Tulsi Gabbard announces the running of the White House; first Hindu to aspire to presidency
WASHINGTON: Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard pipped Senator Kamala
Harris in announcing she will run for the White House in 2020 in
what is expected to be an expansive Democratic field of up to a
dozen aspirants who will compete for the party nomination to take
on Republican incumbent Donald Trump.
“I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week," Gabbard said in what appeared to be a carefully choreographed interview on CNN’s Van Jones Show over the weekend. She will be the first Hindu-American to run for the White House, and should she win the party nomination and eventually emerge victorious in the tortuous race to the White House – a long shot by most accounts – she could become the first non-Christian, and indeed first Hindu President of the United States.
Gabbard, 37, is the first significant candidate to plunge into a field that has two other prominent women casing the ground. California Senator Kamala Harris, who is of Indian-African-American heritage, is weighing a run with a memoir and travels in primary territory. Also in the hunt is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has been scouting the ground in Iowa, which typically is the first state to hold primaries.
A dozen other aspirants have expressed interest in running – among them, former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg, former vice-president Joe Biden, Congressman Beto O’Rourke and Eric Swalwell, Senators Cory Booker, Sherrod Brown, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Bob Casey, and governors Steve Bullock and Terry McAuliffe.
At least one former Hillary Clinton aide has said she may give it another shot in 2020 and some Bernie Sanders supporters want him to also give it another try.
A fourth-term lawmaker from Hawaii, Gabbard, along with newer first-time Representatives such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex and Rashiada Tlaib, is among the new set of Democrat insurgents who are challenging the traditional power structure in the Party with their radical leftist approach.
Gabbard, who served in the US military herself and is an Iraq War veteran, stunned her party and the Washington establishment in 2017 when she made an independent trip to Syria and met the country’s leader Bashar al-Assad, who the US regards as a sworn enemy.
"There are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision. There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I'm concerned about and that I want to help solve," she said about her White House bid. "There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace.
Her views are already attracting an army of trolls on social media who regard her as an outlier.
“Assad’s favorite Democrat is Running for President,” read a headline in a far-right publication, while another critic characterized her as a “next-level politician,” saying “Any amateur can be a traditional US racist politician, but it takes skill to succeed in America as a Hindu-nationalist racist/tankie Assad apologist.”
Such attacks have never bothered the Hawaii Representative who hasn’t been afraid to take on her own party establishment –including former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton -- and its stranglehold on the nomination process.
Born in American Samoa in 1981 to Carol and Mike Gabbard, she is the fourth of five children, all brought up in the Brahma Madhwa Gaudiya Sampradaya that her mother embraced following her introduction to the Krishna movement. She named her five children Bhakti, Jai, Aryan, Tulsi, and Vrindavan.
After taking oath of office in 2013 on the Bhagavad Gita – a first in the US Congress -- Gabbard said her practice of Hinduism awakens the karma yogi in her, motivating her to serve others without thinking about rewards.
''The Gita has been a tremendous source of inner peace and strength for me through many tough challenges in life, including being in the midst of death and turmoil while serving our country in the Middle East,'' she explained. ''Its teachings have inspired me to strive to be a servant-leader, dedicating my life in the service of others and to my country.''
Guests at her Hindu wedding in 2015 included BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who flew in from India with a special message and gift from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and India’s then acting ambassador and charge d’affairs in Washington, Taranjit Sandhu.