House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is often called the grown-up in the U.S. House, struggling to control the troublemaking children of the House Democratic freshman class. The joke lands well when Pelosi struggles to prevent the 29-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., from setting the national party’s agenda single-handedly.
But the joke becomes a little less funny when Democrats infantilize one of their own — a mother in her late 30s who has been a fellow at one of the nation’s top-ranked public policy schools — to excuse anti-Semitism. We refer, of course, to Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.
Pelosi and the leadership had been calling for Omar to apologize a few weeks back — that was about five anti-Semitic “slip-ups” ago. But with Omar’s faux-apology in the rearview mirror and new anti-Semitic conspiracy theories on her lips, the Democratic House leadership has cowered.
Recognizing her weakness, more Democrats, including presidential candidates, are now rushing to defend Omar’s anti-Semitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories about Jews who support Israel. The Democrats defending Omar have no excuse. This is not mere criticism of Israel. But their decision to embrace Omar has created great tension within the Democratic Party. They appear to have made Pelosi back down in her attempt to rebuke Omar’s anti-Semitism for a second time on the House floor.
The Democrats’ defense of Omar rests on treating her as if she were a child. According to her Democratic defenders, she’s just a little refugee who couldn’t possibly know better.
“I think she is under a serious microscope,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., of Omar’s rhetoric. “She has to be really careful about her language, but I also think she has shown a real willingness to learn.” This is the sort of thing one says about a four-year-old who just bit someone on the playground, not a sitting U.S. congresswoman and progressive thought-leader.
“We all have a responsibility to speak out against anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, racism, and all forms of hatred and bigotry, especially as we see a spike in hate crimes in America,” said 2020 candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., referring in a courageous “All Lives Matter” fashion to multiple issues irrelevant to Omar’s anti-Semitism. “But like some of my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, I am concerned that the spotlight being put on Congresswoman Omar may put her at risk.”
This infantilizing talk paints Omar as a child who needs protection from the consequences of her public comments as a lawmaker.
Jordan Weissmann at Slate may have penned the best and most unironic infantilization defense of Omar:
“I find Omar’s rhetoric tone-deaf, but haven’t seen compelling evidence that she has any real animus toward Jews,” Weissmann said. “The more likely explanation for these statements is that she’s an inexperienced politician who arrived at the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia at age 12 and probably came of age in left-wing circles where vocal opposition to Israel was the norm, and there wasn’t a lot of thought given to words that Jews consider anti-Semitic dog whistles.”
Democrats can’t have it both ways. If Omar is a child, she doesn’t belong in Congress. If she is a serious political force worthy of the sycophantic puff pieces written about her and the top committee assignments she was given, then she is fully responsible for her actions and deserves the consequences and criticism.
The Washington Examiner