Where Do Tulsi Gabbard and Liz Cheney Belong?
With Gabbard out of office and Cheney out in January, both are seeking a political future—albeit outside of Congress.
A decade ago, Tulsi Gabbard, a candidate for a House seat representing Hawaii, gained a national platform after House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi invited her to speak at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. At the time, Gabbard was seen as an emerging star in the party.
That same year, Liz Cheney—the daughter of the Left’s most hated former vice president—was hired as a pundit for Fox News to regularly appear on the O’Reilly Factor, Hannity, and other programs. She was two years away from challenging Wyoming's incumbent senator from the Right.
In 2012, it would have been easy to characterize Gabbard as a perfect Democrat and Cheney as a perfect Republican. Today, Cheney, the former Fox News pundit, is MSNBC’s favorite Republican, and Gabbard has guest hosted for Tucker Carlson on Fox News.
In fewer than ninety days, Cheney lost her House seat after being trounced by about forty points in a Republican primary, and Gabbard—already out of the House—renounced her membership in the Democratic Party.
As neither politician has really changed since 2012, these events say much about how the two parties have evolved over the last decade. During the George W. Bush era, Republicans were clearly the interventionist and internationalist party, while Democrats were more likely to be isolationists.
Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, while hardly in line with the GOP, created an extreme alternative foreign policy view on the Right not seriously seen in the GOP since Dwight Eisenhower defeated Robert Taft for the presidential nomination in 1952.
In 2008, Cheney was, of course, nowhere near the Paul campaign. She was a co-chair for the presidential campaign of Fred Thompson, who entered the GOP primary as the great conservative hope in a field of moderate Republicans. After Thompson dropped out, Cheney endorsed Mitt Romney, who at the time positioned himself as the conservative alternative to moderate John McCain. Eight years later, she was elected to Congress the same year Donald Trump won the presidency, proceeding to vote with Trump’s agenda 93 percent of the time.
Gabbard’s more dovish, non-interventionist views fit well with plenty of Democrats when she was first elected in 2012. By the time she ran for president on a traditional Democratic platform in the 2020 cycle, twice-failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was calling her a Russian agent.
Inexplicably, Gabbard became the Republicans’ favorite Democratic candidate, even as her voting record in the House remained very left-wing. She backed a ban on automatic rifles, supported a Bernie Sanders free-college-for-all bill, backed the Green New Deal, and had a 100 percent pro-abortion score from NARAL, a pro-choice nonprofit.
For the most part, neither Cheney nor Gabbard seem to have changed their ideology. However, both appear to have been swayed a bit by the strange new respect they've gotten from the other side.
With Gabbard out of office and Cheney out in January, both are seeking a political future—albeit outside of Congress. This future will most likely be outside of public office. However, Cheney is apparently considering a presidential campaign—presumably as an independent. And Gabbard, oddly enough, has been mentioned as a potential running mate for Trump should he run again in 2024.
Most likely, both will seek positions outside of the traditional party system, as pundits, authors, and campaign surrogates choosing which nominees to endorse.
In some ways, they are both strong female characters with a titanium backbone out of central casting. That’s good for cable news—at least in the near term. But abandoning the two-party structure carries a political price and creates a more questionable future. The question is what future do they have? How influential can they be, and how long will they have sway?
But for those of us who cynically view what most politicians do as branding, a courageous and independent brand isn’t the worst national position at a time when both parties lack popularity.
Fred Lucas, the author of “The Myth of Voter Suppression,” is the manager of the Investigative Reporting Project at The Daily Signal.