Can a politician successfully re-flip? The case of Tulsi Gabbard

Published Date: October 17, 2022 | Topics: Civil Rights and Liberties, Politics and Current Affairs

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As I’ve been predicting on social media for nearly two years, former Congresswoman and Democratic presidential aspirant Tulsi Gabbard has, to great fanfare, announced that she is leaving the Democratic Party. I expect her to win herself a second news cycle sometime after the mid-term election by announcing that she is joining the Republican Party. She says that the Democrats have become extreme and out of touch. (She’ll get no argument from me about that, but this post is about her, not the Democrats.)

Ms. Gabbard began as a strong and outspoken social conservative. But as her political ambitions blossomed, she reversed course, embracing social liberalism with the zeal of the convert. Here’s her explanation of herself when she was seeking the Democratic nomination for president:

“In my past I said and believed things that were wrong, and worse, they were very hurtful to people in the LGBTQ community and to their loved ones. Many years ago, I apologized for my words and, more importantly, for the negative impact that they had. I sincerely repeat my apology today. I’m deeply sorry for having said them. My views have changed significantly since then, and my record in Congress over the last six years reflects what is in my heart: a strong and ongoing commitment to fighting for LGBTQ rights…. I grew up in a socially conservative household where I was raised to believe that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.… While many Americans may be able to relate to growing up in a conservative home, my story is a little different because my father was very outspoken. He was an activist who was fighting against gay rights and marriage equality in Hawai‘i, and at that time I forcefully defended him and his cause When we deny LGBTQ people the basic rights that exist for every American, we’re denying their humanity denying that they are equal. We’re also creating a dangerous environment that breeds discrimination and violence. Because when we divide people based on who they are, or who they love, all we’re doing is adding fuel to the flames that perpetuate bigotry and hatred. I’m so grateful to my friends, my loved ones, both gay and straight, who have patiently helped me see how my past positions … were causing people harm. I regret the role that I played in causing such pain, and I remain committed to fighting for LGBTQ equality.”

So, you see, it was all her dad’s fault, and dad (the inference follows as night follows day) is a bigot who fought to create “a dangerous environment that breeds discrimination and violence.” (That’s dad under the bus.)

How about the question of the sanctity of human life and the basic dignity of unborn children? Where did the formerly pro-life Ms. Gabbard go on the issue of abortion? Here she is:

“The very real possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned terrifies me. I am sick of women’s bodies being used as pawns so politicians can score cheap political points at the expense of their freedom and safety. I am wholly committed to abortion remaining safe, legal and rare. We must commit to defending a woman’s right to choose.”

As a member of the House of Representatives, Gabbard had a 100% voting record with both Planned Parenthood and NARAL. That’s right: 100%.

In the months to come, we’ll be hearing a lot from Tulsi Gabbard, as she charts her political future and executes her plan. What we will be hearing will sound increasingly conservative–and socially conservative. Having now decided that her main chance is not with the Democrats, she’ll have to appeal to mainstream Republican voters as well as to independents. Those mainstream Republican voters are not socially liberal, and many are solidly socially conservative. It will be fascinating to see how she flips back to the more socially conservative side, having flipped to the socially liberal side.

Re-flipping is not easy. A second flip will be a lot harder to pull off than the first flip was. For one thing, she can’t blame dear old dad this time. Ms. Gabbard MIGHT, however, be able to pull it off. She’s not only extremely ambitious (even by the standard of politicians), she’s smart, articulate, tough, and winning. That’s a formidable combination of qualities. You might recall the surgical strike with which she took out Kamala Harris in a 2020 Democratic primary presidential debate. If you do, you’ll understand why I say she might well have a political career ahead of her, despite the challenges of re-flipping.

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