2020 Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard outlined a message of unity and progressive politics when she spoke to a packed Big Grove Taproom on Monday.
Gabbard, a representative from Hawaii’s 2nd congressional district, didn’t immediately take the stage upon entering, opting instead to shake hands and mingle with the crowd of about 80 people, before heading to the front of the room to deliver her speech.
Gabbard made campaign stops in Des Moines and Fairfield on Monday before heading to Iowa City. It was Gabbard’s first visit to Iowa City since announcing her candidacy in January.
Gabbard began her message with a call for unity in a divided political climate.
Gabbard named the environment as one of her most important platform issues, calling for making environmental protections a top priority.
“When our founding fathers wrote our Constitution, they built this foundation based on a recognition of a government of the people, by the people, and for the people,” Gabbard said. “Do you feel that representation in Washington today?”
“This is an issue that should not be partisan,” she said. “This is an issue about humanity. This is an issue about our future.”
Prison reform, financial regulations, and health care were also issues the candidate focused on. Gabbard proclaimed her support for Medicare for All, a universal health-care system that would guarantee care for all.
“It means standing up to the big insurance companies. It means standing up to big pharma, but we’re talking about fighting for each other’s lives,” she said.
Gabbard’s biggest talking point was on military policy and U.S. involvement in war, as she condemned U.S. involvement in wars overseas and called attention to the rising threat of nuclear weapons.
“There are a number of issues that we must address, but there is one issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of the cost of war,” Gabbard said.
Gabbard brought attention to the growing tension with nuclear-armed countries such as Russia and North Korea and referenced the false missile threat in her home state of Hawaii in January 2018.
“Today, our country — and the world for that matter — is at a greater risk of nuclear catastrophe than ever before in history,” she said.
Gabbard said the trillions of dollars being spent on wars in the US could be spent investing in communities and services. According to a 2016 Brown University report, the U.S. government “has spent and obligated approximately $4.8 trillion on the post-9/11 wars” through fiscal 2017.
To show her authority on military policy, Gabbard pointed to her experience as a veteran. She enlisted in the Hawaii National Guard in 2003 while serving in the Hawaii House of Representatives. Gabbard has also served on the Honolulu City Council.
“As a soldier, I know the cost of war, and I know how important the responsibility of being the commander-in-chief is,” Gabbard said.
Toby Monley, Shop Chairman of United Auto Workers Local 74 in Ottumwa, Iowa, said he likes Gabbard because she promotes many of the same policies as Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who Monley supported in the 2016 presidential race.
“She has a strong focus on the middle class, which I believe we’ve been lacking for a while,” he said.
Gabbard was vocal in her support for Sanders at the event. She stepped down as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2016 to endorse Sanders for the Democratic nomination.
University of Iowa senior Ryan Polly said he was impressed by Gabbard’s stance on military issues.
“She’s the only one who’s tired of all the stupid wars we’re in, and as president she’ll have the power to affect it,” Polly said.
The Hawaii U.S. congresswoman’s Iowa City stop comes on the heels of visits from other Democratic candidates vying for the presidency. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren stopped in Iowa City and other Iowa locations in the last week. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is set to visit Iowa City on Feb. 18.