DNC Vice Chair Tulsi Gabbard Resigns, Endorses Bernie Sanders
United States congresswoman and decorated combat veteran Tulsi Gabbard resigned as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee on Sunday and announced her endorsement of Bernie Sanders for president.
Gabbard, who has represented Hawaii’s second congressional district since 2013 while also serving as a major in the Hawaii Army National Guard, cited differences between Hillary Clinton and Sanders regarding American militarism when explaining her decision.
“As a veteran of two Middle East deployments I know firsthand the cost of war,” Gabbard said in a YouTube announcement. “I know how important it is that our commander-in-chief has the sound judgment required to know when to use America’s military power and when not to use that power.”
“As the vice chair of the DNC, I’m required to stay neutral in Democratic primaries, but I cannot remain neutral any longer. The stakes are just too high,” Gabbard continued. “That’s why today I am endorsing Senator Bernie Sanders to be our next president and commander-in-chief… [one who] has foresight, who exercises good judgment and who understands the need for a robust foreign policy which defends the safety and security of the American people, and who will not waste lives and money on interventionist wars of regime change. Such counterproductive wars undermine our national security and economic prosperity.”
“The American people are faced with a very clear choice,” asserted Gabbard. “We can elect a president who will lead us into more interventionist wars of regime change, or we can elect a president who will usher in a new era of peace and prosperity. It’s with this clear choice in mind that I am resigning as vice chair of the DNC so I can strongly support Bernie Sanders.”
Appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, Gabbard mentioned the heavy toll that nearly 15 years of endless war has taken on her fellow veterans, “friends [who] a decade after we’ve come home are still struggling to get out of a black hole.”
Although Gabbard served in the American occupation of Iraq as a decorated field medic in the Hawaii Army National Guard, she has repeatedly voiced her opposition to the war.
“I was against the war in Iraq,” she said in a 2012 YouTube video. “We never should have gone there in the first place.”
In the same video, Gabbard called for an end to the war in Afghanistan.
“We achieved our original goal of entering Afghanistan,” she said. “We’ve killed Bin Laden, decimated al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, and given the Afghan people the opportunity to have a democratic country if they choose. It is now time for the Afghan people to take responsibility for their own country.”
Gabbard, one of five DNC vice chairs, had a tumultuous tenure prior to her resignation. Last October, she claimed she was disinvited from the first Democratic presidential primary debate in Nevada after she argued that “the Democratic Party should be representing democratic values, allowing for free speech and open debate within our party and for more transparency and debates for our presidential candidates.”
DNC chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-NY) authorized just six debates, or 20 fewer than in 2008, with some scheduled at dubious times. Critics, including Dave Hamrick, Gov. Martin O’Malley’s former campaign manager, have accused Wasserman Schultz and the DNC of favoring Hillary Clinton, the establishment favorite who enjoys much greater name recognition than Sanders and who is not known as a particularly strong debater.
“I do think that’s the only answer, that they made a political calculus that somehow they think it’s in Secretary Clinton’s best interest to not have debates,” Hamrick told the Daily Beast last September.
DNC vice chair R.J. Rybak, who also called for more debates, has accused Wasserman Schultz of telling lies about Gabbard.
Wasserman Schultz released a statement on Sunday praising Gabbard.
“As one of the first female combat veterans to serve in Congress and the first American Samoan and Hindu member of Congress, Congresswoman Gabbard is a role model who embodies the American ideal that anyone can dream big and make a difference,” she said. “She is also a colleague in Congress and a friend, and I look forward to continuing to work alongside her when our Party unites behind whoever emerges as our nominee.”
Endorsing Sanders is a political risk for Gabbard, as the self-proclaimed democratic socialist from Vermont faces formidable obstacles on the road to the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton trounced Sanders in Saturday’s Democratic primary in South Carolina, where the former first lady won 74 percent of the vote—and 86 percent of the critical black vote ahead of the upcoming Super Tuesday contests.
However, the move does make ideological sense. Despite their shared aversion to militant imperialism, neither Sanders nor Gabbard is a pacifist. Both advocate strong and decisive military action against Islamic State and other radical Islamists. They also share similar views on curbing corporate power and campaign finance reform. Both have called for restoring the Glass-Steagall banking regulation law repealed by President Bill Clinton and for breaking up the “too big to fail” Wall Street banks.