A Hindu in the Whitehouse?

Tulsi Gabbard is running for President. She is a devotee of Gaudiya Vaishnava Hinduism. Her father is half-Samoan, and due to her dark looks and Hindu religion, she is often assumed to be South Asian. And, she does have connections to South Asian culture through her religious affinities.

That being said, I assume this is a way for her to increase her profile more than a plausible chance to win the Presidency (though I think the same was true of Trump!). Gabbard is a somewhat heterodox Democrat who strikes a Left pose, but her background in her youth was in social conservatism, and the truth is that aside from some oddballs there’s not much light between different factions in the Democratic party in 2018. For this, and other reasons, she is under fire from the usual pundit-class commissars who punish deviationism.

But what I’m curious about the attacks that are made on her religion:

The idea that Gabbard is a cultist probably comes from a piece in The New Yorker, The making of a charismatic, unorthodox Democrat.

Since I’m not on the Left, I don’t care/know about all the internecine conflicts/moves that define these sort of coordinated couterattacks. But it’s really interesting to me that unless you are a very liberal cultural Hindu, it’s open season from certain quarters of the Left. In a way, this is similar to Christianity, but not Islam, where conservatively devout individuals are acceptable so long as they keep their social views on the down-low.

(I have a friend who is Gaudiya Vaishnava who has to explain to her Hindu American friends that not all Hindu Americans are pantheist/Deists who are OK with beef-eating. She is, by the way, a very liberal Democrat)

Note: Kamala Harris is a Baptist, but her mother was an Iyer.

44 thoughts on “A Hindu in the Whitehouse?”

  1. Running for the president of which country?

    Separately, she won 150,000 votes to win a congressional election. my state legislative constituency in Madras has two times more people than that.

  2. I read recently that Tulsi Gabbard has been friendly with Hindu nationalists and spoken at their events. Much of her campaign funding comes from people on the Hindu right. Her personal religious beliefs are her own concern, but supporting majoritarianism in another country is a little bit more disturbing.

    Also, being homophobic (allegedly) is not going to help with Democrats.

      1. Supporting majoritarianism in foreign countries is hardly the behavior of a liberal democrat. I don’t care what kind of majoritarianism it is.

        1. From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:

          Definition of democracy
          1a : government by the people
          especially : rule of the majority

          Do you like “majoritarian” over democracy because the former rhymes with “authoritarian” and “totalitarian”? If yes, you have a truly postmodernist attitude towards language!

          1. Majoritarian countries are those in which the State is seen to belong to a particular ethnic or religious group, rather than to all citizens. The Islamic Republic of Pakistan belongs to Muslims. India under the Modi regime belongs to Hindus (contrary to Pandit Nehru’s vision).

            From Wikipedia:
            “Majoritarianism is a traditional political philosophy or agenda that asserts that a majority (sometimes categorized by religion, language, social class, or some other identifying factor) of the population is entitled to a certain degree of primacy in society, and has the right to make decisions that affect the society. This traditional view has come under growing criticism and democracies have increasingly included constraints in what the parliamentary majority can do, in order to protect citizens’ fundamental rights.[1] “

          2. India has from 1947 bent over backwards to back Islamists against moderate muslims. Now India is correcting this mistake. This is not majoritarianism. In 1947 over a few weeks 2 million people died and 20 million people were forcibly deported. India’s leaders were scared by this and made a de facto deal to back Islamists against moderate muslims in return for peace. The deal had many components, including:
            —continuing the English restriction on LBGTQ (a concept that didn’t exist in the east pre 632 AD)
            —triple Talat and divorce property/children distribution that favored the husband
            —Shariah courts that applied only to muslims and not nonmuslims that were not universal in nature
            —banning free speech with the first amendment to the constitution which restricts free speech, mostly to avoid inflaming religious sentiments (offending Islam)

            The first two pillars are now going. Hopefully Shariah courts with Islamist interpretations will soon be replaced with a universal civil code (which great Islamic murshids can certify as Shariah compliant). Which leaves free speech. Hopefully the BJP will try to amend the first amendment of the Indian constitution to allow free speech after the general election, should they win.

            These policy changes should allow all Indians to be treated the same under the law. The is what liberalism, secularism, pluralism, diversity, respecting all religions is all about.

            Economic reforms that increase economic freedoms also treat all Indians more equally under the law.

            India has had many streams of Islam for a long time. India needs to stop backing Islamists against good muslims.

          3. Calling for a Hindu Rashtra is by definition majoritarianism. Lynching Muslims for eating beef is majoritarianism.

            You are no one to decide who is a “good” Muslim.

            By the way, “triple talat” is not a thing. The word is talaaq.

      2. “Nothing wrong with Hindu Nationalism”

        This is kind of like saying there’s nothing wrong with Islamism, or Zionism. Doesn’t really mean anything, as there are numerous strands of thought within each system that range from totally fine to batshit crazy.

        Tulsi seems to lean closer to the batshit crazy end of Hindu Nationalism, as evidence by her praise of Modi and attack on the USA for banning him in the wake of the Gujarat massacres.

        1. Tulsi seems to lean closer to the batshit crazy end of Hindu Nationalism, as evidence by her praise of Modi and attack on the USA for banning him in the wake of the Gujarat massacres.

          the democrats probably can (barely at this point) accept someone who is conventionally liberal in american context but supports likud in israel. this was pretty normal until recently for jewish american politicians. she seems like that. and india doesn’t have the same place in american hearts as israel, so she has a hard time pulling it off…. (also, she positions herself stylistically on the left, not center-left)

        2. Do you accept that Muhammad was a Pedophile or are you, like Kabir, covertly advancing a Muslim agenda under the guise of liberalism.

          I need to know where you stand before I can engage. Don’t want to divert this thread either

          1. If by pedophile you mean sexual relations with prepubescent children, then no, Muhammad was likely not a pedophile, as Islam forbids sexual relations with those who haven’t reached puberty, and there’s no indications his youngest recorded consort (Aisha) was prepubescent.

            If you are asking if I think sexual relations are acceptable so long as one’s partner has reached the age of puberty, the answer is no. While it may have served in premodern times, we now know that sexual relations (and everything that comes with it) have significant adverse effects on minors, particularly for girls below the age of 13 or so.

            Though if I was truly committed to “advancing the Muslim agenda”, it would be a simple matter for me to denounce the actions of Muhammad in the company of Kaffirs, while privately believing otherwise, in order to move one step closer to installing Sharia, resurrecting the Caliphate, or whatever it is you think Muslims busy themselves with.

          2. I love it how every thread, whether it is about american politics or science or physics or chemistry or whatever, ultimately end up in a discussion over the happenings in Muhammad’s bedroom. 🙂

            Leave the poor guy alone. He was a man of his times. He was a ruler, and he did what other rulers in history did. Killed their enemies, raped their women and robbed their belongings. Whats so different about Muhammad?

          3. I don’t know how asking for mutual respect can be defined as “intolerance” but OK.

            What is really to be gained by gratuitiously insulting the Prophet of God at every opportunity? It doesn’t serve to advance any argument and only turns off people with whom you are (presumably) trying to dialogue.

          4. The stigma around paedophilia has nothing to do with puberty but consent and agency.

            Children cannot consent. Not now. Not in the 7th century CE or 17th century BCE.

            To sarpamaugdheya’s point, Mohammed is special because he is specially plead for, i.e. seen as a personality beyond reproach and free of error. He would be seen as just another (important) medieval warlord, but for his supernatural revelation and the special pleading about his character as an example for all ages etc.


            For America it is ultimately a good thing that a woman and a brownish one at that gets elected. Tulsi’s cultish views are questionable, but her own personal fad. The Western system is generally good at making sure personal fads are insulated from govt policy.

            The ultimate hedge against personal biases seeping in should really be the design of the governance system itself. So if America has to fear anything it is not the Presidential candidates, but (lack of) checks on their power after one of them becomes President. What matters is error handling/correction, not error avoidance!

          5. Agree with sarpamaugdheya. His – I mean the object of the post, not sarpamaugdheya, verbal ejaculations were more serious than physical. A ‘Child’ and it’s protection is defined legally – or the laws of the land and time. So, basically I would not rake up issues with what someone is supposed to have done hundreds of years ago in a distant land.

    1. Of course this candidacy is a joke, as Hawaii has 400K votes and 4 electoral votes, and that is why I asked for which country. There are a number of candidates like herman cain, Ben Carlson, the Pauls, allan keyes who use this ruse to raise money. Fundraising during candidacy can be broadly used to support a lifestyle and I can bet she can add 00-300 K to her 174 K salary over the next three-four years from raised funds. One day I will write about this fraud called fundraising for elections; basically all senators and many congressmen or 100% in fundraising mode all the time and expand their salaries by at least a few hundred K a year.

      1. this is a dumb or ignorant take tbh.

        american national politics is now national. trump didn’t win new york, and no one was worried that bernie was from vermont (they were worried he was too far left!). bill clinton was from arkansas, and biden kept running from tiny delaware. the last two VPs before pence brought very little population to the top of the ticket.

        basically the base of your home is a consideration before the 1990s, when national politics was less polarized and regional loyalties were strong.

        1. The bottom line is, do you honestly think she can get 4 electoral votes?

          I think the name trump is used to normalize too many things.

          1. did you read my post? I assume this is a way for her to increase her profile more than a plausible chance to win the Presidency.

            if she got nominated she would win a lot of blue states. but she won’t get nominated cuz of the islam stuff in particular. the democratic party is the muslim party at prayer 😉

        2. Candidates are often from low EV states, but note that most actual presidents of recent years are from at least moderate size states. Clinton had NY connections, so ignore his Arkansas background. Trump NY (but hated there) l,Obama Illinois, bush TX, other busjlh YX, going back farther, lots of Tx, CA, NY.

        3. “they were worried he was too far left”

          Which is part of why many of us from Europe feel American politics comes across as fucking weird. There’s the constant call to diversity/tolerance/liberal pluralism, probably unlike in any other place and often even by “conservatives” (though I suppose it’s to be expected *to an extent* in a country that varied), and related which often reaches derangement but if someone is a social democrat in economic terms (almost a broad consensus, so to speak, here), the former group almost tries to eat them alive and considers them a communist of some sort.

          1. Americans are instinctively religious. When they abandon old faiths, new religions, particularly political allegiances, seize their hearts.
            Now the Big Two of these political parties operate on the basis of the party elite feathering their own nests, and whipping their acolytes into fervor over whatever they imagine that the other party is doing. So you get that amazing combination of crony capitalism and corporatism that supports the bosses, and a belief amongst the rank and file that the other side are devils who are literally planning a new holocaust. These beliefs are religious in intensity and can’t be successfully challenged.

    2. “She’s apparently protesting her party’s seeming opposition to letting judicial nominees with known religious beliefs (Catholic) through, taking a stand on religious freedom (of a kind.) So she certainly seems heterodox, but that’s unlikely to get her through the Democratic primary.”

      May God bless Tulsi Gabbard. Sarva Dharma (all religions being true) is part of the eastern ethos. This means that Jesus and Christianity are true too. In eastern culture, criticizing great masters and other religions is completely haram. Tulsi Gabbard should not denounce Christianity, the Bible, Jesus or Christians. Tulsi Gabbard should stand her ground the way the Dalai Lama does. If liberals denounce her as a Nazi, racist, prejudiced bigot, hegemon, exploiter, oppressor, colonialist, imperialist and the rest of the post modernist cultural marxist soup . . . so be it.

      Let us remember the example of Yeshua ban Yoseph (Jesus)– the greatest Palestinian. The large majority of people (including Jewish people and non Jewish people) denounced Jesus as evil, and disrespected him as he was dying on the cross. Yet Jesus was unaffected. Jesus said and did what was honest and right. Jesus said “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” May we all have the courage of Jesus. May we all have the courage to be denounced by the world as evil and be unaffected.

      I actually think this would help Tulsi win the nomination. Trump won by opposing political correctness. Most democrats similarly detest political correctness. Tulsi Gabbard can win by similarly flying in the face of political correctness. Especially if she is the only candidate for President in the Democratic primary fighting political correctness.

  3. Harris is raised by her Indian mom, and gets 108 coconuts sacrificed in Chennai to this day by her family for her success. I didn’t know Tulsi is part Samoan.

    I respect Gaudiya Vaishnavas. Razib you know that Gaud is a name of Bengal.

    Both are fine but have no chance

  4. We could have a race between Gabbard and Nikki Halley. Wouldn’t that be something?

  5. “not Islam, where conservatively devout individuals are acceptable so long as they keep their social views on the down-low.”

    This isn’t remotely true. If you’ve followed the campaigns of any major Muslim politician in the West (Sadiq Khan, Omar, Rashida), they’ve all had to come out in favor of the LGBT movement to gain acceptance from the left, despite such views being antithetical to Islam.

  6. Wow Razib. Totally missed this (rarely watch or read the traditional news other than business, economics, basketball, and some geopolitical issues).

    Attacking Eastern philosophy (10 Darshanas . . . plus Toaism . . . since most global leftists and liberals don’t know about Zorastrianism, Bon, Lingayat etc.) has become cool among global liberals and leftists in a short period of time.

    Now it is acceptable for young female caucasian idealistic activists (in Europe and North America) to describing Gandhiji, the Dalai Lama, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa (and eastern spiritual leaders in general) as Nazis and racists.

    The large majority of this comes from a disconnect and lack of mutual understanding between cultural marxists/post modernists and people steeped in eastern philosophy. Hope to write an article series to elaborate on this disconnect. Including anecdotes from the life of the Dalai Lama where the Dalai Lama was completely unable to understand what westerners were telling him about self loathing, guilt, and the rest of the irrational emotions arising from the most modernist cultural marxist millieu. I have heard many other accounts of eastern spiritual and religious leaders similarly completely befuddled and confused by what westerners tell them.

    Many of the major sayings, spiritual and religious precepts of the east evoke an angry emotional outburst from people whose brains have been colonized by post modernist cultural marxism.

    In defense of Tulsi Gabbard; eastern philosophy has been supportive of LBGTQ rights for more than 5,000 years and has long had a very rich deep understanding of the many nuances of the subject. It is bizarre to attack Tulsi Gabbard or any Hindu Buddhist Jain Sikh Toaist for being against LBGTQ on a religious basis. There are more eastern texts relating to LBGTQ issues than any normal human being can possibly be expected to read and understand. What little I have read has been far beyond my ability to comprehend.

    1. “Eastern philosophy has been supportive of LBGTQ rights”
      No it hasn’t.
      The whole concept of a sexual identity rather than behavior is Western and only around 100 years old. And homosexual behavior was only ever tolerated at best in various lines of Hindu and Buddhist thought, and more often than not persecuted. Taoism and Confucianism can be particularly hostile.
      Have you ever read the Abhidharmakosakarika or any of Vasubandhu’s writings? How about the Dzogchen teachings so central to Tibetan Buddhism? They’re as supportive of homosexual behavior as the Koran.

      1. Armaghan, the eastern understanding of LBGTQ is extraordinarily deep and vast and different. I think the post modernist cultural marxist understanding is far less mature and deep.

        Would you like an article series on this subject at BP? If so, you would be welcome to contribute an article to the series.

        I hesitate to write too much because truth be told, I don’t understand the 11 genders in the Shiva Agamas. Much of the scriptural corpus (most of it) do not relate to homo sapiens per say; but relate to other species. Many of which come from or are associated with the stars. Now many from the eastern tradition are going public and saying they are aliens. This has long believed and passed on through secret teachings. But only now going public. A very incomplete list of these include:
        –Kwan Yin
        –Special bears (Jambavan)
        –Brahma, Brahma Putras, Prajapatis
        Many Hindus/Buddhists/Jains/Sikhs are still reluctant to discuss this in public and think this discussion should remain in private. However, I suspect that much of the discussion of gender cannot be understood without bringing this up. Perhaps much of the scriptural discussion of gender relates to non homo sapiens. Other species have different understandings of gender than humans. Gender is intimately related to a belief in reincarnation as homo sapiens, many other earth species, and many alien species. The belief is that we carry gender memory from past lives into this birth. We also carry genetic memory of multiple extant and now almost extinct genders. Ancient stories about homo sapiens marrying non humans can be interpreted as others influencing the DNA code at various times. Which, if someone believes this, implies that our DNA carries gender knowledge from other species.

        The eastern understanding of gender is different and rarely understood by post modernists.

        Please elaborate on Taoism and LBGTQ. My sense is that within Taoism is a deep understanding of gender multiplicity.

        I specifically did not mention Confucianism on LBGTQ for a reason.

        Can you share Abhidharmakosakarika’s and Vasubandhu’s writings on LBGTQ? I have not read them.

        Can you elaborate regarding what lineage and version of Dzogchen you are referring to? Suspect this is a misunderstanding. People can do whatever they want. But if they choose a specific spiritual path, they must abide by certain rules or they risk catastrophically damaging their brain, nervous system, health and spiritual state. Each specific path has its specific rules for a reason. If someone does not want to practice these rules, then follow a different path. This is why the number of spiritual paths is Ananta or endless.

        The Dalai Lama says that Dzogchen’s Sanskrit name is Mahaa Sandhi.

        Padmasambhava is deeply revered by Hindus–especially Shaivites–as a great Nath Siddha master. He gave many, many paths for different individuals depending on their qualities and tendencies. LBGTQ are not left out.

        I am unfamiliar with Dzogchen from lineages other than Padmasambhava (which is not to say they don’t exist, they might exist).

        This comment is long enough. This subject requires a series of articles.

  7. Tulsi Gabbard most vocal critics are Israeli nationalists in the democrat party and the left. They were infuriated by her support for American military withdrawal from Syria and her meeting with Assad.

    1. Roy, we don’t know for sure if that withdrawal happens or the circumstances of proposed withdrawal. The Iraqi Army, Iraqi Air Force (under orders from the Iraqi government) and Putin are considering backing the Kurds in Syria and deploying considerable military power inside Syria in direct support of the Kurds.

      If this happens . . . then the US can withdraw from Syria. No harm. [Of course a small number of US advisors with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Air Force would deploy to Syria in support of the Iraqi Security Forces].

      Syria is sideshow. The main show is Iraq. Iraqis want an alliance and friendship with the US a lot more than the US wants an alliance and friendship with Iraq. As long as Trump doesn’t betray the Iraqis by stabbing them in the back when they least expect it . . . as long as the US continues a significant program to train, equip and advise the Iraqi Security Forces; all is good.

      Iraq and Israel have a difficult relationship. I think America should prioritize the friendship and alliance with Iraq.

      Putin and Israel are very close allies. Trump told Bibi to ally, work with, collaborate and back Putin in Syria. Bibi saluted and said yes. And I think Israel is okay with this arrangement.

      Israel is one of the world’s great powers and kudos to them. The entire world can and should learn a lot from Israel and emulate Israel in many way. But America has her own long term interests and long term values and should follow them even if Israel objects.

      Similarly America needs to simultaneously be Israel’s best friend forever (BFF) in all circumstances while also being Palestine’s best friend forever (BFF). America does not need to choose. America can be everything simultaneously. [Much the way Hindus say that all religions are true . . . and that they belong to all of them!]


      There is no reason why Tulsi Gabbard can’t form a close alliance and friendship with both Putin and Bibi. Putin and Bibi have a man crush with each other. Plus Israelis and Jews “LOVE” anything eastern philosophy related. Love Hindu Buddhist Jain Sikh Taoist Bon Zorastrians (someone can be all of them simultaneously!) Tulsi Gabbard will have no problem being best friends with Israelis and Jews. Hinduism is a “HUGE” asset in this.

  8. I just skimmed the New Yorker article. I don’t think the author has a deep understanding of Hinduism, Uttara Mimamsa, Achintya-Bheda-Abheda, Hare Krishna, Bhaktivedanta, or Butler.

    An example is this sentence:

    “Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican, likes to tell Gabbard that she is “the most Christlike member of Congress,” a complicated sort of compliment that says something about the way we try to reconcile spiritual traditions that are ultimately incommensurable.”

    If all religions are true and find the same truth, then being Christlike is not different from being on a spiritual path or being influenced by eastern philosophy or being part of Hare Krishna.

    Prabhupada (who expanded Hare Krishna beyond SAARC) was extremely confused and puzzled by many aspects of American culture. For example, westerners asked to convert to Hare Krishna or Hinduism or whatever you want to call it. Prabhupada use to ask:
    1) What does conversion mean? [concept does not exist in the east]
    2) Why do you want to convert?
    3) Why can’t you remain a good Christian and also be part of Hare Krishna? [concept of exclusivity is not understood in the east]
    4) Why would you want to leave Christianity and the master Jesus? Jesus is a great example of what Krishna, Chaitanya, and the Hare Krishna movement stand for.

    After a long time, Prabhupada finally relented and started giving sacred thread to foreigners, converting them into Brahmins initiated in the Gayatri mantra. [In the east, people from other Varna or without Varna (Avarna) can be initiated into Brahmin varna if they prove worthy.]

    Prabhupada and other Hare Krishna leaders would not have understood what about Hare Krishna was not compatible and consistent with Christianity and Jesus. And criticizing any other spiritual master or religion would be unacceptable.

    Hare Krishna is an affair of the heart. It is about having a divine romance with the transcendent. Devotion. Bhakti. Wanting nothing. Being nothing, Knowing nothing. Seeing the divine lover (God) in all things and loving them as the divine lover (Himself/Herself). Loving all.

  9. Tulsi Gabbard has a lot of admiration and respect from the right. She is strong on Islamism, illegal immigration, security . . . while supporting greater legal immigration (similar to me). She stands up to post modernist cultural marxist political correctness. She met Trump after he got elected and did not join the women’s march. She isn’t a sycophant of the quasi Islamist Linda Sarsour. She arguably works better with Republicans in passing legislation than almost any other Democrat:


    She could run against political correctness much the way Trump did and win the Democratic primary as a type of Democratic Trump. Most Democrats have had it up to here with post modernist cultural marxist political correctness.

    I think she has the best chance of beating Trump of any Democratic nominee (other than maybe Lebron James or Oprah . . . but I don’t think they will run).

  10. I just have a hunch that in a battle of Gabbard vs haley vs haris Gabbard will get most of the North Indian hindu support( which would be funny ). While Harris might get the others ( liberal left , non hindu, South Indian ). Of course overtly even the Gabbard ones will say they are supporting Harris considering how much radioactive Gabbard has become. Also I think Harris being a half i yer or whatever won’t cut it for the Hindu pops in USA considering I don’t think she has any meaningfull stands/resolution on India/Indians ever. So everyone would know just like Haley she has come around her supposedly Indian roots for the elections and all. But yeah it might work on her potential support base (liberal left , non hindu, South Indian ) considering her chances are the most bright among all three contenders.

  11. More attacks on her from the left and liberals and more support for her from classical liberals, moderates, libertarians and conservatives:


    Saurav, the “radioactivity” is why Gabbard could win this thing. She is “different” and willing to take on the post modernists. Quietly this is what most democrats have been waiting for, but too scared to say out load. In fact a ton of “Never Trump” republicans might join the democratic party to vote for Gabbard. This could be enough to push her over the top. She is the Democrat Trump.

    I don’t agree with Gabbard about everything. I am a free market, free trade, free cross border product development collaboration, free global investment movement, free skilled labor mobility globalist. And Gabbard does not appear to be that.

    As an aside, I find south Indians to be most religious, spiritual and mature people on earth. And along with Jews and a few others the most intelligent people on earth. I think South Indians will especially flock to Gabbard. There is such a paucity of unapologetic mature spiritual people in the world. Gabbard really does stand out.

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