In the first days of January 2019, Tulsi Gabbard said that what our country and the world need most is aloha.
“Aloha has the power to heal this nation, to bring us together and remind us that it is aloha that calls on us to fulfill our kuleana, every one of us,” she told the Honolulu City Council, foreshadowing her presidential campaign that was to launch just days later.
Gabbard, whose past statewide polling numbers have shown her to be perhaps the most popular politician in the islands, was ready to take her game to the national stage.
But in the last days of December 2019 Gabbard isn’t getting much aloha, and it seems her campaign — always a long-shot — may be nearing its end.
A screen shot from one of Tulsi Gabbard’s Twitter accounts on Dec. 3 shows her doing yoga as the snow comes down outside a New Hampshire abode.
The U.S. congresswoman from Hawaii finds herself with an average of less than 2% of support in national polls and ranked as the most disliked Democrat in the race (even more disliked than Mike Bloomberg) following her “present” votes on articles of impeachment against President Trump.
On Monday, former Gov. Neil Abercrombie took the unprecedented step of calling for her to resign her seat and for the state to hold a special election to replace her.
“I feel very strongly the 2nd District of Hawaii must be fully represented,” the former congressman said in a story that was picked up across the country and beyond.
How did a well-spoken young military veteran and woman of color running to halt America’s engagement in “regime change wars” turn into Cruella deVille and the Wicked Witch of the West on “Saturday Night Live”?
How did a purported political progressive who prematurely announced her presidential intentions on Van Jones’ CNN program in January become the Democrat admired most by conservatives and Trump himself just 12 months later?
It is primarily Gabbard herself who has brought her to where she is today — losing.
Blame it on Hillary Clinton, some Gabbard supporters rationalize, or the Democratic National Committee, with whom she has long clashed.
Blame it on the mainstream media, who Gabbard seems to revile even more than Trump, or Russian bots, who aren’t working hard enough to help her win.
Or blame it on a system that seems to favor white candidates, even with the most diverse candidate field in history.
But here’s the painful truth: It is primarily Gabbard herself who has brought her to where she is today — losing.
Self Above Service
Gabbard’s wounds have largely been self-inflicted.
She has had a lot of turnover in both her office and campaign staff and has made peculiar campaign spending decisions, like giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to an unknown advisor in remote Washington state. Her recent move to New Hampshire smacks of desperation and suggests she has given up on Iowa.
The aloha-loving 2nd Congressional District incumbent has harshly criticized the last president from her party, the last nominee from her party, several of her primary and caucus competitors, the current House speaker and a senator from her home state.
This week Fox News reported how the DNC’s unity message for 2020 features 10 Democratic presidential hopefuls (it includes Deval Patrick, who is polling at 0%) but not Gabbard.
If anyone thinks she has a serious shot at the VP slot or a Cabinet gig, they best think twice. Cecily Strong nailed it on SNL in her portrayal of Gabbard: “I smell your fear, and it makes me stronger. I’m wearing the white suit of your fallen hero, Hillary Clinton.”
A screen shot from a recent “Saturday Night Live” skit mocking Tulsi Gabbard.
Gabbard also brings with her a past still marked by anti-aloha positions (chiefly her long-standing opposition to gay rights, until she changed her mind) and a congressional tenure distinguished by an ill-advised visit to the autocrat of Syria.
It’s called baggage, and it isn’t light.
Gabbard’s uphill struggle to win the nomination hit its nadir on Dec. 18, the day of Trump’s impeachment.
She can spin it all she likes — that she chose to “stand in the center” while her House colleagues voted either for or against impeachment — but her “present” vote simply rang hollow, a profile in cowardice and opportunism.
Why didn’t she take her argument to the floor, as so many representatives did over an eight-hour back-and-forth? And why did she wait until the last minute to suggest censuring the president instead?
A screen shot of Tulsi Gabbard on a TV news program this month. While there has been a backlash against the candidate since her “present” vote on impeachment, she is still a media draw.
The upside for Gabbard is that she ended up standing out among the more than 400 House members. But it was a shameful example of putting her self above service, the opposite of her professional mantra.
“As we begin our celebrations for the birth of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, here’s something to think about,” she said.
If Gabbard cared so much about peace and faith, she could tell her friend and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi to protect that country’s 200 million Muslims rather than discriminate against them as part of his Hindu nationalist government.
But Gabbard, who has not hesitated to criticize other foreign leaders or to deem Hillary Clinton a warmonger, has been as quiet as a mouse. That’s something to think about.
Gabbard’s campaign schedule says she was in the Granite State last Thursday, with public events set for this Thursday through Jan. 1. Last Friday she was said to be Christmas caroling with supporters in Manchester. A Christmas Eve tweet from Gabbard showed her on the road in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Jan. 10 is the deadline for DNC qualifying polls for the party’s Jan. 14 debate in Iowa, where Democrats will caucus on Feb. 3.
As of this week, only Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar have met the bar, which requires a greater number of donors and higher polling numbers.
What follows are debates in the next three voting battlegrounds: New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. By Super Tuesday on March 3, where delegate-rich California, Texas, Massachusetts, Minnesota and nearly a dozen other states are on the ballot, it will be the end of the road for all but a handful of Dems.
Maybe Tulsi Gabbard will still be in the hunt. She sure campaigns as if she believes she is the chosen one.
But more likely she will soon go the way of Kamala Harris or Beto O’Rourke as Democrats winnow down who can best defeat The Man From Mar-a-Lago.
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