In the last few days, two presidential candidates have emerged this month to take on Donald Trump in 2020: Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Instead of performing individual analyses on each of them, I will take the time to compare the two politicians, as I have noticed similarities that shouldn’t be overlooked. I will of course go over their differences, and what Gabbard and Kirsten’s chances are to win the nomination and the general election.Tulsi Gabbard Kirsten Gillibrand
Let’s start with the surface level analysis. Both Gabbard and Gillibrand are female politicians from incredibly liberal states. Both are relatively young (Gabbard is 37, Gillibrand is 52).
They are also vying for Democratic base with support for ending money in politics, Medicare-for-all, and legalizing marijuana. However, Gabbard and Gillibrand have taken positions in the past contrary to how they wish to portray themselves today.
Famous for dropping out of DNC leadership to endorse Bernie Sanders in 2016, Representative Tulsi Gabbard is a bit tough to classify. As it stands, her current record shows her to be an anti-interventionist progressive with social democratic domestic policy. But she has also supported the use of torture, explaining that she was “conflicted”. She used a hypothetical 24-esque example of a nuclear bomb set to go off in one hour and torture was something that had to be done to keep the country safe. Additionally, I have a serious problem with her decision to make it harder for Syrian refugees to seek asylum from the horrifying war taking place there. During World War 2, FDR and the federal government turned away thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany; as a result, a quarter of those turned away were dead by the end of the war. In my view, fearing secret terrorists within the ranks of refugees is akin to suspecting Jews of being German spies. One more thing on Gabbard: her support from Hindu nationalists. Steve Bannon, Tucker Carlson and David Duke like her too… which is weird. She has also had a past as an anti-gay advocate, changing her position as early as 2012. In this audio, she apologizes for her past years before announcing her run for president. This week, Gabbard further elaborated in this video:
With all this being said, her record in Congress is quite good with regards to LGBTQ rights, PayGo, climate change, campaign finance reform, wall street regulation, and the Stop Arming Terrorists Act. If she didn’t have such a paradoxical foreign policy, she would be a great candidate, in my opinion.
Can she win the nomination?
Honestly, it will be hard for Gabbard, a relative unknown, to gain much traction in the Democratic party after the onslaught of articles detailing her mixed record. In the first debate this year, there’s no doubt that her first question will be either about Assad or her anti-gay past. Identity politics may help her as a military veteran and woman of color. Superficially speaking, her surfing skills and physical attractiveness may draw in voters unconcerned with policy substance. She would instantly stand out focusing on her non-interventionist talking points, unless fellow progressives Elizabeth Warren and (potentially) Bernie Sanders opt for the same foreign policy stance. It really feels like she will be overshadowed and pushed out of the primary early unless she shines in those debates. In terms of states, she would be guaranteed Hawaii… and that’s about it. Her main job would be to take Warren and Bernie’s base.
Can she win the general?
Looking at her policy positions, it’s hard to see her not winning the Midwest. Her baggage, unlike Warren’s, actually makes her look tougher and more conservative. Here is my prediction of her electoral map should she win the nomination:
Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com
Yes, I gave her a huge chance of winning versus President Trump. Gabbard is Bernie-like in her domestic policy, which attracts disaffected Midwestern voters who considered both Bernie and Trump. She is a woman of color, which may play well in states with large non-white populations, like Nevada, New Mexico and Florida. My main problem with her is not if she’s capable of beating Trump; my problem is what she’ll do as commander-in-chief.
Like Gabbard, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is a bundle of contradictions. Before she became a senator, House representative Gillibrand opposed gay marriage, opposed gun control, and opposed amnesty for undocumented immigrants. However, Senator Gillibrand has flipped on all of these issues. She has sworn off corporate PAC money, yet still meets with rich donors. I do not go into as much depth here as Gabbard, because Gillibrand is a much simpler matter. As a House member, she represented a conservative constituency. As a Senator of a blue state, she shifted her positions accordingly. Regardless of whether you consider that a good thing or bad thing, what exactly is her position going to be if elected President? Also, check out this ad claiming that there is no better leader than her when it comes to fighting money in politics:
Check out @SenGillibrand’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/SenGillibrand/status/1085333430571659266?s=09
I can think of a couple, to be honest.
Can she win the nomination?
Her flip flopping will be front and center as the primary heats up. Her defense is that she evolved as a person on these issues (same as Gabbard and Hillary Clinton circa 2016). Gillibrand clearly wants to capture both the establishment wing and the populist wing of the party with her connections to powerful Democratic donors and leaders while also advocating for Bernie’s 2016 platform. She would need to convince the base that she is to be trusted. Going into the primary season, New Hampshire would likely be her jumping off point; she comes from nearby New York, and probably has more in common with the Northeast than Midwestern states like Iowa. Even then, she would have to compete with Sanders, Warren, and probably New Jersey senator Cory Booker. I don’t see her remaining viable if she doesn’t win there, as California will likely go to the most progressive candidate… Or Kamala Harris. Sometimes playing both sides doesn’t pay off.
Can she win the general?
I do not think so. Here is my map from 270 to win: Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com
Voters will feel like Gillibrand is Clinton 2.0, no question. It seems like she will, like Clinton, focus a lot on identity politics. That didn’t help Hillary.
Both Gabbard and Gillibrand suffer from controversial past positions. Their ability to resolve these flaws will be very telling in the months ahead if they can build a movement behind them. And if elected, I don’t really know if either would pivot their positions again.