The Democratic Party needs Ilhan Omar

Omar is a Somali-American and a former refugee. The most recent Democratic president’s Middle East and immigration policies are probably of more immediate and personal interest to her than they are to many of her colleagues. Despite professing to be the party more sympathetic to her concerns, the Democratic Party has failed individuals like her in certain specific ways. And she has this in common with other members of the new congressional class. Tlaib, a Palestinian-American Muslim, has endorsed the Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions movement targeting Israeli goods; so has Omar, which puts them both firmly on one side of a widening intraparty divide over the American relationship with Israel.

This generational insurgency isn’t limited to foreign policy. When the 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez assails her party for the pace of its proposed climate change solutions, she speaks as a member of a generation for whom the issue is of pressing urgency. According to one Gallup poll, 75 percent of Americans ages 18 to 34 said they worried either a great deal or a fair amount about climate change; that figure dropped to 56 percent among Americans aged 55 or older. Young Americans just entering public office have grown up with a Democratic Party that admitted the reality of climate change, but largely failed to advance ambitious solutions during its moments in power. The political commitments that hampered the party’s response to climate change undermined its stated commitment to working people, too. The leftward economic bent of Omar’s “squad” is hardly universal within the party’s freshman class, but it’s not an anomaly. Its origins are legible, and trace back to real, substantive issues.