Tulsi Gabbard announced her candidacy for U.S. President last month, and it has caused mixed reactions in the community.
Gabbard is a well-known Democratic Congresswoman, representing Hawai’i’s 2nd Congressional District since 2013. Prior to that, she served as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee until February 2016. She is the first Hindu and the first Samoan-American to serve in the United States Congress.
Gabbard was the youngest person to be elected to the Hawai‘i State House of Representatives at the age of 21, serving from 2002-2004.
She served in the Hawai‘i Army National Guard and deployed to Iraq from 2004-2005 where she was in the field medical unit part of the combat zone. She was deployed to Kuwait from 2004-2005.
Some of the main issues Gabbard supports are affordable housing, ending the war in Syria, gun control, LGBT and marriage equality, net neutrality, universal healthcare and women’s rights.
She opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is a proposed trade agreement between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam and the United States signed on Feb. 4, 2016 but that has not taken effect.
Gabbard’s solution to the expensive housing problem in Hawai‘i is through public and private projects and making sure affordable houses are not flipped and sold at higher prices.
She believes every American is entitled to universal healthcare and believes the government should negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to bring the cost of essential medications down.
Regarding women’s rights, Gabbard says she will make it her mission to ensure women receive equal pay as this right is long overdue for women.
Despite her lengthy resume, her run for president has not come without controversy.
Much of the criticism stems from her connections to Chris Butler, a Hindu spiritualist who is the head of the Science of Identity Foundation.
The group owns many prominent Kailua businesses such as Down to Earth, Wai Lani Yoga and Blue River Productions. There are claims, however, that the foundation is a cult because of the way Butler’s followers allegedly worship him.
Gabbard’s choice for her chief of staff, Kainoa Ramananda Penaroza, also raised many questions as to why someone who had virtually no experience in politics was hired into such a high political position. He, too, has known ties to the Science of Identity Foundation.
Other criticisms of Gabbard stem from the way she seeks out national media attention, her relationships with right-wing supporters of Israel, her January 2017 trip to Syria where she met with President Bashar Assad and her handling of constituent concerns at home.
“Through personal experience while searching for help for one of her constituents and a friend, Gabbard and her staff said they were more than willing to help, but after her re-election bid was successful they withdrew from any further assistance,” said former WCC student Patrick Hascall. “I feel they were trying to gain favor and a vote.”
Despite the criticisms, her brother, Bhakti Gabbard, believes she will make an exceptional president.
“I believe my sister would make a great president because of her commitment to service of others before herself and her willingness to speak/act/vote on what is needed to make the world a more peaceful place, regardless of the political backlash that may follow,” he said. “She is down-to-earth, honest and level-headed. I am so proud of her.”
Some in the community are still making up their mind about Gabbard.
“I don’t feel strongly about her one way or another,” said WCC student Anthony Davis.
Gabbard’s campaign did not respond to this reporter’s requests for an interview.
by Madelyn Barr, Ka ‘Ohana Staff Reporter