Rep. Ilhan Omar, who was removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is seen following a vote at the U.S. Capitol, in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 2, 2023.
Photo: Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post via Getty Images
The House of Representatives voted 218-211 on Thursday to kick Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., off the Foreign Affairs Committee. Why?
According to the resolution, it was because “Omar, by her own words, has disqualified herself from serving on the Committee on Foreign Affairs.” It listed four statements by Omar and made pains to note that they had all been condemned by some of Omar’s fellow House Democrats for being antisemitic or anti-American (whatever those words mean in present-day politics).
Omar spoke out for herself yesterday. “This debate today is about who gets to be an American. What opinions do we have to have to be counted as Americans?” she said. “I am Muslim. I am an immigrant. … Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted?”
For her part, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said, “One of the things that we should talk about here is … the targeting and racism against Muslim-Americans. … This is about targeting women of color in the United States of America.”
The GOP’s stated rationale is obvious nonsense. On the one hand, it’s not fair to say antisemitism is the last thing the Republican Party cares about, because the last things the Republican Party cares about are racism and wealth inequality. On the other hand, antisemitism is perfectly fine with the GOP, as illustrated by (among endless other examples) its reaction to former President Donald Trump hosting a chummy dinner with Nick Fuentes and Kanye West.
In fact, you can make an argument that antisemitism or something with the same structure is fundamental to all conservative politics. They need it to hide what they’re really about.
Conservatives can’t acknowledge the obvious reality that modern societies are run by huge corporations and the ultrawealthy, because they work for huge corporations and the ultrawealthy. Instead, they’re forced to come up with nonsensical explanations for how the world works, which always involves an imagined secret elite. The Jews are a perennial favorite, but it can also be unions, or the gays, or the international communist conspiracy, or the space lizards wearing ultrarealistic human masks. In the confused minds of the right-wing base, it can be all of these at once, with Jewish Unionized Gay Communist Lizards controlling all unseen.
While it sounds a little presumptuous to say so, the explanations offered by Omar and Ocasio-Cortez for the GOP’s actions are also not the whole story.
It’s certainly true that in the past, conservatives would not have been able to abide a nonwhite, nonmale, non-Christian in any position of power. But today, the U.S. right would be absolutely ecstatic to have someone with Omar’s background on the Foreign Affairs Committee, as long as she were an enthusiastic proponent of bombing everything. This is actually a small sign of societal progress, which we should celebrate.
Omar was closest to the mark when she said this is about a particular question: “What opinions do we get to have?” It is largely forbidden in elite U.S. circles to point out the existence and motivation of the Israel lobby — because you can get called antisemitic for noting that Boeing deeply enjoys selling joint direct attack munitions to Israel or for having the temerity to agree with an Israeli prime minister. You cannot suggest, as Omar did, that the U.S. should be judged by the same moral standards as others, because our enemies kill in an irrational frenzy, while we have reasons. (This squelching of open debate is naturally led by those who proclaim their vociferous opposition to cancel culture and political correctness.)
It’s unquestionably true that the rage on the U.S. right toward Omar is greatly accentuated by her failure to be a white, Christian, native-born man. The pullulating hate that Trump demonstrated in 2019 toward her — and Ocasio-Cortez; Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.; and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. — is still bracing to read. It can only be explained as the loathing elites always have for their inferiors when they step out of their rightful place.
So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019
Trump’s tweets were also hilariously stupid, given that, of the four members of Congress, only Omar was born outside of the U.S. Pressley is from the far-away foreign land of Cincinnati.
So the right has an especially terrifying brand of venom reserved for someone like Omar. White Christian men certainly have far more wiggle room to tell the truth, but conservatives are perfectly capable of revving up their giant hate machine against anyone who wants to say things that make them uncomfortable.
The upshot here is that all of us — everyone who thinks American politics doesn’t have to be dominated by childish lies — are in this together. Omar is a truly courageous person who must be defended by everyone who values honesty. Understand, though, that this is both because it’s the right thing to do and because, if you have a similar affection for reality, you’re also on their list, and you better believe they’ll eventually get to you too.