AOC comes to Rep. Omar's defense

Earlier today Ed wrote about President Trump’s contribution to the battle over Rep. Ilhan Omar’s latest anti-Semitic comments. But with Trump weighing in last night, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who many have argued is the left’s equivalent of Trump on Twitter, decided to offer a defense of Omar this morning.

Here are four reasons why this is a terrible tweet. First, it starts by piggybacking on Peter Daou, the most earnest political hack on the planet. Daou is making a loose comparison between Omar and Trump which doesn’t really make sense. It might be news to Peter Daou but it is possible for someone on the left to be a problem even if you think someone on the right is also a problem. You can dislike Trump’s border separation policy (for which he was widely condemned) and still think Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitism is worthy of reprimand too.

Second, AOC pivots from Daou’s tweet and asks why similar attacks on other communities are not reprimanded the same way. You don’t need to be an expert in world history to know that the Holocaust was an attempt at genocide which happened only a couple of generations ago. Not to mention that there are still people in the world who want to wipe the Jews off the map. That’s why it’s a sensitive topic. It’s not a mystery why this language shouldn’t be given a pass.

Third, AOC raises a specific point of comparison. She’s referring to an incident in January when Rep. Jason Smith yelled, “Go back to Puerto Rico” during the government shutdown. Democrats, including Steny Hoyer, claimed that was directed at Rep. Tony Cárdenas (who is not Puerto Rican) but Smith said it was aimed at Democrats who had just been on a trip to Puerto Rico during the shutdown. From Politico:

A Smith aide said the Missouri Republican intended the comment as a shot at House Democrats over their 30-member jaunt to Puerto Rico last weekend — an event that got heavy coverage in the conservative media — rather than an attack on a specific lawmaker…

Several Republican sources insisted the comment was directed toward Democrats who attended a reception in San Juan last weekend while the government shutdown dragged on. Conservative news outlets, Trump and some Republicans have frequently referenced that trip in recent days.

GOP lawmakers — as well as Trump — have repeatedly attacked Democrats this week for heading to the territory amid the ongoing government shutdown. That trip was organized by the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ fundraising arm, Bold PAC, which is led by Cárdenas.

Here’s the sort of thing that was circulating at the time:

Rep. Smith wasn’t making a racial attack against Puerto Ricans as a group of people (or a specific Puerto Rican person). He was referring to a highly-publicized Democratic junket during the shutdown. In any case, Rep. Smith apologized for his remarks. He didn’t double down on them as Rep. Omar has done several times now. There’s more to AOC’s defense of Rep. Omar.

She’s misusing “beg the question” but let’s move on to point four. People are reprimanded for comparable language and tropes about other racial groups. We just spent a month talking about blackface that happened decades ago. There are still people asking the Gov. of Virginia to resign over it. Rep. Steve King was just reprimanded and stripped of his committee assignments for statements deemed racist. It does happen. It is happening. Finally, here’s a plea for something short of reprimand for Rep. Omar:

Good grief, she’s pointing to herself as an example. She’s a 29-year-old issuing reading assignment to “white or male allies.” What would happen if one of those allies pulled her aside and gave her a reading assignment? I suspect any attempt to reverse the flow of information would be filtered through a matrix and quickly deemed problematic. If a man pulled her aside that would be mansplaining and if it was a white man it might also be white supremacy. A white woman would be accused of a confused identification with the patriarchy created by the benefits of white supremacy. But the bottom line is clear enough. AOC talks. White and male allies listen and get on with their reading assignments.

I suspect that’s what really makes it so difficult for AOC to accept that Rep. Omar deserves criticism for spewing ugly anti-Semitic tropes. How can a woman of color be justifiably reprimanded by a bunch of white males? That’s just not how AOC’s brave new world is supposed to work.