Taking a Look at Tulsi: Past and Present

One of the new “converts” apparently to the right has been former Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. On October 11, 2022, she announced her departure from the Democratic Party, switching affiliation to Independent and calling them “an elitist cabal of warmongers” (Bickerton). As ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp tweeted on October 12th, “We traded Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger for @TulsiGabbard? *thumb up emoji*”. Gabbard has filled in on Tucker Carlson Tonight as well. This former DNC vice chairman even in the immediate aftermath was given higher odds on BetFair to win the Republican nomination than Mike Pence and was in fact given the third highest odds! (Palmer) There are some factors in her favor. For one, she can be, as Matt Lewis (2022) notes, viewed as “an ironic right-wing star, a martyr who fled the evil Democrats”. While I frankly think Gabbard is personally likeable to a much greater degree than many of the public faces the Democratic Party puts forth and has put forth, this doesn’t mean she should move straight to the front of the line for the Republican Party. On this I think of what former Senator James Watson (R-Ind.), a staunch conservative, once said to Wendell Willkie’s face on his presidential ambitions, “I don’t mind the church converting a whore, but I don’t like her to lead the choir the first night!” (Bernstein, 716) History tells us we didn’t have a president named Willkie.


On her record, I will use a modified ADA score that does not count absences against legislators and a modified ACU score that counts votes only once and does not include any non-votes (namely signing the amicus curiae brief in Texas v. Pennsylvania). ACU also doesn’t count 2019 because she didn’t vote on enough issues. More than half is enough in my estimation, so it is counted. This is what I found:

Modified ADA: 86%
Modified ACU: 7%

Gabbard has voted for numerous liberal proposals and against numerous conservative policies, including laws signed by Trump, such as the partial rollback of the Dodd-Frank Act. She repeatedly voted pro-choice and in favor of measures pushed by LGBT advocates such as the Equality Act, and has with strikingly few exceptions voted for measures expanding domestic government and against reducing it. Some of the votes she’s cast that are counted as “conservative” by ACU are highly debatable as to whether those are good ones by which to judge conservatism. These include the FISA reauthorization bill in 2020, in which ADA took the same position as ACU, and the First Step Act (which received the vote of every voting Democrat).

On The Trump Impeachment

Democrats were unified on impeaching Donald Trump…well…almost. Representatives Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) voted against both counts. The latter would switch parties over the matter and the former lost reelection anyway. Gabbard neither voted “yea” or “nay”, rather “present”. Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney voted against the first time around, as did every Republican except Mitt Romney. Despite her “present” vote and not a “nay” vote, this is easily forgiven because she is a turncoat.

Gabbard is an example of how high of a premium is put on talk as opposed to votes. The primary source of her appeal as I see it is an “anti-establishment” faction of the current right which places high value on the Ron Paul “no foreign wars” foreign policy. The truth is, that like with Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney on the other side of the aisle, Gabbard has no hopes of a future with the Democratic Party. Just as Cheney and Kinzinger are lending their presence to criticizing the GOP and endorsing several Democrats for office, she is lending her presence to criticizing the Democrats and endorsing several Republicans for office. I see Gabbard as an opportunist with certain consistencies, namely her foreign policy stances. She is NOT a conservative, but she IS anti-establishment. In looking at her past record and this rather quick turnaround, GOP base voters have a question before them in how they want to proceed: are they more of a conservative party or more of an anti-establishment party? Elevating Gabbard to any sort of high position in the party should she switch from Independent to Republican or even before that would indicate a decision in the latter direction. In this writer’s opinion, it would be an unfortunate one to make.


Bernstein, I. (1969). The turbulent years: A history of the American worker, 1933-1941. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.

Bickerton, J. (2022, October 11). Tulsi Gabbard Leaves Democratic Party: ‘Elitist Cabal of Warmongers’. Newsweek.

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Lewis, M. (2022, October 20). Tulsi Gabbard Doesn’t Really Stand for Anything. The Daily Beast.

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Matt Schlapp Tweet. (2022, October 12). Twitter.

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Palmer, E. (2022, October 13). Tulsi Gabbard Favored Over Mike Pence To Win 2024 GOP Nomination – Bookmakers. Newsweek.

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Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. American Conservative Union.

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