Tulsi Gabbard will retire from Congress at the end of the year. The Hawaii representative is going out with a bang, introducing several bills that show why she is so despised by her establishment Democratic counterparts — and why she could potentially become a very powerful broker in the American political realignment.
Last week, Gabbard introduced the Protect Women’s Sports Act, legislation that would prevent biological men from competing in women’s sports. Gabbard understands that keeping men and women’s sports separate is a question of basic fairness for female athletes — Chelsea Mitchell, a high-school track runner, for example, has lost out on four state titles because she’s had to compete against two individuals who were born male. The pro-identity politics left, however, has argued that rational, logical stances like this are ‘transphobic’ and the people who support them are ‘TERFs’.
The blowback didn’t deter Gabbard, who is used to being on the outs with her party. She also introduced this week a bill that would require doctors to give life-saving medical care to babies who survive abortions, and followed it up with another piece of legislation on Wednesday banning abortions for unborn babies capable of feeling pain. These were especially surprising because Gabbard describes herself as pro-choice and voted against a similar ban as recently as 2017. The Democratic party, which has floated the idea of a litmus test on abortion for its candidates, will certainly not be thrilled at this apparent change of heart.
Finally, Gabbard teamed up with libertarian-leaning Republican Rep. Thomas Massie on the Protect Our Civil Liberties Act, which would repeal the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act that allow mass spying and data collection on Americans.
Gabbard has always had a hard time fitting into the two-party system — she is too anti-war and pro-civil liberties for the center-left but too socially conservative for progressives. Her run-in the Democratic presidential primary revealed that she is very popular among Democrats who defected to Trump in 2016. She won over many nationalist conservatives when she started a feud with the much-despised Hillary Clinton, who accused her of being a ‘Russian asset’.
Clinton is ‘the queen of warmongers, embodiment of corruption, and personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic party’, Gabbard said in response to her attacks.
Gabbard further endeared herself to the burgeoning coalition of restraint-minded foreign policy folks on the right and the left by opposing regime change in Syria and calling for the end of constant intervention in the Middle East. She angered the establishment and thrilled progressives when she singlehandedly cut down Kamala Harris’s presidential run by calling out the former California attorney general’s prosecutorial record. Gabbard earned praise from social conservatives when she accused the left of ‘religious bigotry’ when they questioned a Catholic Trump judicial nominee over his membership in the Knights of Columbus.
The congresswoman’s latest legislative moves suggest she is acutely aware of the uniqueness of her political coalition, how to excite it, and its potential power. President Donald Trump was able to tap into the blossoming populist movement in the US in 2016. Is Gabbard plotting a takeover for when he leaves?