A Democratic presidential candidate says both sides to blame for shutdown impasse

Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is an unconventional Democrat.  She deployed to Iraq with the Hawaii National Guard in 2005 and then promptly came out against American interventionism in the Middle East.  She met with Syrian tyrant Bashar Assad.  She joined Republicans in calling on President Obama to identify "radical Islam" as a major threat and refers to herself as a "hawk" on terrorism.  She supported Bernie Sanders for president in 2016.

At one time, she was considered a "rising star" on the Democratic left.  But while she is an economic progressive, her approach to foreign policy has angered the left.

She recently apologized for previous "anti-LGBTQ" statements, proving that on some issues, she is a very conventional Democrat.  Now, having announced her intention to run for the Democratic nomination for president, she appears willing to stake out positions in opposition to her party.

Yesterday, she said that both sides are to blame for the shutdown logjam.


"The problem here is that this issue, like so many others in Washington, are being relegated to partisan politics," she said in an interview on CNN's "State of the Union."

"Where if a Republican is putting forward a proposal, Democrats are going to shoot it down.  If Democrats are putting forward a proposal, Republicans are going to shoot it down, really thinking about which party can call a win on this issue."

The result, she said, is a loss for the country and especially the 800,000 federal workers affected by the shutdown, which has been driven over disagreements about immigration.

While many of her stands on issues are boilerplate liberal Democrat, she has an independent streak that makes her one of the most intriguing Democratic candidates in the race.

As a congresswoman from a very small state, no one is giving her much of a chance.  She has no natural constituency, according to Vox.

In 2020, Gabbard seems likely to run as an economic and social progressive, similar to Sanders on domestic policy in many respects.  While she hasn't yet made a formal announcement of her candidacy, her website from her 2018 reelection campaign boasts of her views on Wall Street reform and her support for health care for all Americans through either Medicare or a public option.  She mentioned climate change and criminal justice reform as key issues in an interview with CNN.

But in the same interview, she made clear that she plans to center her distinctive foreign policy views, calling "war and peace" her "central" campaign issue.

It's exactly those views that have put her nascent campaign in a tough place.

Experts, writers, and political figures on both sides of the Democratic Party's internal divide have told me the result is that a politician once hailed as the future of the party has no natural constituency and few powerful allies.  (Gabbard's campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)  And if Sanders, a dove, runs again in 2020, it's difficult to imagine his supporters defecting to Gabbard.

Indeed, Gabbard probably agrees with national Democrats on 90% of the issues.  But in these days of hyper-partisanship and demands for ideological purity on both sides, she has no real base of support who will show up and vote for her in primary after primary.  Does this doom her candidacy before it even starts?

It does.  But this is a woman who does not react in a knee-jerk way to the issues, as she wrote on her blog when running for Congress. 

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.

My experiences in the Middle East eventually led me to reevaluate my view regarding government's role in our personal lives and decisions.

Her thoughtfulness dooms her in an age where feelings matter more than a sober-minded view of the issues.  But she is relatively young.  Perhaps the political climate will change and her approach to politics will actually be to her advantage.

At any rate, she bears watching in the future.