Virtually every savvy and successful politician knows how to identify and elevate foils in order to set useful narratives and erect favorable contrasts. President Trump is certainly no exception, embracing a particularly flamboyant and blunt form of this political positioning. With that in mind, it's no surprise that multiple sharp political observers detect an eagerness on Trump's part to make Ilhan Omar a household name. His critics are already crying racism, sexism, Islamophobia, etc., but it's Omar's own words that have guaranteed her lightning rod status. As we mentioned earlier, amid furious demands that he back off and call off the supposed "incitement" against Omar, Trump doubled down. Allahpundit sees a strategy at play:
Omar as the “leader” of the Democratic Party. The interesting thing about that is the terrible dilemma it creates for Pelosi and the eventual Democratic nominee as to how fiercely to defend Omar from Trump’s attacks. On Friday night, after he posted his Twitter video about Omar’s 9/11 comments, progressives on the platform demanded that the 2020 candidates and other party leaders speak up on Omar’s behalf against what they thought was deliberate incitement by the president — but not generically, they insisted. They wanted those professing to stand with her against Trump to defend her *by name* to show that they won’t be intimidated politically into keeping their distance from her...That’s what Trump wants, to force Dems to hug Omar ever more tightly.
Republicans overcame some angry blowback from certain ("never cave!") elements of their base by condemning and neutering Steve King following his apparent defense of white nationalism. Democrats have been incapable of doing the same with Omar, paralyzed their own identity politics hierarchy; hence the 'incitement' garbage, which is designed to make their political headache go away via the squelching of criticism. We also quoted David Frum in a previous post, and here's another passage from his strong essay that spells out Democrats' Omar dilemma:
Many of President Donald Trump’s tweets backfire, but not his tweet attack on U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar. That one tweet succeeded to perfection. Trump wishes to make Omar the face of the Democratic Party heading into the 2020 elections—and now he has provoked Democrats to comply...Against Omar’s propensity to provoke, the Democratic Party seems institutionally almost defenseless. Pelosi was thwarted when she attempted to pass a resolution condemning anti-Semitic expressions by House members. Instead, the House substituted more muddled language in which Jews appeared in a laundry list condemning all expressions of intolerance against “African-Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, immigrants and others.”
After Trump’s tweeted attack, Omar will become even more internally uncriticizable and unmanageable, without becoming any more careful or responsible. Indeed, the speech by Omar that provided Trump with the sound bite he exploited—“some people did something”—itself exemplifies her carelessness and irresponsibility. It cannot be pleasant for Omar’s colleagues to have to wonder and worry what that next remark will be—knowing that Donald Trump and his Twitter feed will be waiting to blame all Democrats for the provocations of one. But by not putting themselves on record about Omar when they could, Democrats now find themselves bound to her for the duration. This problem will get worse, and its political consequences will become ever more costly for Democrats who want to win national elections and govern the country.
It is not racist to criticize Ilhan Omar for a flippant remark that minimized the significance of 9/11. It is not incitement to even to be harshly critical. And it’s wrong to wield her race and religion as a shield against legitimate critique: https://t.co/zpJGaEi0pW— David French (@DavidAFrench) April 15, 2019
Trump’s tweet was met with an avalanche of hysteria and hypocrisy...Incitement is a word with a meaning. In the constitutional context, it means speech that is “directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action” and is “likely to incite or produce such action.” By no reasonable measure were Trump’s words incitement, nor were any of the other high-profile criticisms of Omar...And if that’s incitement by some new definition of the term, then the Left is guilty as well...The fact that Omar and Ocasio-Cortez are progressive women of color has elevated their profile immensely. But then when the moment changes, the meaning of their identity changes. When Republicans attack, there is indignation. How dare you attack a woman of color. How dare you obsess over a mere House freshman. Your attacks are proof of your racism. The powerful are attacking the powerless...The Democrats and media cannot have it both ways. They cannot work diligently to elevate Omar’s voice and then rule out of bounds attacks against the person they’ve elevated — especially when her own words are often hateful and cruel...Powerful people are responsible for their words and ideas, and when Omar goes too far, it is not racist — nor is it incitement — to call her to account.
Nancy Pelosi undoubtedly sees the trap her party is falling into, which is why she sporadically tries to downplay the significance of a handful of discussion- and policy-driving freshmen within her caucus. This 60 Minutes sound-byte has rightly been circulated as the Speaker throwing some serious shade:
But as Phil Klein points out, Pelosi doesn't have the credibility to selectively downplay the importance or influence of the AOC/Omar brigade because she, and so many of her party's media allies, have actively built them up:
Pelosi will go on 60 Minutes and downplay AOC, but she'll pose on the cover of Rolling Stone with her. Does she make it a habit of posing on mag covers with random members who have no influence & represent barely anybody? https://t.co/r4KzbPBAqQ— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) April 15, 2019
Since 'trying to have it both ways' is a recurring theme in this post, I'll leave you with Omar's disparate characterizations of America's founding. The one of the left is Omar flexing her woke muscles for her base; the one on the right is her indignant pro-America pushback against Trump's supposed beyond-the-pale criticisms of her words:
This country was founded on whichever principles are convenient for me at the time. pic.twitter.com/HUS9iIM6Jh— neontaster (@neontaster) April 15, 2019