Tulsi Gabbard claims to represent the rising left but has ties to authoritarianism and Islamophobia abroad

Akbar Shahid Ahmed reports:

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) told CNN on Friday that she definitely will seek the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, ending months of speculation.

Her bid makes sense on its face: Democrats swept the 2018 midterm elections with a crop of young candidates like Gabbard, many of them with public service backgrounds and from historically underrepresented communities. (She is a military veteran and was the first Hindu member of Congress.) Much of the party also associates her with the ongoing revolt against its establishment. In 2016, she surrendered a plum Democratic National Committee post so she could endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and argue top Democrats were unfairly helping former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton secure the party’s presidential nomination.

Progressives are already welcoming the news: “Let them make their case and we’ll find out who has the most compelling narrative,” commentator Cenk Uygur said of Gabbard’s taking on left favorites Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), whose 2020 plans are already in motion.

But the mythos linking the congresswoman to the party’s rising left wing collapses over the critical question of how to handle the world beyond America’s shores. Like Sanders and Warren, Gabbard is acutely attuned to the left’s frustration with endless wars. What she’s offering, however, is a fatalist view starkly different from the optimistic global vision of progress they’ve been pushing into the national conversation.

On domestic matters, Gabbard is in line with her counterparts: She supports a $15 minimum wage and single-payer health care, and she says Democrats need to do more to resist money from corporations and billionaires. Yet on foreign policy, she’s gone rogue, tying the anti-intervention rhetoric adopted by nearly every Democrat (and Republicans like President Donald Trump) to embracing global leaders who flout international human rights standards and complain of persecution by American empire.

Gabbard’s language is that of the old left, holding up the U.S. government as obsessed with unwisely projecting its influence, often for the sake of monied interests ― and, she asserts, in secretive risky ways ― while neglecting its own people at home. It’s a mode that echoes the kind of anti-elite talk that Trump built his campaign around while he lied about his past position on the invasion of Iraq. (Why have politicians of both parties gotten Americans trapped in these far-away places?)

And it connects seamlessly to another Trump-style view: a deep skepticism of foreigners, particularly Muslims. Gabbard has voted to make it harder for refugees from Iraq and Syria to enter the U.S., courted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, despite his links to anti-Muslim violence that killed hundreds, and spent years as a Fox News darling for her willingness to claim President Barack Obama was making Americans less safe by supporting Arab rebels in Syria and not using the phrase “radical Islam.” [Continue reading…]

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