less-than-stellar answers to a questionnaire the LGBT Caucus had sent. The other was a 2015 interview with Ozy, in which she confirmed that her personal views on gay marriage and abortion hadn’t changed, just her view on whether the government should enforce its vision of morality.

Gabbard’s campaign subsequently cancelled an interview with the LGBT Caucus, citing a number of private Facebook posts by its chairman and vice chairman in support of her primary opponent as evidence the group was “campaigning” for her. Gabbard’s press aide told Golojuch that “it unfortunately appears that your leadership is out of touch.”

This came on top of an earlier slight in 2013, when the caucus had asked Gabbard to send someone to testify at the legislative special session on same-sex marriage, only to be told that Gabbard “doesn’t get involved in state politics.” Gabbard’s Hawaiian colleagues in Congress all sent a representative to testify in support.

Gabbard does not actively work against gay rights. In fact, she’s cosponsored and supported numerous bills favoring the LGBT community during her time in Congress, from the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Still, her questionable loyalty to LGBT and abortion rights is disquieting considering her public reputation as a beacon of progressivism. ...
Read full commentary at Jacobin