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Democratic Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is one of the roughly two-dozen Democrats running for the party’s presidential nomination in 2020. But she is not like the average Democratic candidate or member of Congress, though she certainly aligns to the left of center ideologically and supports many progressive ideas.
Over her six years of service on Capitol Hill, Gabbard is one of the few members — on either side, to be quite honest — that comes across as authentic, open-minded and genuinely interested in reaching bipartisan compromise wherever possible, a trait that sets her apart from the majority of her fellow Democrats.
That stance was reiterated recently when Gabbard sat down for an interview last week with Joe Rogan, host of the eponymous podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” when she recalled some of the instructions she had received following her first election and initial arrival in Washington, D.C.
Specifically, that she was told to abide by the party line and not reach across the aisle to work with Republicans on anything, for the sake of partisan political control and winning future elections.
“One of the most frustrating things that I’ve seen and experienced throughout my over six years in Congress, that really started when I first went up, after I got elected, where after each election happens the new members of Congress, they go and have what’s called new member orientation, and they give you these books, and here’s the maps, and here’s where your office is, and all of the administrative and logistical stuff,” Gabbard said.
“But very quickly, I would say within the first few days, where we first come in together as Democrats and Republicans, immediately, ‘OK, Democrats go this way, Republicans go this way.’ Immediately separated, and what we’re told right off the bat is, ‘Look, this is about getting wins for our political party,'” she said.
“And if you work with a Republican, then that is going to hurt the party. Especially if you work with a Republican that the Democratic Party is trying to take out. Forget the substance of the idea, forget the substance of the bill — and this happens on the opposite side as well, Republicans with Democrats.
“Both political parties are guilty of this, where they’re really putting the interests of the political party ahead of the people who just voted for us to go and serve them. And not just the Democrats who voted for me, but yes, the independents and Republicans, both who voted for me or who didn’t, but who I serve as part of my constituency.
“And I’ve continued to see this, where you’ll have a bill, that because it is a Democrat bill, Republicans will vote against it, substance aside. Or a Republican bill, Democrats will vote against it just because it is a Republican bill — but then, hey, if they come in a month or a year later and introduce the same bill or a similar bill, but now because it is a Democratic bill, ‘OK everybody, let’s go and support this legislation,'” she said.
“You can imagine why there is so much gridlock in Washington, why nothing really gets done, and ultimately how this divisiveness and this hyper-partisanship is hurting the ability for the needs of the American people to be served,” she added.
Gabbard said later that too many in Washington were “entrenched in this broken system” and felt “threatened” by the rise of “people-powered candidates” such as herself who aren’t reliant on campaign funding from political action committees, special interest groups and lobbyists who exert undue influence over most of those who hold leadership and power in D.C.
The congresswoman said, “Our Founding Fathers had this vision for our country that our government would be of the people, by the people and for the people. And instead what we have is a government of the rich and powerful, by and for the rich and powerful, of the special interests and corporations, by and for the special interests and corporations. And, you know, We the People get left behind.”
Rogan went off on a brief tangent about the Clintons’ paid speaking tour.
He got back to the topic at hand, Gabbard’s candidacy to upset the status quo among the entrenched powers in Washington in favor of Americans’ interests.
Gabbard later revealed that her frame of mind and “mission” in life to serve was “ingrained” from her military service in the National Guard.
She said, “Serving as a soldier, where I’m serving alongside people of all walks of life, as you know, every race, religion, ethnicity, orientation, everything. Every one of us wearing that same uniform, serving that same flag that represents the American people, with that laser-like focus on putting service above self, and that’s what I seek to bring to the White House, to restore those values of integrity, and honor and respect.”
You can watch the 10-minute-plus segment here. Warning: Video contains explicit language.
Gabbard’s revelation about what she and other new members of Congress were told — that they were to be obedient partisan foot soldiers, not bipartisan and solution-oriented troublemakers — is why there is so much partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill.
While the vast majority of conservatives will disagree with Democrats on a host of issues, we nevertheless need more folks like Gabbard in both parties who are willing to entertain the other side’s ideas and reach agreements when possible instead of continuing to fight over every single inch of ground.
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