By KJ Sankara
Tulsi Gabbard took a monumental risk in 2016 by stepping down from the Democratic National Committee to support Bernie Sanders.
The future appeared bright for the Hawaii Congresswoman – Gabbard appeared a rare anti-imperialist voice in a sea of hawks, and her profile was on the rise at the tender age of 35.
Three years later, the so-called anti-war candidate appears a world away from the official who called for the end of superdelegates.
After Bernie Sanders lost the 2016 election, some – including veteran leftist Mike Gravel – floated the idea of a Tulsi/Sanders ticket in 2020.
As it stands, Gabbard is still running “as an anti-interventionist Democrat who supports a populist economic agenda”, according to CNN.
Her dismantling of Kamala Harris in the July debates sent the former California Attorney General to polling purgatory and had supporters excited.
But Sanders supporters aren’t gathering around the war veteran.
Whether it be her absolving of Ellen Degeneres after the George Bush debacle or meeting with Donald Trump following his election, her presence is a paradox for the left.
She is, arguably, the strongest voice against regime change attempts in Venezuela, Iran, and Syria.
She was endorsed by progressive organisation Our Revolution in 2018 for her support for Medicare for All, clean renewable energy and Wall Street reform.
Even her meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – after which she called him a “brutal dictator” – was controversial to many, but represented a welcome dovish change in tone.
Gabbard has gone from rising star to embattled fudger as she tries to please people from all over the spectrum.
Had she run on a coherent platform of anti-imperialism and progressive economics, she would likely have been in the realistic running – or at least not struggling to make the Autumn debates.
Then there’s the underlying troubles which progressives are just finding out about, or have chosen to ignore.
Her relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi – who is still in the midst of oppressing millions of Kashmiris – is worrying.
Mr Modi – who leads a Bharatiya Janata Party rife with anti-Muslim sentiment – met personally with Gabbard in September.
The pair appear to have shared close links since his election, with the American chapter of the BJP citing Gabbard as one of America’s few pro-Modi lawmakers.
In 2015, Gabbard voted for the Safe Act, a Republican Bill which placed additional restrictions on refugees from Syria and Iraq applying for entry into the United States.
Shay Chan Hodges, who unsuccessfully primaried Gabbard in 2016, said: “Nationally, people thought, she checks all the boxes, this is great.
“But I think people have now started looking more closely at her record and what she’s saying.”
Gabbard would never have expected to win the Democratic nomination.
In her defence, she has brought a true anti-war voice to the stage, and the likes of Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden will be wary ahead of tonight’s debate.
But as she enters tonight’s debate polling at a sluggish 1%, her dark past and mixed messages represent the exact strategy she needed to avoid in order to have a chance.