Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Blue Dog, is, arguably, the most reactionary Democrat in Congress. ProgressivePunch rates him an “F” and his lifetime crucial vote score is a mind-boggling 39.81. It's been even worse lately– 35.95 in the current session, the 4th worst of any Democrat in the House. Trump won every single one of the 38 counties in Peterson's sprawling western Minnesota district., even the ones Obama won in 2012. Peterson, who had weak and under-funded opposition this cycle barely scraped by with 52.5% of the vote– 173,571 to 156,950. Dave Hughes, his GOP opponent, had no help from the NRCC and only raised $17,086 to Peterson's $1,125,805, but still came within just a few points of beating him. Peterson has long been in the pocket of corporate AgriBusiness, which has largely funded his career. Peterson, for his own reasons, endorsed Bernie over the much-disliked Hillary. That didn't make Peterson a progressive and not even the dullest minds among the kids whose first experience of politics was joining the Bernie Crusade and falling sway to the cult of personality that grew up around him.
Tulsi Gabbard isn't as bad as Collin Peterson, but ProgressivePunch also grades her an F. We've been covering Gabbard here at DWT since 2011 when she decided to run for Congress. She's from a very right-wing political family best known in Hawaii and gay-hating fanatics who have fought against equality for many years. Before being elected to Congress, she led the opposition to gay marriage equality in the state legislature. She once called me to ask for a Blue America endorsement. When I asked her about her change of heart on LGBT issues– she claims she isn't anti-gay any longer– she quickly hung up the phone, claiming she'd call back. I knew she never would of course. A “Fox News Dem, she's always hanging around right-wingers; she dated Republican Mafia Congressman Michael “Mikey Suits” Grimm before he went to prison and she's always around characters like crackpot Schmuley Boteach and genocidal Islamaphobe Narendra Modi. She was long one of Fox's go-to congresswomen when they needed a Democrat to attack Obama.
Some people excuse Peterson's right-wing voting record because his constituents are so right-wing. That isn't an excuse Gabbard can use. She represents one of the bluest districts in America. McCain only scored 25% there. Romney got 27%. The PVI is D+21. Last week Hillary swept every county in the district. On the Big Island, for example, Hillary took 41,258 votes to Trump's 17,500. Her own opponent, Angela Aulani Kaaihue ( a nutty Trump supporter), took only 18.9% of the vote and didn't report raising or spending any money at all. Gabbard spent $1,068,459 of the $2,060,649 she raised. So… her shitty voting record is very different from Peterson's. In fact, of all the Democrats with “F” scores from ProgressivePunch, only one has a bluer district. She has no electoral excuse for voting with the GOP so much.
She clashed with Debbie Wasserman Schultz at the DNC, quit in a big public row and endorsed Bernie, even though their records are not remotely similar. Democrats in Hawaii laughed when Berniebots, grateful for her support but ignorant of her politics, started promoting her as a progressive.
Another pro-Putin lunatic, she was all over the news this week when her pal Steve Bannon arranged for her to meet with Trump, presumably for a job interview.
“He reached out to her, not vice versa,” the source told The Hill on Monday.
Bannon, a navy veteran, was drawn to her when she began publicly excoriating the Obama administration over its plan to defeat ISIS.
“He loves Tulsi Gabbard. Loves her,” a second source familiar with Bannon’s thinking told The Hill. “Wants to work with her on everything.”
“She would fit perfectly too [inside the administration],” the source added. “She gets the foreign policy stuff, the Islamic terrorism stuff.”
Bannon appreciates Gabbard’s willingness to publicly criticize President Obama for refusing to name the enemy, “radical Islamic terrorism.”
“For him it’s a win-win when a Democrat is saying those things,” said a third source, who used to work under Bannon at Breitbart News.
They're considering her for
the UN ambassador job something in the security realm (maybe). Yesterday, when all this started bubbling over, Eoin Higgins, writing for Paste, lent her voice to the wakeup call of delusional Berniebots: Tulsi Gabbard is Not Who You Think She Is. Higgins understands just how terrible Gabbard is. “To some progressives,” she wrote, “the news Monday that Tulsi Gabbard was meeting with President-Elect Donald Trump for consideration of a position in his administration must have been confusing. Gabbard’s February 2016 endorsement of Bernie Sanders’ quixotic run for the Democratic nomination for president involved publicly resigning her seat as DNC Vice Chair. Her name has been floated as a possible candidate for 2020. And at a glance, her positions seem in line with the liberal wing of her party. But a deeper look at Gabbard’s political career shows that she is devoted to attaining power and to the perpetuation of extremist, fringe ideology. She adopts and sheds extremist positions at will, but one thing remains constant: her consistent embrace of hard-right politics.”
The 35-year-old Congresswoman from Hawaii was raised in a politically powerful household. Her father, Mike Gabbard, is a well-known firebrand in Hawaiian politics– his most beloved issue is a virulent rejection of homosexuality and gay rights.
The younger Gabbard protested against a bill advocating civil unions during her tenure in the Hawaii Congress, holding up signs decrying the proposition. The bill eventually stalled.
Gabbard replied to a request for comment on her father’s connections with cult leader Chris Butler (more below) in 2004 with an oddly worded email accusing Honolulu Magazine of a homosexual conspiratorial attempt to discredit her father.
“I smell a skunk,” [Gabbard] wrote. “It’s clear to me that you’re acting as a conduit for the Honolulu Weekly and other homosexual extremist supporters of Ed Case.”
This political position held until 2012, when she made an about face and declared she supported gay rights– just in time for the election for Hawaii’s 2nd District. And that wasn’t the first time she had shed a piece of her past in order to make herself more palatable to voters.
Gabbard’s first marriage, to a man named Eduardo Tamayo, lasted from 2002 to 2006. Tamayo and Gabbard were both involved with a man named Chris Butler, the leader of a Hare Krishna spinoff called the Science of Identity Foundation that is located in Honolulu County.
The Hawaii Free Press notes that a number of Butler-connected Hawaiians have contributed to Gabbard and that her involvement with the cult is still an open question.
Gabbard has scrubbed all mention of her past with Butler’s cult, and with Tamayo, from the internet. The only evidence that is publicly available that Tamayo and Gabbard even know each other– excepting her Wikipedia page– is from anti-cult site Flashlight on Roaches. It’s grainy, but it does show the two together. It’s also the only known photo of Tamayo that is publicly available.
Today, Gabbard would prefer not to be known for her Butler-cult related past. The only way to find it is to dig deep into Hawaiian-centric newsletters and publications. But for those in Hawaii, it’s an omnipresent part of her political and social history. As the Honolulu Civil Beat reported on March 16, 2015:
The Gabbard family’s ties to Butler still hound her– in the hallways of the Hawaii State Capitol, on blogs of political observers, on pages of online discussion forums, and in commentary sections of various news sites, including Civil Beat’s.
Now, the mysterious world that’s been swirling around Gabbard all her life is coming under closer scrutiny as the 33-year-old congresswoman’s stature on the national stage steadily rises, and her views on national and international issues– whether she’s standing up for veterans or challenging President Barack Obama over his stance on the Islamic State– continue to draw the media spotlight.
By now, Gabbard has left any ambiguity about her religious beliefs behind. She identifies as a member of the Gaudiya Vaishnavism Sect of the Hindu faith.
It’s a faith she shares with India’s leader, Narendra Modi. But they share more than that– they share a hard-right political philosophy that is at odds with Gabbard’s perceived role as a liberal touchstone in the Democratic Party.
Modi, a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party, or BJP, is well known in India for his hardline right wing politics. He was the governor of the state of Gujarat during riots in 2002 that killed over 2,000 Muslims. Modi has always skirted around his level of responsibility for the violence; on the one hand he can appeal to moderates by claiming ignorance, on the other his claims of ignorance are delivered with winks to the country’s more extremist right-wing elements.
Modi relies on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, for political backing. The BJP and RSS’s actions have been repressive and violent and involve a complete distortion of historical and material reality in order to maintain their control of the state.
The RSS-BJP alliance also uses the fears and prejudices of the majority Hindu Indian population against Muslims to ensure its hold on power. And those views are views that Gabbard shares with them– despite her framing of herself as a peaceful warrior.
…Gabbard’s relationship with Modi is well documented in Indian publications. Her admiration of the authoritarian leader is the subject of multiple interviews, where she consistently affirms her support of the Prime Minister and his hardline party. In a three-week visit to India on the invitation of Modi himself, she was treated as a state guest and held private meetings with the Prime Minister and members of his party.
And Gabbard has protected Modi’s interests in the US. She fought against a November, 2015, Congressional bill mentioning his role in the Gujarat massacres, decried the US’s refusal to issue a visa for the controversial leader before 2014, and supported efforts to rewrite Indian history from a Hindu-supremacist viewpoint in US textbooks.
She has worked to relax restrictions on Indian immigration to the US even as she joins with Trump’s rhetoric in attempts to refuse allowing Syrian refugees into the country. And her views on Islam mirror those of Modi’s– both insist that identifying the faith of Islamists is of paramount importance in fighting extremism (not of Hindu extremism, of course).
Gabbard quickly flipped on Donald Trump. When Trump appointed white nationalist Stephen Bannon as his Senior Strategist two weeks ago and 169 Congressional Democrats opposed the move, Gabbard’s name was notably missing.
Perhaps it’s because Gabbard is, once again, jettisoning political beliefs that are no longer useful in her quest for power. It could be that Sanders and the Democrats are no longer helpful to her career, like her father’s homophobia and her public cult-connected marriage. So they must go so Gabbard can continue her rise.
That’s a likely scenario. But it only works if you remember that the other constant in Gabbard’s career is an attraction to hard-right political positions. Even those positions she eventually leaves behind are replaced with more extreme positions– her anti-gay activism replaced with Islamophobia, her ties to a Hawaiian cult replaced with ties to Hindu extremism.
News media have reported that Gabbard is under consideration for a position with the Trump administration, that her meeting with the president-elect was more than a bipartisan discussion– it was a job interview.
Given what we know about Gabbard’s attraction to the extreme right and her thirst for power, a place in the Trump administration won’t come as a surprise. It’s par for the course.
Gabbard is at a weird crossroads now. It's been common knowledge in Hawaii that she was preparing to exploit her “Bernie cred” to run against an actual progressive, U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono in 2018. But now she may have a job offer more in line with her own political nature, allowing her to stop pretending to be a progressive. Should be interesting to watch but I'm even more interested in knowing who will replace her in Congress. I'm hoping it will be progressive state Rep. Kaniela Ing of Maui, whose website describes him as “a bold, profeminist, Native Hawaiian progressive who stalwartly fights for economic, social, racial, gender, immigrant, indigenous, and LGBT justice. Ing proudly supports a $15 minimum wage, 16 weeks paid family lave, ending unnecessary wars in the middle east, debt-free college, reducing income inequality, transgendered rights, equal pay, legalizing marijuana, and seeks to restore public trust in government through campaign finance reform, repealing the SCOTUS decisions that created SuperPacs, and clean, open elections.” Very different from Tulsi Gabbard– and a lot more in sync where Bernie Sanders stands on issues.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis