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Cole writes: "Nancy Pelosi’s response to Donald Trump’s tweet lying about Ilhan Omar and maliciously twisting her words to make her seem virtually an al-Qaeda sympathizer was so anodyne that Pelosi didn’t even mention Omar’s name."

Rep. Ilhan Omar. (photo: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images)
Rep. Ilhan Omar. (photo: Mandel Ngan/Getty Images)

Why Isn’t the Democratic Party Leadership Coming to Ilhan Omar’s Defense?

By Juan Cole, Informed Comment

14 April 19


ancy Pelosi’s response to Donald Trump’s tweet lying about Ilhan Omar and maliciously twisting her words to make her seem virtually an al-Qaeda sympathizer was so anodyne that Pelosi didn’t even mention Omar’s name.

The leadership of the Democratic Party is not coming to the defense of Rep. Omar because Ilhan Omar is a liberal. And let me tell you, the leadership of the Democratic Party has kept liberals twisting in the wind since forever.

Gallup polling shows that only about half of Democrats identify as “liberal,” whereas 36 percent say they are “moderate,” and 13 percent actually say they are “conservative.”

Democrats, however, usually cannot win elections without independents, since only 31% of Americans say they are Democrats, whereas 42% are independents. And 45% of independents say they are moderate, while 28% say they are conservative, and only 22 percent are liberal.

The Democratic Party leadership has Mondale syndrome. They still think it is dangerous for the party to have an out and out liberal as its face and they are still afraid of Reagan Republicans.

Both Democratic presidents during the past 40 years were centrists, which is one reason the country has in its policies and its judicial rulings ratcheted so far to the right. The Republicans are often captured by the far right, a witches brew of petulant plutocracy and lower middle class white grievance. They pass laws reducing taxes on the superwealthy, making them more superwealthy, and gutting environmental and consumer protections, and taking services and aid away from the person in the street. They then defend these far right wing laws and measures while they are in the minority, keeping enough seats in the Senate to block any Left counter-legislation, or using the GOP president’s veto. Since even when they get in, the Democrats are only centrists, they don’t even try very hard to shift things left. So US politics is like a crab walking, always as much to the right as forward.

The Democratic leadership believes that a centrist Clinton or Obama is the best we can do, and running one might occasionally allow the Dems to take the White House or a chamber of Congress.

They are happy to have the 26% of votes belonging to liberal voters. But they hold that that isn’t a national program. They need the moderates, and even conservatives (as I remember, 10% of the votes for Obama in 2008 were conservative, and on many issues they weren’t wrong to vote for Obama.)

What the Democratic leadership does not realize is that politics in the swing states– Michigan, Ohio, Florida, etc.– has gone sideways. Bernie Sanders could almost certainly win them all against trump. A milquetoast centrist probably cannot. Dems can take California, New York and Massachusetts for granted. But they cannot take the Rust Belt for granted, and the Rust Belt is tired of politics as usual.

The Republicans are attempting to tag the Democratic Party as the party of Muslims and to imply that it makes the party unpatriotic and anti-Semitic. The prominence of Ilhan Omar and her searing leftwing critiques of the miserable status quo are seen by Trump and Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell as an opportunity to Mondalize the Democrats.

I think both the Democratic leadership and the GOP are wrong, and that they are misreading 2016. Americans are tired of the forever wars, tired of plutocracy, tired of not being able to make ends meet, tired of not having affordable health insurance. That is the real message of 2016 and 2018. These issues grip them beyond the liberal, moderate and conservative labels. McConnell is alleged now to be urging Republicans to run on their own rather than tying themselves to Trump, smelling blood in the water.

If the Democratic leadership were smart, they’d come out vocally in Omar’s defense and do a photo op with her at one of her events for the working class or for the 9/11 firest responders. She cares about those people, she is from poverty and displacement. She is authentic. The Democratic leadership is tied to corporations and big banks and big money. If they run on that, as they did in 2016, Trump will have them for lunch.

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+25 # Rodion Raskolnikov 2019-04-14 16:02
I think Juan is right about this. Though I would hardly call Obama or Clinton "centrists." They are center rightists. They are neo-cons and neo-libs. Both of these ideologies are really the hard right wing reaction against liberalism and conservatism. Obama and Clinton are just a little less hard right wing than, let's say, Bush, Bolton, Abrams, etc. But they are right in there with Robert Kagan and his wife Victoria Nuland.

These center right democrats really don't want the left in the party. Last Summer, Bill Clinton commented that he would not allow the party to move to the left. Well, the democratic party is going left no matter what Clinton or Pelosi say. Ilhan Omar is one democrat on the left. She's great and should be supported.
+22 # Ralph 2019-04-14 19:06
This^. Better still, the majority of Americans now have no religion as their preference yet how many evangelicals and Christians roam the halls of congress and senate? We have no representation and I suspect a good majority of us are wholly won over to responsible socialism. We are well past liberalism and headed into territories unmarked. Yet the Democratic party remains oblivious and they will lose again in 2020 barring an epiphany.
+19 # PeacefulGarden 2019-04-14 20:19
Our entire federal government is based upon a White Christian Military narrative. I cannot imagine a time in my life when this will end. Perhaps things will change 100 years from now; to a more intelligent population that respects each others differences.

What we have now is plain old fashioned stupidity.
+25 # crispy 2019-04-15 00:36
Not only that but she is right about Congress being pro-Israel no matter what.
Sharon said it best:
"I don't care about the American people; we own Congress"
Quoted from memory...
+17 # engelbach 2019-04-15 06:07
Smart has nothing to do with it.

The conservative leaders of the Democratic Party care less about winning elections than about keeping their own positions of individual power and all the perks therein.

They feel threatened, as well they should be, by policies that may benefit the party but may topple them.

That's why they are so afraid of being primaried, and have to actually make undemocratic rules against it.
-26 # joejamchicago 2019-04-15 06:14
It is impossible to know what is in a person's heart or mind, what their true beliefs are. Representative Omar referred to 9/11 by saying that "some people did something." What "some people" did was murder 3,000 men, women, and children. She may claim to high heaven that she "loves America." Maybe she does. Our liberal values, however, are at direct odds with fundamentalist Islam. Which, in the final analysis, would she choose?
+13 # Misterioso 2019-04-15 15:06
You neglected to note that in response to 9/11, Bush Jr., and Tony Blair, et al, launched an illegal war based on what was soon revealed to be blatant lies that resulted in the deaths of well over 500,000 innocent Iraqis, destruction of their country's infrastructure and several million destitute refugees, which in turn,led to the creation of ISIS.
-6 # johnescher 2019-04-15 06:37
Weimar Germans.
-15 # 2019-04-15 07:06
Let`s shoot ourselves in the foot again.!
Stop Bernie now.
0 # FarMor 2019-04-15 18:47
Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I think those who have downed you don't realize that you were being sarcastic with this comment?
-5 # they said what? 2019-04-15 08:33
+8 # wrknight 2019-04-15 08:57
That's a silly question. The so-called "leadership" of the DCCC is simply a bunch of old-guard democrats that are distinguished from republicans in name only. Omar is a member of the progressive wing of the party that is challenging the old-guard.

Don't expect the old-guard to come to the defense of any progressives when they get hammered by republicans or the media.
+9 # The Eternal Optimist 2019-04-15 09:05
I think Cole has it exactly right. Pelosi might have a point in not wanting to mention Omar’s name because it could increasingly target her, but that’s pretty thin. The Democrats (and, of course, the Republicans but forget that) should be screaming bloody murder, e.g. “For God’s sake, people!!! Is there NOTHING that will bring us to our senses? When the “President” of the United States deliberately attacks; literally endangers the life of, a member of Congress will we just accept this?! Is this not a high crime? Is this not a high misdemeanor? Is this not malfeasance? Is this not wholly unacceptable behavior by anyone, let alone the so-called “leader of the free world”?” And of course, like Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, and a handful of other real Congresspeople, the Democrats should be calling out in no uncertain terms all the stunningly dangerous bullshit that’s SOP for the Republicans; Trump’s latest is just one more drop in the bucket.

But no; the Democrats have devolved to the point where they are now nothing more than Republican Lite. Democratic leadership actively turns against the true liberals in the Party, who they’re too blind to see are their only hope. Their spineless, stupid behavior may very well put Trump in again, as it did last time. In which case we can kiss our sorry ass goodbye.
+4 # yolo 2019-04-15 09:17
What do terms like liberal, moderate, and conservative even mean? That is the problem with our media and political parties today they are so busy labeling people and doing target marketing because it's all about numbers. Well numbers don't allow for things like love for our family, or our community and wanting our country to be better than it is today. Tulsi Gabbard is one of the few candidates who has defended Ilhan Omar and isn't afraid to go against the party line. But there is almost a media blackout in the main stream media about her.
+1 # Freddy 2019-04-16 22:52
Right on about labels! They're just a way to divide, and are mostly meaningless.

The icon of conservatism, Barry Goldwater, was adamant that government had no place interfering with a woman's choices about her body. Now so-called conservatives consider themselves to have the right to control a woman's uterus.

We need to unite around issues, which most agree on, rather than get caught up with misleading and divisive labels.
+4 # pushingforpeace 2019-04-15 12:47
Dumb and dumber is how to describe them - out of touch and self-serving.
+9 # Misterioso 2019-04-15 14:00
Another reason the Democrats are not coming to Ilhan Omar's defense is because like the Republicans, who are greatly dependent on huge financial contributions from American multi-billionai re, Zionist zealot, Sheldon Adelson and his ilk, the Democratic leadership and its candidates are subservient to the massive donations they receive from another militant American Zionist and his friends, Haim Saban.

All in all, truly disgusting and downright evil.
+7 # Anne Frank 2019-04-15 16:09
Pelosi is Netanyahu's bitch, just like Trump. Shaban and Adelson own the two legs of the Corporatist party.
+10 # chapdrum 2019-04-15 18:38
Because Omar is too progressive for their Republican/DINO taste.
+13 # David Starr 2019-04-16 07:38
While I don't support Islam, or Christianity for that matter, Ihlan Omar did call out scumbag Elliott Abrams for being connected to atrocities committed in El Salvador and Guatemala during the 1980s. She also favors the suspension (I'd prefer the stopping) of military aid to Honduras because of rights abuses. And I'm sure her positions on domestic issues are progressive. She, thus, has something valuable to offer.
+2 # DongiC 2019-04-17 09:06
The Democratic leadership is suffering a crisis in its belief system as it puts money above principle in dealing with the issues of the day especially as focused by Donald Trump. The Progressives are back and in force. With Sanders and Warren, Omar and Cortez and Lee and Pressly and others, the forces of reform are on the march. They are going to win and to make some significant changes. In foreign policy, I expect to see the last of Bolton and Abrams and a sane and workable policy on immigration. Domestically, I foresee a decent medical position for everyone at long last, help to the college students, and a mighty drive to save the environment spearheaded by the federal government and enlisting the finest minds in our society. Call it a green Manhattan Project; it will be a central declaration of America's dedication and leadership in the struggle to save the Earth. It shall always be remembered that in the planet's darkest hour the United States came through -- for ourselves, our posterity and for the rest of humankind. We can and will do, no less.

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