Tulsi Gabbard wants to serve under Donald Trump, but do their policies align?

Gun Rights

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KAILUA, Hawaii − Tulsi Gabbard has made a significant shift in her political path since leaving the Democratic Party in 2022 and registering as an Independent. The former presidential candidate and four-term congresswoman’s career once was defined by championing progressive policies such as gun control, climate action and abortion rights.

Now, the 43-year-old is actively tossing her name into the mix to serve in a future Republican administration, possibly even as a long-shot pick to be Donald Trump’s vice-presidential running mate. 

Gabbard’s pivot began with her sharp criticisms of Democrats. She has since echoed pro-Russia conspiracy theories, expressed skepticism about abortion access and questioned the value of spending money on climate change initiatives. These changes signal her departure from the progressive platform that initially brought her to national prominence.

Her new positions may attract some conservative voters, but they also risk alienating MAGA supporters who question her ideological consistency. As a former 2020 Democratic primary rival of now-Vice President Kamala Harris, Gabbard’s transformed stances could expose her to attacks from Democrats who view her as a political opportunist.

Scott Walker, the former Wisconsin governor and a 2016 Trump primary rival, wrote last week in the Washington Times that he welcomed Gabbard’s recent political transformation and sharp critiques of the Biden administration. He said it “might be worth” Trump tapping Gabbard for a Cabinet job “where her views match those of the president,” noting she’s publicly expressed an interest to be secretary of defense or secretary of state.

But Walker also added, “I do not want someone with such a liberal voting record a heartbeat away from the Oval Office.”

Here’s a rundown on some of Gabbard’s shifting policy positions:

More: Tulsi Gabbard could be Trump’s unusual pick for VP

Abortion

During her early years in Congress, Gabbard maintained a 100% voting record with both Planned Parenthood and NARAL, and ahe supported regulating abortions during the third trimester of pregnancy.

“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.” Gabbard said on a questionnaire prior to the 2020 presidential election.

But years later, in a statement regarding her public decision to leave the Democratic Party, Gabbard criticized the Biden administration’s October 2022 arrest and indictment of several anti-abortion activists who had allegedly blocked access to a clinic.

She also criticized Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., for their statements on the “illegitimacy of the Supreme Court,” following the justices’ 6-3 decision in 2022 in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the case that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Guns

During her time in Congress and throughout her 2020 presidential campaign, Gabbard supported a ban on common rifle weapons and advocated for universal background checks. She received an F rating from the NRA, a 0% rating from the Hawaii Rifle Association, and a 100% rating from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Last week’s tragic shooting at Saugus High School is a chilling reminder that we must do more to prevent gun violence at our schools,” Gabbard said in 2019, citing a bill she had introduced that would require the federal government to publish an annual report with new data on school shootings. “To do that, we need to have a common understanding of the problem.”

Since retiring from Congress in 2021, Gabbard’s positions on gun control and gun owners’ rights have undergone major changes. Gabbard notably supported the Supreme Court’s ruling in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen, affirming the Second Amendment right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home.

In a podcast posted to her YouTube channel last month, Gabbard acknowledged that she no longer supported restrictive gun control measures, such as an assault weapons ban.

“My views on, you know, things like the assault weapons ban have changed out of that learning, understanding, and that growth in really appreciating our founders’ full intent for the Second Amendment,” Gabbard said.

More: Tulsi Gabbard could be Trump’s unusual pick for VP

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Climate Change

Addressing climate change had long been a central focus of Gabbard’s efforts. Her commitment was evident during her congressional campaigns in 2012 and 2014, when she secured endorsements from the Sierra Club Hawaii Chapter.

In September 2017, she introduced a legislation aiming to transition the United States to 100% renewable energy by 2035. The bill also called for stringent vehicle emission standards and a ban on the hydraulic fracturing technique used to extract oil and natural gas from deep underground.

More recently, Gabbard has been critical of Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, a law signed in 2022 that included significant new federal funding to combat climate change. In an interview with the PBD Podcast, she said she believes that the movement to address climate change has actually failed to consider “all of the essential elements for our survival.”

More: As Donald Trump’s VP choice is awaited with bated breath, what ever happened to Pence?

Foreign Policy

Gabbard’s foreign policy positions have consistently reflected her strong anti-interventionist stance, shaped by her experiences as a combat veteran. She served in the Hawaii Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2004 and Kuwait in 2008. She’s also been an outspoken critic of what she has dubbed “regime change wars” and has advocated for withdrawing U.S. troops from conflict zones like Syria and Afghanistan.

While Trump was president, Gabbard sharply criticized his support for Saudi Arabia following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In 2018, she referred to Trump as “Saudi Arabia’s bitch” in response to his decision to stand by the country’s rulers despite Khashoggi’s murder.

Her stance toward Trump’s foreign policy has become more favorable recently. In February, the Washington Post reported that Trump and his top advisers have been consulting with Gabbard on America’s role on the world stage and the potential future direction of the Defense Department should the Republican win a second term. This marks a significant shift from her previous criticisms, reflecting a new alignment with some of Trump’s own views.

Gabbard has also been vocal about her opposition to U.S. involvement in Ukraine. She has recently advocated against American military support in the region and has been criticized for spreading pro-Russia conspiracy theories. For instance, she has repeatedly claimed that the United States provoked Russia into invading Ukraine by pursuing NATO expansion and has suggested that the U.S. has been supporting neo-Nazis in Ukraine.

Jeremy Yurow is a politics reporting fellow based in Hawaii for the USA TODAY Network. You can reach him at JYurow@gannett.com or on X, formerly Twitter @JeremyYurow.

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