Ilhan Omar, one of the founding members of the Squad of young leftwing Democrats, has shot her mouth off again. This one is a doozy. On 7 June, the congresswoman from Minneapolis tweeted, ‘We must have the same level of accountability and justice for all victims of crimes against humanity. We have seen unthinkable atrocities committed by the U.S., Hamas, Israel, Afghanistan, and the Taliban.’ This is not the first time Omar has opined on America and Israel. Previously she accused Israel of ‘hypnotizing the world’ and claimed that American support for Israel is, ‘all about the Benjamins’, Benjamin Franklin being on the $100 bill.
Republicans have been quick to condemn Omar’s remarks. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy said that Omar should be stripped from her committee assignments and has promised to do so if the GOP wins the House next year. McCarthy argues that the Democrats set this precedent when they did the same to Republican Marjorie Taylor Green of Georgia for liking loony conspiracy theories about Jews on Facebook. Greene later compared masks and vaccine passports to the yellow stars the Nazis forced Jews to wear. Unlike Omar, Greene toured the Holocaust Museum in Washington and apologized.
A group of Jewish House Democrats asked Omar to ‘clarify’ her statement. Omar responded by accusing them of Islamophobia. The rest of the Squad chimed in. Squad leader Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, ‘Pretty sick & tired of the constant vilification, intentional mischaracterization, and public targeting of @IlhanMN coming from our caucus. Fellow Squad member, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan tweeted her support, ‘Freedom of speech doesn't exist for Muslim women in Congress. The benefit of the doubt doesn't exist for Muslim women in Congress. House Democratic leadership should be ashamed of its relentless, exclusive tone policing of Congresswomen of color.’ Representative Jamal Bowmen of New York agreed, ‘When a woman, person of color or Muslim speaks out against injustice, backlash ensues. When @IlhanMN speaks out, the vitriol is compounded by her being all three.’
And finally Representative Cori Bush of St. Louis tweeted, ‘I'm not surprised when Republicans attack Black women for standing up for human rights. But when it’s Democrats, it’s especially hurtful. We’re your colleagues. Talk to us directly.’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi later forced Omar to release a ‘clarifying’ statement, but the damage was done. Over the weekend Pelosi ‘clarified’ things herself saying, ‘We did not rebuke her. We thanked — acknowledged that she made a clarification.’
Israel may seem trivial to foreigners, but it’s an important matter in America. For 73 years Americans have strongly supported Israel in her conflicts with the Arabs, Palestinians and Iran. Most Americans see Israel as an ally and a friend. Many Conservative Christians believe supporting Israel is a religious obligation. For them, these are the people of the Old Testament. A Fox poll taken in May showed Americans favor Israel over the Palestinians 56%-38%. Even Democrats favor Israel 42%-35%. Given the preeminence and headline grabbing by the Squad and their supporters, one should expect Democrats will soon favor the Palestinians.
The number of moderate Democrats dwindles. But some remain and they still matter. While The Squad garners headlines, Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) and Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-Arizona) hold the line against the left wing’s attempt to nuke the senate Filibuster. Legislation in the House is passed by a simple majority. But in the senate most legislation needs 60 votes to end debate, after which a vote can proceed. The senate Filibuster is supposed to slow things down and foster cooperation between both sides. The Squad and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) want to get rid of the Filibuster so they can advance legislation like HR-1 which would federalize elections, The Green New Deal and Biden’s $2.3 billion infrastructure bill.
Sinema is a bit of a strange bird, a more moderate democrat than expected representing red/pink Arizona. Manchin represents deep red West Virginia. Moreover, he is one of the last southern or conservative Democrats. From the end of the Second World War through to the 2000’s, conservative Democrats were a powerful faction within the party. During the Cold War, conservative Democrats were generally left leaning on social issues like healthcare or gay rights but favored a strong military. They were tough on crime, an important issue in the 70’s and 80’s. Bill Clinton and Al Gore, both southerners, cast themselves as conservative Democrats and won two presidential elections in the 1990s. Back then, Manchin’s West Virginia was deep blue.
Manchin may be the last of his kind. Declining Democrat support for Israel is part of the general leftward drift of the Democrats. On foreign policy, taxes, racial issues, the Squad is where the energy of the party lies and in the coming years it will accrue more power as the old guard like Pelosi are forced out, almost certainly after the 2022 midterm elections.