In what’s quickly becoming a crowded field for president in 2020, the partisan media has already begun to dismiss all but a few presidential hopefuls both explicitly and implicitly. Whether it’s by excluding their names from national polls, declaring the candidacy dead on arrival, or simply spreading misinformation, it’s no accident that the path to 2020 is doubly hard for candidates who don’t parrot approved partisan talking points. There is one anti-establishment candidate, however, who might be immune to the two-party playbook of presidential politics: Tulsi Gabbard.
A congresswoman from Hawaii, Gabbard has an altogether unique resume that has the potential to stand up against the arsenal of weapons at the partisan media’s disposal.
1. She served her country in the armed forces
The percentage of congressional representatives with military experience has declined steadily since the early 1970s, and today, less than 18% has military experience. Gabbard served as a Major in the Army National Guard and saw two tours overseas. As it stands today, she’s the only announced candidate with military experience whose held congressional office. Her unique record of service, both as a veteran and representative, should help insulate her from ad hominem attacks that would be lethal to any other candidate.
2. She challenges her own party
Gabbard was launched into the national conversation in 2016 when she resigned from the DNC in protest and criticized the party’s anti-democratic policies. The move marked her clearly outside the norm in terms of party politics, but it also won her widespread notoriety as someone who’s willing to challenge political orthodoxy.
By now it is obvious that throughout the course of the Democratic presidential primary campaign, the DNC shrugged off the qualms of independents and progressives who sought a more robust debate centered on issues. When I raised an objection to limiting the number of debates in my capacity as DNC Vice Chair, the Chairwoman disinvited me from the first Democratic Presidential debate that I was already confirmed to attend. Sadly, it appears that the same disposition that underestimated the appeal of Donald Trump still pervades the DNC. Just this month, Chairman Tom Perez removed members from the Party’s Executive Committee–all of whom share in common their support for Bernie Sanders and Keith Ellison in his race for DNC Chair. Those expelled include Jim Zogby, the only Arab American on the Executive Committee, while lobbyists and consultants kept their positions. If the DNC is going to represent the people, they need to break their ties with the corporate establishment that has usurped our party, and instead return to the grassroots issues that connect us with people in the first place. We need to end the undemocratic system of superdelegates and ensure that all primaries and caucuses are open or have same-day registration available.If we don’t reform the DNC, then all we will get is more of the same. Openness, inclusion, and transparency should not be issues that are up for debate.http://aloha.votetulsi.com/page/s/dnc
Posted by Tulsi Gabbard on Monday, October 30, 2017
Since then she’s doubled down on opposing exclusionary election policies like closed primaries and superdelegates. As more and more voters flee both parties, Gabbard’s distinct style of anti-establishment politics becomes increasingly attractive in terms of growing a national following.
3. She’s anti-war and anti-foreign intervention
Partisan pundits would point to Gabbard’s foreign policy stance as one of her key vulnerabilities, but they would ignore the majority of Americans who disapprove of interventionist foreign policies. A study commissioned by the Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy last year found 57 percent of voters surveyed felt that U.S. military aid provided to foreign countries was counterproductive to the goal of protecting American interests and safety.
Moreover, Republicans, Democrats and independents were largely supportive of legislation that would restrain the use of military force overseas. On this issue, it would seem, Gabbard is firmly in line with the majority of voters.
4. She can admit to her mistakes
Gabbard’s unique brand of Aloha politics enables her to admit her mistakes, which no politician is immune from. It didn’t take long for her statements on gay marriage and association with her father’s organization, the Alliance for Traditional Marriage, from the early 2000’s to surface.
Her response, however, was swift, heartfelt and backed by a well-documented record of supporting LGBTQ rights in Congress.
As the 2020 campaign heats up, Gabbard is sure to face a steady flow of attacks from the partisan press, which would surely sink any other candidacy. Yet, her record of civil service and rare blend of America-first policies along side support for greater electoral enfranchisement could generate a lasting coalition of support that buoys her above a crowded primary field.