Ilhan Communication

Column: Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the collapse of the center-left

Hannah Yoest / Flickr
March 8, 2019

I have a new hobby. It's collecting the excuses Democrats make for Ilhan Omar, the Minnesota Democratic congresswoman who has an unhealthy fixation on Jewish influence, Jewish money, and Jewish loyalty. Omar has said that Israel "hypnotized the world," attributing Jews with the power of mind control in the service of manipulating public opinion. She's said the only reason Congress supports Israel is Jewish campaign donations. Most recently, using the classic anti-Semitic trope of dual loyalty, she criticized supporters of Israel for having "allegiance to a foreign power." A real treasure, Omar is. A typical freshman congresswoman sees her mission as—forgive the expression—bringing home the bacon for her district. Not Ilhan. Her project is to mainstream anti-Semitic rhetoric within the Democratic Party. Once upon a time, you'd have to visit the invaluable website of the Middle East Media Research Institute to hear such tripe. Now you just need to flip on C-SPAN.

And Democrats are powerless to stop it. They're tripping over themselves, making rationalizations, dodging reality, and trying to clean up this anti-Semitic mess. Omar is new to this, they say. She never intended to come across as anti-Semitic. She can't help it. "She comes from a different culture." She didn't know what she was saying—she's a moron! She's just trying to "start a conversation" about the policies of Israel's government. And why are you singling her out, anyway. "She is living through a lot of pain." She's black, she's a woman, and she's Muslim. You can't condemn her without also condemning white men of privilege. What are you, racist? Islamophobic? Shame on you for picking on this poor lady, who just happens to say that American Jews serve a foreign power by buying off politicians and using the Force to blinker people's minds.

Before such "arguments"—they are really assertions of victimhood to intimidate critics—Nancy Pelosi shudders. She's supposed to be this Iron Lady, returned to power after exile, ruling her caucus with a vise-like grip. But her hands are covered in Palmolive. She's spent the first weeks of Congress doing little more than responding to the various insanities of Omar and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Pelosi will condemn Omar one minute, before appearing with her on the cover of Rolling Stone the next. She's lost a step. She can't hold her caucus together when Republicans call for motions to recommit on the House floor. The policies her candidates ran on in swing districts vanished under the solar-powered glare of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's Green New Deal. We're not talking about covering preexisting conditions, we're pledging to rid the world once and for all of the scourges of air travel and cow flatulence. Pelosi's trigger-happy committee chairmen, firing their subpoena cannons into the air at random, look like goofballs desperate to impeach President Trump.

Whatever control Pelosi had over her majority vanished the second she delayed the resolution condemning Omar. It then became undeniable that AOC & co. is in charge. Identity politics has rendered the Democrats incapable of criticizing anti-Semitism so long as it dons the wardrobe of intersectionality. It's nothing short of incredible that three women from three different cities—New York, Detroit, and Minneapolis—can run roughshod over 233 other House Democrats with a little help from social media, woke 24-year-olds in the digital press, and the Congressional Black Caucus. If you're Ocasio-Cortez right now, you must love life from the comfort of the test kitchen in your luxury D.C. apartment building. What's next for this trio—two of whom are members of the Democratic Socialists of America, two of whom support the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement that seeks Israel's destruction, and all three of whom combine radical anti-American politics with radical self-regard—finding a candidate to primary pro-Israel Democrat Eliot Engel, chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee on which Omar sits? Challenging Chuck Schumer in the Democratic primary when he's up for reelection in 2022?

The most pressing order of business has got to be the 2020 presidential election. Omar, AOC, and Tlaib don't strike me as Cory Booker supporters. Amy Klobuchar might be too much of a taskmaster for them. Most likely the radicals will line up behind the current frontrunner, Bernie Sanders, who has already surrounded himself with anti-Israel activists. Sanders has said criticism of Omar is just a means to "stifle debate" over Israel's government. He's too smart to believe that. As the most successful Jewish presidential candidate in history, he has a responsibility to draw lines. After all, he's no stranger to the dual loyalty charge—though of course in his case the other country was the Soviet Union.

Bernie Sanders has no interest in stopping Omar. He recognizes that she represents the impending transformation of the Democratic Party into something more closely resembling the British Labour Party. Labourites elected avowed socialist Jeremy Corbyn party leader in September 2015. The years since have been spent in one anti-Semitism scandal after another. Sanders wants desperately to be the American Corbyn. If anti-Semitism is the price of a socialist America, so be it. Remember what Stalin said about the omelette. I'm sure Bernie does. If Democrats can't rebuke Omar swiftly and definitively, if they have trouble competing with Ocasio-Cortez's Instagram cooking show, how will they be able to stop Sanders from carrying his devoted bloc of supporters to plurality victories in the early primaries, and using the divided field to gain momentum just as Trump did?

So far this year the Democrats have floundered in a pit of racism, sexual assault, and anti-Semitism. They've embraced policies akin to infanticide, and announced plans to expropriate wealth, pay reparations for slavery, eliminate private health insurance within two years, and rebuild or retrofit every building in the United States before the world ends from climate change 12 years from now. Throughout it all, they've received a pass from the know-nothing media. Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Sanders have all made the claim that Omar has done nothing but criticize the policies of Bibi Netanyahu. That's a bald-faced lie, a falsehood not one of the hundreds upon hundreds of reporters covering the Democratic field has scrutinized. These are the very people who have spent the past three years sermonizing on the importance of truth in politics, and they are doing Bernie's work for him. Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institution insists that the Democratic Party continues to be center-left. But the election returns and public opinion data that support her thesis become much less important when the party's biggest stars make a hard-left turn. The Democrats seem ripe for a takeover by Bernie and his pals, or at least a blistering and incendiary battle for control similar to what the GOP experienced last time around.

Blame for Democratic radicalization is most often assigned to Trump—there's little he isn't blamed for—but it really ought to go to President Obama. It was Obama who established "daylight" between the United States and Israel, who blamed opposition to his Iran deal on "money" from "lobbyists," who failed to veto a U.N. resolution singling out the Jewish State and declaring its settlements to have "no legal validity." It was Obama's disastrous second term—when he handed the reins of governance to an administrative state immune from popular sovereignty, when he flouted the Constitution in expanding his administrative amnesty, when he made overtures to hostile governments in Iran and Cuba—that set into motion the decline of the American center-left. Now the Obama bros defend Omar on their podcast and in their newsletter, and bolster the presidential candidacy of Robert Francis "Beto" "Take the Wall Down" O'Rourke. If Obama really wanted to arrest the Democrats' slide into socialism and anti-Semitism, he'd speak out. Do you think Joe Biden will able to stop it? Fat chance. The odds of a Bernie Sanders nomination, a Howard Schultz candidacy, and a Donald Trump victory increase every time Ilhan Omar opens her mouth.