Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) speaks during a press conference regarding the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement on Tuesday, November 15, 2016.

For months I’ve been inundated with emails asking, “Why I haven’t talked about Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard 

To be honest, it was because I didn’t know that much about her, other than her meeting with Bashar Assad. I knew that she represented the people of Hawaii. I knew she bravely served our country in the National Guard. I knew that she was young and seemed to have struck the fancy of the Bernie Sanders

Bernard (Bernie) SandersWorld leaders reach agreement on trade deal without United States: report Sanders on Brazile revelations: DNC needs ‘far more transparency’ Sen. Warren sold out the DNC MORE wing of the Democratic Party. I knew that her name had been floated as a potential candidate for 2020. I knew that inside the Beltway, fellow Democrats had varying opinions on her political acumen.

But outside of the surface level articles I had read about her, I had not done my own homework. So I spent the past week looking into her background. I watched speeches and read every article I could find about her. What I found out about the Hawaii congresswoman was just as puzzling as what I didn’t find. Gabbard is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum. She hasn’t always been in tune with the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. In her twenties, Gabbard was a self-defined social conservative. She was anti-choice and anti-gay marriage.

Gabbard no longer holds those political positions, views that would be untenable in the Democratic Party today. Now, she embraces a much more liberal approach to social issues, supporting equal marriage rights and the rights of women to decide what to do with their bodies. Gabbard hasn’t exactly made friends inside the Democratic Party with her inconsistent political stances, but that is part of her appeal for her supporters. Not long after being elected to Congress, Gabbard took the opportunity to appear on Fox News and bash her fellow Hawaiian Barack Obama

BERLIN, GERMANY – MAY 25: Former President of the United States of America Barack Obama after a discussion about democracy at Church Congress on May 25, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Up to 200,000 faithful are expected to attend the five-day congress in Berlin and Wittenberg that this year is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. (Photo by Steffi Loos/Getty Images)

 

Gabbard clearly has no fear when it comes to upsetting the leadership of her party. After the election of Donald Trump

Donald John TrumpDems win from coast to coast Falwell after Gillespie loss: ‘DC should annex’ Northern Virginia Dems see gains in Virginia’s House of Delegates MORE as president of the United States, to the dismay of many Democrats, Gabbard took a very public meeting with the president elect at Trump Tower. According to accounts, Gabbard and Trump discussed foreign policy and the president elect’s strategy for taking on ISIS. Her willingness to meet with Trump irked many Democrats and exacerbated an already tense relationship between the Democratic Party and its “rising star.”

Not long after meeting with Trump, Gabbard traveled to Syria to meet with its brutal dictator. To many Democrats, myself included, this was a road too far. By this point, Assad had become infamous for dropping barrel bombs on schools and hospitals packed with innocent women and children. Assad had used chemical weapons against his own people, in violation of international law and basic human decency. To put it bluntly, Assad is a monster who slaughters his people like livestock, but for some reason, Gabbard saw it fit to meet with him.

In later interviews, the congresswoman has said that her meeting with Assad was an attempt to bring democracy to Syria and end the conflict between the government and opposition forces. However, many Democrats and Republicans saw her trip to Syria as a horrific mistake that lent legitimacy to an illegitimate leader. But Gabbard refused to back down. When Assad was once again accused of using sarin gas on his own people, Gabbard was quick to jump to his defense and question the legitimacy of reports, a mind-boggling decision for someone who appears to want to climb the political ladder.

In one moment, Gabbard appears ready to champion liberal causes and make nice with the Independent senator from Vermont and his progressive supporters. In the next moment, she appears to be making shrewd political calculations that endear her to Republican voters as well. Gabbard has managed to put together a coalition that is unheard of for Democrats. Never before have we seen a Democrat who has managed to receive praise from Bernie Sanders and Steve Bannon at the same time.

Gabbard’s multiple tours of duty in the military, coupled with her unique approach to foreign policy make her a unicorn within the Democratic Party. She is unafraid to challenge Democratic orthodoxy and unwilling to tow the party line. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its lack of support during her run has allowed Gabbard the freedom to work with Republicans on budgetary issues, while also supporting a $15 minimum wage and universal health care for all Americans.

Whether you agree with Gabbard or support her various political stances, it’s hard to deny her bipartisan outreach. She finds solace in the company of both Democrats and Republicans. She is unafraid and undeterred by attacks from her critics and unbowed by external pressure from the media. In this toxic political climate, rife with blind allegiance, Gabbard has made it clear that she is indebted to no one and unwilling to be just another Democrat.

As the country barrels towards the 2020 election, it also shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear Gabbard’s name consistently mentioned as a potential candidate for higher office. Her coalition of supporters has the capacity to upend the political process and redefine what it means to be a member of the Democratic Party. The former anti-choice, anti-gay marriage, reformed liberal congresswoman now finds support from staunch conservatives and hardline liberals alike.

She has been accused of being islamophobic and a socialist in the same breath, something unheard of for a member of a party commonly referred to being full of “snowflakes” in conservative media. Tulsi Gabbard is no snowflake. She is an enigma wrapped in a conundrum and could potentially be the future of the Democratic Party. Get your popcorn ready because it is going to be a bumpy ride.

Michael Starr Hopkins is an attorney and former member of the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton

Hillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore Papadopoulos was in regular contact with Stephen Miller, helped edit Trump speech: report Bannon jokes Clinton got her ‘ass kicked’ in 2016 election MORE. He regularly appears on Fox News and CNN to talk about national politics. You can follow him on Twitter @TheOnlyHonest.

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