Oakland, Ca. (Special to Informed Comment) – Congressional Republicans are more interested in grandstanding than governance, and political persecution rather than functional democracy. The banishment of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from her assignment on the Foreign Affairs Committee by Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) illustrates how Republican candidates and office holders try to outdo each other with anti-Democratic expressions of hate, and exclusionary politics over who is really an American.
Republican power tripping didn’t sink to its nadir under Donald Trump. It continues to sink lower as various districts have elected right-wing hate mongers such as Marjorie Taylor Green, R-GA and Lauren Boebert, R-CO to Congress. The 5th District of Minnesota chose Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to represent them, and they’re entitled to the same level of representation “without prejudice” that Green and Boebert’s constituents enjoy.
House Republicans voted to remove Omar because she’s a dark-skinned Muslim, and a naturalized citizen who survived civil war and refugee camps in Somalia as a child. On the House Floor, she eloquently argued that House Republicans are now trying to dictate, “Who gets to be an American,” and whose ideas are sufficiently “American” to be protected and promoted.
Britannica tells us that in German folklore, Doctor Faustus signs over his soul to Mephistopheles, an envoy of Satan, in return for secret knowledge or powers of sorcery for a set term on earth. The editors add, “Faustian bargains are by their nature tragic or self-defeating for the person who makes them, because what is surrendered is ultimately far more valuable than what is obtained, whether or not the bargainer appreciates that fact.” The Republican Party has traded its innermost essence for the adulation of white supremacists and neo-Nazis, for whom Ilhan Omar is the ultimate threat.Once a party loses integrity, it ratchets further and further toward evil, having lost all sense of decency.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) initiated the move claiming that Omar made, “repeated anti-Semitic and anti-American remarks” throughout her tenure as a House member. Yes she did . . . once; and she apologized for them with sensitivity and eloquence, acknowledging her failure to make the distinction between the political ideology of Zionism and the religion of Judaism. Whoopi Goldberg made a similar mistake and endured an onslaught of brutal, unfair critiques. The common thread is that Jews are not a monolith, while Republicans are. Condemning Israel’s slide into Fascism is not an act of anti-Semitism. Zionism no more defines Judaism, than the Republican Party defines the United States. It’s important to remember that, when so many ignorant and ill-mannered people through the political spectrum, have made anti-Semitic comments based on how Israel is behaving.
Sadly, Democracy is dead in Israel with the political rehabilitation of PM Benjamin Netanyahu nearly complete. While the guardrails of democracy kept Donald Trump from destroying our democratic republic, Israel is not so fortunate. Now Bibi is trying to remove those guardrails in Israel, as McCarthy is now doing in the House. Both Jews and gentiles object to Netanyahu’s plans; former ADL Director Abraham Foxman who said, “If Israel ceases to be an open democracy, I won’t be able to support it.”
Taking issue with Israeli policy cannot be considered anti-Semitic, considering that many American and European Jews are also aghast at Israel’s current leadership under the criminal cloud of Netanyahu. This is a disingenuous move by McCarthy to reframe terms of engagement and move the goalpost farther back, in order to placate a racist and xenophobic element, empowered by Trump and now McCarthy. The Speaker forfeited his spine and manhood to Trump, just weeks after condemning him for January 6. It was a Faustian bargain that elevated him to Speaker, which also empowered the far-far right fringe of the Republican Party. Though their stated effort is to “own the libs,” they’re trying to own the US Government, and dictate who can participate, in violation of the Constitution.
Omar said in a Floor speech, “It’s motivated by the fact that many of these members don’t believe a Muslim, a refugee, an African should even be in Congress, let alone have the opportunity to serve on the Foreign Affairs Committee.” This is political retaliation for Democrats removing Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-GA., and Rep. Paul Gosar, R-AZ from their committee assignments after they made violent comments threatening to incite violence against other House members. Those comments were never retracted, while Rep. Omar apologized for her comments about “the Benjamins.”
Steve Cohen, D-TN said in a 2019 phone interview of Reps. Omar and Rashida Tlaib, D-MI, “They don’t hate the Jews. They were personally thankful to me when I’ve supported them. . . I recognize that Palestinians, such as Rep. Tlaib, also feel they have right of return. Trump is trying to paint them as the face of the Democratic Party and they are not; Trump wants to Make America White Again. These women don’t hate the Jews.” Cohen is the only Jewish MC, representing a majority black district in Memphis, and one of the more progressive House members.
This is not the first time Republicans have used xenophobic grandstanding to defame Rep. Omar. In 2019, they tried to tie her to the 9/11 bombings, and made persistent efforts to play on Islamophobia since she took office. That occurred at a Republican event at the West Virginia statehouse, and led to at least one resignation and a fist fight on the Floor. Such primitive grandstanding and reckless rhetoric endangers the lives of Muslims in public office, and contributes to the madness that fueled January 6.
Reps. Ken Buck, R- CO and Mike Simpson, R-ID characterized Omar’s banishment as “stupid” and “vengeful,” but then begged reporters not to publish comments they made in a House elevator. Buck cautioned that Omar’s committee expulsion would make her into a martyr. McCarthy accomplished banishing Omar only after some political horse-trading with Reps. Nancy Mace, R-SC and Victoria Spartz, R-IN to get them to change their votes. This was after Spartz had criticized McCarthy the day before for his, “taking unprecedented actions . . . to deny some committee assignments to the Minority without proper due process again.” She added, “Speaker McCarthy needs to stop ‘bread and circuses’ in Congress, and start governing for a change.” Now she’s as craven to McCarthy as he was to Trump. So Faustian bargains now characterize Republican political dynamics, along with grandstanding and unconstitutional political persecution.