Just weeks after announcing her impending campaign, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard's 2020 presidential run has officially begun. The occasion was marked by a rally in Honolulu on Saturday. During the event, she ruminated on how she believed her own military service would make her a good fit for the presidency.
In a speech, Gabbard spoke at length about the spirit of those serving in the Armed Forces, and used that energy as a launch point for her official announcement. Gabbard currently serves as a Major in the Army National Guard; she has served in two tours of duty in the Middle East.
"They don’t just raise their hand and volunteer to serve only to fight for for people of one religion but not another, to fight for people of one race but not another, people of one political party but not another," Gabbard said of military members who make the decision to serve, according to video footage of the event.
"We serve as one — indivisible, united, unbreakable; united by this bond of love for each other and love for our country," she said. "It is this principle of service above self that is at the heart of every soldier. At the heart of every service member. And it is in this spirit that today I announce my candidacy for president of the United States of America."
Gabbard also said that she and her supporters needed to "stand up" to the Trump administration, which, she said, "claims to believe in America first, but who sells our troops our weapons and our interests to whichever foreign country is the highest bidder." She continued on in the same vein, lamenting foreign policies which, she suggested, use U.S. troops as tools without fully considering the human impact involved in deployment.
"We must stand up against those who dishonor our troops, treating them as political pawns and mercenaries-for-hire in wars around the world," Gabbard said. "We must stand up— stand up against powerful politicians from both parties who sit in their ivory towers thinking up new wars to wage, new places for people to die."
In utilizing the military as a talking point, Gabbard appeared to embrace a populist-leaning message that positioned the average voter against wealthy, elite politicians. Repeatedly, she honed in on the disconnect between policy makers and the people that those policies affect in real life.
“These powerful politicians dishonor the sacrifices made by every one of my brothers and sisters in uniform and their families, as they are the ones who pay the price of these wars,” she said. “In fact, every American pays the price for these wars that cost us trillions of dollars since 9/11.”
Gabbard is one of many Democrats to declare their intent to run in 2020, or else to have already officially launched their campaigns. As of early February, she is joined by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro. Several more campaigns are expected to emerge in the coming months.