Can anything distract the media more than Hurricane Donald? At least for the last couple of weeks, the answer has been yes — and in the form of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). While Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has gotten more media attention than any other frosh Democrat in the House majority, Omar has done the most damage to it and to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and that’s just in the first two months, Politico notes.
Omar has one fan in the US Senate, although not for the reasons she’d want:
Omar’s blunt anti-Israel statements, which even many Democrats call anti-Semitic, have not only fractured her party but have created a rival political narrative to Trump’s mounting setbacks. Where a few weeks ago, cable television networks cut to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s live commentary about Trump and Russia, this week they carried her uncomfortable words about seething fellow Democrats.
“It’s a gift,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), asked about the chaos in the House Democratic Caucus.
It’s also something of a new development in the Trump era —and a very welcome one for the White House.
Democrats have spent two years gleefully united in their bitter opposition to Trump, voting down Republican legislation and putting their GOP colleagues on the spot over every over-the-top presidential tweet. But victory in the 2018 midterm elections, which delivered Democrats control of the House chamber, is already spotlighting cleavages within the party — including on the subject of Israel — that have gotten scant attention over the past two years.
Be sure to scroll down to the “Republicans pounced” paragraph, but to Politico’s credit, it’s a small feature on Omar’s impact. Yes, it gave Trump a chance to change the subject, on which he actually capitalized by calling for Omar’s resignation. “I think she should either resign from Congress,” Trump told reporters on Friday at a Cabinet meeting, “or she should certainly resign from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.” However, Trump made sure not to distract from the meltdown happening inside Pelosi’s too-big tent at the moment too, and that is mostly the focus of the Politico article as well.
The Washington Post has taken notice of the disarray under Pelosi’s leadership as well. This too has a little room for Republican glee over her mess, but Pelosi is the clear focus of the Post’s interest. And it’s not just Omar that’s the problem, as they point out:
The progressive wing is not the only group causing headaches for Pelosi. Democrats have been clashing over Republican maneuvering after moderates — many of them freshmen who defeated GOP incumbents — voted against their own party on politically divisive Republican amendments. The internal frustration kicked into high gear last month after the GOP notched a surprise win on a high-profile gun-control bill, with Pelosi demanding that lawmakers toe the party line.
The issue remains a point of tension. Pelosi’s deputies — Clyburn and Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) — had encouraged some in the caucus to vote their district even if it meant siding with Republicans occasionally, while Pelosi protested. The three huddled last week to try to get on the same page.
Still, the biggest headaches are coming from the progressives, Omar and Ocasio-Cortez in particular:
The bitter intraparty dispute, which centered on remarks by freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) that many in both parties viewed as anti-Semitic, resulted in the passage last week of a resolution broadly condemning hatred that received unanimous support from Democrats — yet served to underscore Pelosi’s deep challenges in bridging schisms of race, religion, age and gender within her vastly diverse caucus.
The episode also suggested that a power struggle between a group of vocal newcomers on the left, including Omar and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and veteran lawmakers is likely to be a persistent problem for Pelosi (D-Calif.) as she seeks to keep the party focused on opposing Trump and his agenda ahead of the 2020 elections.
“Suggested”? It was clearly a power struggle — and Omar clearly won it. That’s remarkable for a first-term backbencher, especially when the behavior that provoked it was so obviously reprehensible. As Republican Lee Zeldin pointed out in a fiery floor speech opposing the watered-down “All Hate Matters” resolution offered to protect Omar, this was Omar’s third incident of espousing anti-Semitic remarks in just two months. A real leader would have banished Omar to the cheap seats, just as Kevin McCarthy did with Rep. Steve King over his “white supremacy” remarks.
That might be Omar’s greatest gift to the GOP — the destruction of Pelosi’s speakership. As both Politico and WaPo suggest, it will shift the Democrats’ focus in 2020 away from Trump and onto a civil war within the party over just how radical they plan to get. Those suburban districts that Democrats managed to win last year may well become winnable again for Republicans even with Trump at the top of the ticket … as long as Trump keeps the GOP’s focus on radical Democrats.