Author and local Democratic Party activist Shay Chan Hodges has decided to run against U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard this year, Chan Hodges told us on June 6, one day before the state’s deadline for candidate filing. Though Gabbard–who is also a Major in the Hawaii Army National Guard and an Iraq War veteran–is one of the more high-profile Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, Chan Hodges believes that she simply isn’t progressive enough to represent Maui.
“It could also be argued that my county — Maui — is not only the most progressive in the state, but also the nation,” Chan Hodges (who wrote the book Lean On and Lead: Mothering and Work in the 21st Century Economy) said in her May 31 essay on Medium.com. “In 2008, when Dennis Kucinich ran for President, his best showing in any Democratic contest was in the Hawaii caucus, and the only county in the country that he won was Maui County. So I was not surprised when Bernie Sanders won our state presidential preference poll this March with a 70% majority, taking 62% of the votes in the first District, and 75% in the second.”
That Gabbard is one of Sanders’ highest profile supporters is laudable to Chan Hodges, who said as much in her Medium essay. But Chan Hodges also pointed out that such support on its own “does not mean that Congresswoman Gabbard represents us.” She then outlined three factors that “raise quite a few questions about how committed she is to fighting for our district’s values.”
First, that Gabbard has helped out billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation who opposes organized labor and is a major campaign donor to conservative Political Action Committees and Republican candidates. Chan Hodges noted in her essay that Gabbard has introduced Adelson-backed legislation that would kill online gambling–a major threat to Adelson’s interests.
Second, Chan Hodges noted that Gabbard has repeatedly criticized and mocked the Obama Administration for not saying we’re at war with “Islamic extremism”–something even Sanders opposes. “While I believe that no elected official should be above critique –lest we devolve into a cult of personality over substance –our district elected President Obama with a 70% majority, and a respectful discussion in an appropriate forum reflects both our district and Hawaiian values,” Chan Hodges noted.
Finally, Chan Hodges criticized Gabbard for supporting legislation that would make it more difficult for refugees fleeing the bloody Syrian civil war to get to the U.S. “[O]n November 19, 2015, Gabbard voted with 46 Democrats and 242 Republicans to pass HR 4038 — the American SAFE Act of 2015, to institute a stronger screening process for refugees from Iraq and Syria who apply for admission to the U.S.,” Chan Hodges wrote. “Previously, in 2014, Gabbard called for visa waivers to be curtailed from European countries with “Islamic extremist” populations –specifically Britain, Germany, and France. (A year later, Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the US.)”
Though Gabbard has often eloquently opposed America’s highly militarized foreign policy–something many Democrats have refused to do for far too long–criticising Gabbard for being less than progressive is hardly new. Back in November 2015, we took Gabbard to task for her absurd vote for House Resolution 1737, which would go a long way to enabling racial discrimination in the granting of auto loans.
In any case, it should be a fascinating race to watch.
Photo courtesy Shay Chan Hodges