The booing of Ilhan Omar

A feelgood clip to start the short holiday week off right.

It’s not normally news when a politician is booed, but good lord — this is no ordinary booing. This is “Roger Goodell at the NFL Draft” levels of vitriol.

Evidently everyone in Minneapolis who’s into Somali music is voting Republican this fall.

The booing was so loud and started so soon after she appeared onstage that her own highly truncated edit of her appearance couldn’t excise it entirely:

Why were they booing?

One theory is that the mostly Somali-American audience was reacting to something she said recently at a gun-control event, comparing violence in Minnesota unfavorably to what she saw in a Somali refugee camp as a child. “My first year in Minnesota I both saw a person shot at Peavey Park, dead on the floor, three weeks after my father and I arrived in Minneapolis. Six months later I watched the Minneapolis police put 38 bullets into the body of a mentally disabled Somali immigrant who didn’t speak English,” she told an audience. “I know what that kind of violence looks like but I was fortunate enough to flee that and seek refuge in a refugee camp for four years where I did not witness that kind of violence.”

Maybe the refugees in the crowd at the concert didn’t care for the suggestion that their new home is scarier than a g-ddamned refugee camp.

But I’m skeptical — not that they feel that way but that they were aware at all of what she’d said at the gun-control event, which was held just two days earlier. Normally it takes time for political news to circulate before it penetrates the public consciousness.

This theory, from one of Omar’s Republican challengers in her House race this fall, seems sturdier:

Omar is among the most culturally left-wing politicians in America, and outspokenly so. Maybe Somali-Americans aren’t simpatico with her on gay rights and abortion up to the moment of delivery.

I wouldn’t get my hopes up about her being washed away by the red tsunami this fall, though, as she won her last general election by more than 38 points. Her House district is (deep breath) D+30. The last time a Republican held the seat was during the Kennedy administration.

She’ll be walking out to cascades of boos at local Somali events as a guest of honor for many years to come.

Still, the politics of abortion will be a fascinating influence on this year’s midterms nationally even if they don’t move the needle much in Minneapolis. Ed noted earlier that twentysomething liberals who were supposed to be energized by the end of Roe may end up demoralized instead by the impotence of Democratic leaders in failing to secure abortion rights. Your must-read on that topic is this recent piece by John McCormack explaining that Democrats did have the votes at times in the past to pass a moderate abortion-rights bill — but refused to settle for anything less than the most extreme, activist-pleasing legislation.

Matthew Yglesias claimed today on Twitter that without scrapping the Senate filibuster, Democrats would have had no hope of codifying Roe at that time. But a close look shows that there were in fact 60 senators who supported a nationwide right to abortion back then.

From April 2009 to January 2011, Democrats held either 59 or 60 Senate seats. In 2009, every Senate Democrat, with the exceptions of Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania, supported a right to abortion. Democrats in other conservative states, including Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, had voted in favor of a resolution expressing support for Roe in 1999.* Harry Reid had voted against that resolution but subsequently made his peace with progressives in order to become majority leader. Democratic senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas said of his position on abortion that he was “somewhere … in the middle of that issue.” Even if Pryor, Nelson, and Casey had defected on an abortion vote, there were three Republican senators who supported Roe: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, and Olympia Snowe of Maine. Their votes would have gotten some federal abortion bill the 60 votes it needed to overcome a Senate filibuster. (Another pro-Roe Republican, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, filled the Senate seat formerly held by Democrat Ted Kennedy in January of 2010.)

I don’t know if Collins, Murkowski, or Snowe would have agreed to provide the 60th filibuster-beating vote against their own party if Dems had fallen just short on a bill that would have merely codified Roe, but it’s astounding that Harry Reid never tried to find out. Since the Reagan era, Republicans made it crystal clear that they were engaged in a long-term project to remake the Court with conservative justices who would overrule Roe. Democrats had 40 years to plan accordingly. Oops.

All hope isn’t lost for Dems yet, though. There’s still a very, very, very slight chance that the end of Roe will drive moderate voters who were leaning Republican this fall back into their camp. Emphasis: Very slight. “Does it have an effect? Absolutely,” said one Dem strategist to the Times about the Dobbs decision. “Does it fundamentally change the landscape? No. Not in an off-year election, when your president’s approval rating is below 40 percent and gas is $5 a gallon.”