Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Donate

Will a Democrat try to make history against Ilhan Omar in 2020?

Rep.-elect Ilhan Omar
MinnPost photo by Bill Kelley
Ilhan Omar speaking to attendees of the DFL Election Night party in St. Paul in 2018.
The following article is reprinted from Smart Politics, the nonpartisan political news site founded and authored by Eric Ostermeier, Ph.D., at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

DFLer Ilhan Omar got out of the gates quickly to begin her congressional career – notching the third largest percentage of the vote among the 140+ newly elected Minnesota U.S. representatives since statehood and the largest support ever recorded among those candidates facing another major party nominee on the ballot.

Multiple controversial public comments over the last few weeks have not prompted any official condemnation of the freshman lawmaker from House leadership or her removal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, despite objections from some Democratic (and many Republican) lawmakers on the Hill.

While the Gopher State’s Fifth Congressional District is not in play for Republicans, the rocky start to Omar’s first term could generate increased interest in the seat from fellow Democrats in 2020 – a seat that was largely considered a no-fly zone for would-be (establishment) candidates after her resounding 2018 victory and massive public profile.

[National controversy was likewise no stranger to Omar’s predecessor, Keith Ellison, who never faced any top-tier DFL challenger during any of his five reelection bids].

To secure her seat last year, Omar outlasted five opponents in the August 2018 DFL primary with a plurality of the vote (48.2 percent), including former state House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, state Senator Patricia Torres Ray, and state Senator Bobby Joe Champion (who suspended his campaign prior to the election).

With Democratic leadership largely standing by her side, it is unlikely the path to unseating Omar in a primary will be easy.

Should such an attempt be made and were it successful, it would be a first in the annals of Minnesota Democratic politics.

Of the 128 true freshmen Minnesota U.S. Representatives to seek a second term since statehood, only four have failed to win their party’s nomination – and just two during the last century. All were Republicans.

Republican Morton Wilkinson, a former U.S. Senator (1859-1865), was elected to the state’s 1st CD in 1868 with 61.7 percent of the vote.

Two years later, the party nominated State Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Dunnell, who carried the district by 13.6 points. [Wilkinson would later challenge Dunnell in 1872 to win back his old seat as the Democratic nominee with backing by Liberal Republicans, but lost by 30.6 points].

In 1916’s 5th CD race, Minneapolis attorney and state Representative Ernest Lundeen was one of four candidates in double digits in November’s general election, but prevailed with 42.4 percent of the vote.

Lundeen drew four GOP challengers in 1918 and placed second with 26.7 percent – 4.1 points behind Hennepin County assistant prosecuting attorney Walter Newton. [Newton held the seat for the party by 15.2 points in the autumn].

The third freshman lawmaker to lose his party’s nomination comes with an asterisk of sorts.

Republican Ray Chase was one of nine U.S. Representatives (and just three Republicans) elected to at-large seats in 1932. Chase received the seventh most votes statewide (4.1 percent).

After districts were finally drawn for the 1934 cycle, five Republicans challenged Chase for the 5th CD nod. Chase won only 26.2 percent and was defeated by 16.3 points by fellow Republican Congressman and former three-term Governor Theodore Christianson.  [Christianson had the fifth most votes in the 1932 election].

The last freshman to come up short was Republican John Alexander, who narrowly won the 3rd CD race in 1938 – unseating Farmer-Laborite Henry Teigan by 2.5 points.

In 1940, Alexander drew two primary challengers and his 36.0 percent was 14.0-points shy of victor state Representative Richard Gale. [Gale won the seat in November by 9.1 points over former Congressman Teigan with Alexander running as an independent Republican and garnering only 3.1 percent].

Only one Minnesota U.S. representative has lost a primary since the DFL merger in 1944. After reapportionment (Minnesota lost a seat) and redistricting, 12-term Republican H. Carl Andersen lost the 6th CD primary to farmer and state Representative Robert Odegard by 27.4 points.

Other U.S. representatives to lose their party’s nomination from the Gopher State include Republicans Ignatius Donnelly in 1868, Clarence Buckman in 1906, J. Adam Bede in 1908, James Tawney in 1910, George Smith in 1916, Charles Davis in 1924, Oscar Keller in 1926, Allen Furlow in 1928, Godfrey Goodwin in 1932, and Oscar Youngdahl in 1942.

Overall, 15 U.S. House members from Minnesota lost their party’s nomination including 12 since the first congressional primaries in 1908.

No Democratic or DFL lawmaker has ever failed to win their party’s nomination of the more than 40 to serve the state over the last 160+ years:

  • Two died in office: Carl Van Dyke (1919) and William Gallagher (1946, after winning the primary)
  • One resigned mid-term: Bob Bergland (1977, to become U.S. Secretary of Agriculture)
  • Sixteen retired or ran for another office: William Phelps (1859), Eugene Wilson (1870), John Lind (1904), Winfield Hammond (1914), Einar Hoidale (1934), Eugene McCarthy (1958), Fred Marshall (1962), John Blatnik (1974), Joseph Karth (1976), Don Fraser (1978), Rick Nolan (1980 and 2018), Tim Penny (1994), Bruce Vento (2000, who died before finishing his term), Martin Sabo (2006), Tim Walz (2018), and Keith Ellison (2018)
  • Eighteen lost the general election: James Cavanaugh (1859), Henry Poehler (1880), Thomas Wilson (1888), John MacDonald (1888), Edmund Rice (1888), James Castle (1892), William Harries (1892), Osee Hall (1894), Melvin Baldwin (1894), Elmer Ryan (1940), Frank Starkey (1946), Coya Knutson (1958), Roy Wier (1960), Alec Olson (1966), Gerry Sikorski (1992), David Minge (2000), Bill Luther (2002), and Jim Oberstar (2010)
  • Five are currently in office: Collin Peterson, Betty McCollum, Angie Craig, Dean Phillips, and Ilhan Omar

Democrats and DFLers have currently won 169 consecutive renomination bids.

Eric J. Ostermeier, Ph.D., J.D., is a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (81)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/12/2019 - 09:32 am.

    I think much to chagrin of “centrists/moderate” Democrats Omar will be an even stronger Candidate in 2020 than she was in 2018. They’ve just thrown pretty much everything they have at her, and the attacks seems to be collapsing. In fact, not only is the attack collapsing but she may well come out on the other side even stronger.

    • Submitted by lisa miller on 03/12/2019 - 10:19 am.

      I think it is too early to tell, she is only 2 months in and may turn things around. At the same time, I find it troubling that David Duke agreed with some of her comments. At the end of the day many of us will be looking to see what she accomplishes and not so much what she says or her celebrity status.

      • Submitted by Séamus McGuire on 03/12/2019 - 10:25 am.

        All she’s done is to be critical of the influence of lobbying groups. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that regardless of who said groups are lobbying for.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/12/2019 - 10:42 am.

          False. She fought back against her latest gaffe, but she apologized and acknowleged that several of her past comments were anti-semitic.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/12/2019 - 11:40 am.

            Pat, please stop misrepresenting Omar’s statements. She never “admitted” that anything she said was anti-Semitic, she simply and rather eloquently apologized for offending. Yes, she defends herself, but there was no “gaffe”,

            Everyone can watch for themselves and decide: https://www.democracynow.org/2019/3/8/ilhan_omar_in_her_own_words?fbclid=IwAR0h-eZk4xsiMYAjUciXQ5nhljEBU_ooCMK1attHiXkfHTXvY1YahvTeMz8

            • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/12/2019 - 12:34 pm.

              She didn’t say those words, but the reason her original statements were offensive was because they were anti-semitic.

              • Submitted by richard owens on 03/12/2019 - 02:05 pm.

                To criticize Zionist policies is not anti-Semite, but rather it is a loud voice protesting the treatment of Palestinians and Arabs in the occupied territories, in Gaza and in Jerusalem.

                Netanyahu deserves no special protection, as it is he who pretends Israel is a democracy while actively building a state that rejects them and all their historic orchards, farm plots and homes.

                We remember Reverend Desmond Tutu, having been invited to speak at St. Thomas about Truth and Reconciliation Hearings and the South African steps to apply Christian principles of confession and reconciliation avoiding what so many thought would be a bloodbath when Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first Black President.

                We remember Jimmy Carter, who recently offered to go to North Korea, has been a voting observer for the UN and builds houses with the poor and for the poor.

                Rev Tutu and Jimmy Carter each called Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians APARTHEID. Carter was trashed, Tutu was forced away from speaking.

                Neither of these men of peace have been forgiven for telling it like it is.

                Netanyahu is a brutal, crooked right winger whose time is nearly ending as a “leader” of an armed camp that runs prisons that used to be Arab lands. The left exists in Israel, and there cannot be justice until there is some attempt to unify the peoples of this land.

                War criminals exist as leaders in Israel. It is not their religion that is being criticized. It is their collective punishments and bigotry toward the ancient Bedouin tribes that makes them outlaws- not their religious views.

                Am I anti-Semite for this post?

                • Submitted by Carol Berman on 03/12/2019 - 09:46 pm.

                  Your post is not antisemitic. So you see, it is possible to criticize Israeli policies without resorting to antisemitism. If you can’t, which Omar does not seem to be able to do, you are no better than Trump and his white nationalist party. But the fact that you can’t tell the difference between Omar’s extremely antisemitic statements and your more neutral arguments against Israeli policies tells me that you are not aware of what constitutes antisemitism.

                  The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an infamous early-20th-century Russian forgery, describes a plot by Jewish moneyed interests to subvert and destroy Christian societies through their finances. This in turn draws on longstanding European anti-Semitic traditions that portray Jews as greedy and conniving. It formed the basis for Nazi antisemitic propaganda that resulted in the murder of 6 million Jews among other antisemitic actions that left countless Jews dead or forced to leave their homelands. It forms the basis of much of Trump’s white nationalist antisemitism. David Duke made a YouTube update. And Omar’s statements were so closely drawn from it that Duke did a virtual high-five when he saw her statements.

                  So while you and many others may not be aware exactly how offensive her remarks are to the 60% of the Jews that vote Democratic and that may also be critical of the right wing government in Israel, people who are familiar with antisemitic dog whistles are acutely aware.

                  So to me, while I do not support what Trump and his right wing supporters are saying, she is giving him the rope to hang her with and causing tremendous damage to the Democratic Party at the worst possible time.

                  To me, Omar is nothing more than an AOC wannabee doing anything she can to capture a bit of the spotlight and causing irreparable damage in the process.

                  • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 03/13/2019 - 08:01 am.

                    All you’ve done is post a bunch of nasty tropes (and now David Duke) and pretend that Ms Omar delved into them. Ms Omar criticized AIPAC.

                    You can twist that to any extent. However all your’e doing is attempting to deflect from AIPAC and its role in the fostering of apartheid on Palestinians with the active connivance of many local politicians and institutions.

                  • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/13/2019 - 08:36 am.

                    Ms. Berman,

                    I can see your trying to deal with the question and I appreciate that, but you’re not explaining why Omar is ant-Semitic and Mr. Owen’s isn’t. I suspect if Omar made the same criticism of Israel that Owen’s does, she’d be labeled ant-Semitic for doing so.

              • Submitted by Robert Lilly on 03/13/2019 - 10:32 am.

                Pat, please point out the antisemitic statements from Omar. I’ll I’ve heard is people projecting antisemitism into what she said.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/12/2019 - 11:49 am.

        “At the same time, I find it troubling that David Duke agreed with some of her comments.”

        So did a group of Orthodox rabbis: https://forward.com/fast-forward/420505/neturei-karta-ilhan-omar-anti-israel-zionist-orthodox-washington-dc/

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 03/12/2019 - 10:26 am.

      The only ones that view her as coming out stronger are the band of hard core progressives within the party. She’s essentially become a Leftist mini-Trump. Whatever her message is, no one hears it because of the way it’s presented. While her supporters stand around patting themselves on the back, they’re already starting to erode the advantage the Dems had in the mid-terms. Continuing down this road will only alienate the moderates and independents needed to win the White House.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/12/2019 - 10:56 am.

      This really isn’t about centrists and liberals. As we dicussed yesterday, the 5th is always going to elect someone from the left of the party. The Democrats want to see Omar succeed. They value the diversity in the caucus.

      The problem is that just keeps saying offensive things. That she keeps telling bald-faced lies. That they have to spend time cleaning up after her. That she takes the focus away from the terrible things Trump does.

      Omar made some criticisms of Obama the other day, which is stupid but not offensive. But then she denied making them and went full-Trump and attacked the media. But the audio – which she attached – showed she was quoted accurately. Instead of acknowleging this and/or apologizing, she just deleted her tweet. Zero integrity.

      Stronger? Right now her effectiveness is at zero. Anything she gets involved in is about her. She’s political poison. I dont’t think there has been enough to successfully primary her yet, but if the lies and offensive statements keep coming, there will be.

      Omar can still turn it around and become a functioning member of congress. But right now, she’s just a gift to Trump and Republicans.

      • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/12/2019 - 11:57 am.

        Moderates can’t keep attacking Omar’s non-controversial statements and keep calling her names, and then claim they want to see her succeed. Talk about duplicity? Omar’s fiercest critics are moderate Democrats.

        OK, it’s a free country, you can criticize Omar if you want, but your outrage at common sense observations and the pretense that she’s sabotaging herself simply because she doesn’t let YOU set her priorities, is more than tad patriarchal. Any LOYAL Democrat would have sought to understand the context of her statements and focused on her own words rather than follow the stampede. The radical centrists of the Democratic Party have been swimming in a frenzy of attacks every since their candidate lost to Donald Trump.

        • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/12/2019 - 12:25 pm.

          You really need to get past your liberal/moderate lens of looking at everything. Omar is a liar. There is nothing progressive about that. She attacks the media falsely like Trump. Nothing progressive there. Non-controverial? Not to most people.

          Again, Omar is nothing but a gift to Trump. She can either clean it up and become an effective legislator. Or she can keep enabling Republicans.

          • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 03/13/2019 - 08:07 am.

            Yes Pat, there is something progressive about bringing about Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Its called apartheid. That may not mean much to party hack politicians looking for their next free trip and donation. But it means a lot to many Americans who believe in American values.

            Progressives did not loose an election to Trump. The so called moderates did that impossible feat. Along with loosing a majority of state legislatures and congressional districts during the last decade. Still preaching.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/12/2019 - 04:06 pm.

      Sorry Paul, no chagrin here, I think she is more center than left, calling the cards as they fall, and not afraid to do it. As my neighbor would say “You Go Girl” Being a practicing Muslim women does not automatically make you far left.

  2. Submitted by Paul Yochim on 03/12/2019 - 09:59 am.

    Ilhan Omar will be there as long as she wishes. Not because of what she does (or doesn’t do) but because of who she is.

    Only in America can one accomplish what she has, coming from a war torn country refugee camp in Africa, getting an education and being elected to one on the most powerful political offices in the country. Instead she views the US with utter contempt.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/12/2019 - 11:50 am.

      “Instead she views the US with utter contempt.”

      And why do we think that?

      • Submitted by Paul Yochim on 03/12/2019 - 02:34 pm.

        Because she was elected to the House of Representatives to do the work of the people she represents, not to run her mouth. She is supposed to be a member of congress and not a rabble rousing activist like Al Sharpton and the like.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/12/2019 - 03:51 pm.

          First, she has been in Congress all of three months. If she were working at Burger King, she would still be on probation.

          Second, “run her mouth?” She is not supposed to speak out on issues facing the country? Why can’t she speak on foreign affairs, seeing as how she is a member of that committee.

          Third, she is a member of Congress. It’s a pity that you have the attitude that she should just sit in the back and not get in anyone’s way, but maybe she perceives her execution of her functions differently.

          Fourth, it’s very telling that you would call her a “a rabble rousing activist like Al Sharpton and the like.” here is a real air of condescension towards Rep. Omar, and your comment exemplifies that in a big way. Tying her in with Al Sharpton . . .well, I’m sure you’ll deny anything racial about that, so we’ll just let it go.

          Rep. Omar said things that were offensive. To talk about her like she is an unruly child, rather than a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, is likewise offensive.

    • Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 03/12/2019 - 12:13 pm.

      She was the new flavor of the month for that district, but many of the big money people in that district would take issue with her Israel statements. As someone who lived in that district I would not automatically write her in for perpetuity. The second election is always the hardest.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 03/12/2019 - 04:10 pm.

        “the new flavor of the month for that district” Could you put some explanation behind that? Seems the last “flavor of the month for that district” was elected to State AG! Your point being she is in line to be the
        next Governor?

    • Submitted by Nicky Noel on 03/12/2019 - 12:21 pm.

      “I love America more than any other country in this world, and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.”

      – James Baldwin

  3. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/12/2019 - 10:12 am.

    I think it’s unlikely that there will be any serious challenge to Rep. Omar in 2020, at least as things stand now. She isn’t particularly popular in the suburbs, but there aren’t enough suburban voters in the fifth to threaten her hold on the seat.

  4. Submitted by Robert Gauthier on 03/12/2019 - 10:17 am.

    I think she needs to look at history as a guide. Under Sabo, there was substantial policy, leadership and bill authoring and sponsorship, although to be fair he had 28 years and was head of Appropriations. Ellison had 8 years and actually was very involved in financial issues, carrying many bills in the consuer protection area. He spoke out about anti -Muslim bigotry, ut that was not all he did.

    Omar does not represent Somalia or Palestine, she represents the 5th I Minnesota. Quit playing international celebrity, put your head down and shut off your twitter account. Some of the criticisms are really on the point, do her job, gain some real legislative accomplishments. Then she has a platform to legitimately comment from, right now she looks like a twit, shooting her mouth off before she thinks.

  5. Submitted by Tim Smith on 03/12/2019 - 10:48 am.

    She is extreme, over matched, naieve and inexperienced and it shows on a daily basis. One wonders how a district can be so extreme as to elect her.

  6. Submitted by Gene Nelson on 03/12/2019 - 11:45 am.

    It disturbs me that when Omar, a Muslim, states truth…as she did in her comments about the power of the Israeli lobby…she’s attacked.
    Yet…we constantly are hearing racist comments from the right, including anti-semitism.
    Disturbing the vast hypocrisy in this country, especially in this repub party that once was a Grand Old Party.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/12/2019 - 12:32 pm.

      It disturbs me when people misrepresent why Omar’s statements were offensive.

      The hypocrisy is pointing out the anti-semitism on the right, but being completely unable to acknowledge how prevalent it is on the left as well.

      • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 03/13/2019 - 08:16 am.

        Actually the hypocrisy comes from our politicians in the Democratic party and their supporters who rail on and on about Trump, but support the very policies in Israel.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/13/2019 - 03:37 pm.

        There was an interesting post regarding Rep. Omar on the Imaginative Conservative blog. The author of the post says that “[t]hose who make too much of Rep. Omar’s statement, and who are happy to gain some short-term win by conflating legitimate concern over Israeli influence with anti-Semitism, run the risk of permanently connecting the two terms. This will likely, over time, have the perverse effect of actually increasing the incidence of genuine anti-Semitism. This contrived linkage will also further exacerbate tensions within our country and promote a chilling effect on legitimate discourse and criticism.”

        https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/03/ilhan-omar-anti-israel-antisemitic-joseph-mussomeli.html

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/12/2019 - 11:58 am.

    I guess I think it’s far more likely that Omar will be the one making history.

  8. Submitted by David Markle on 03/12/2019 - 12:00 pm.

    Unfortunately she has one of the same big problems as Trump: making gratuitous statements without thinking.

  9. Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 03/12/2019 - 12:06 pm.

    I believe that Ms. Omar and Michelle Bachmann are left-right bookends with each given to more extremist positions in their parties and each cultivating their own cults of personality with little substance and much fluff.

  10. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 03/12/2019 - 12:23 pm.

    Omar has small window of opportunity to correct her compass and stop misspeaking. That is, if she really isn’t anti-Semitic. It’s pretty clear she’s anti-Israel.

    There is no comparison between the inexperience of Rep. Omar–she has nothing to recommend her but her identity as an immigrant Muslim woman and a rather blank brief stint in the MN House–and the legislative powerhouses that have represented MN’s Fifth Congressional District in the past. Not simply the mind-blowing work of Martin Sabo, but Don Fraser before him. Ellison wasn’t up to that standard, but he worked at the job.

    Somebody in the DFL–an adult–has to get to Omar and mentor her with strength before she shoots herself in the foot definitively. Nancy Pelosi saved Omar this time around in the House. (I hope nobody missed that gesture?) She keeps saying anti-Semitic stuff and she doesn’t even know she’s doing it.

    That’s because she is an immigrant, new to English and unaware of America’s history with Jews and Israel, so she misses the tropes she’s repeating and thereby insulting and alarming millions of us. She’s speaking from an anti-Israel point of view–totally legitimate–but she needs to eliminate from her rhetoric a lot of pro-Palestinian anti-Jewish stuff.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/12/2019 - 12:57 pm.

      The problem is you have her apologists who are convinced she’s done nothing wrong. Who think Pelosi is the enemy instead of the one who saved her.

      • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 03/13/2019 - 08:13 am.

        Pelosi didn’t save her. The outpouring of progressive support reminded Pelosi and the rest of the AIPAC sponsored congress that the times are a changing.

  11. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/12/2019 - 12:32 pm.

    A Congress person’s single most important job is to be unembarrassing, something Rep. Omar doesn’t seem to be very good at. She makes mistakes both procedurally and substantively that a politician at her level should know enough to avoid, and she refuses, seemingly as a matter of principle, to learn from them. And what’s worse, when called on them, she gets snippy.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/12/2019 - 03:53 pm.

      Do you not see how condescending your remarks are? You talk about her like she’s a mouthy teenager who needs to be sent to her room to think about what she’s done.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/13/2019 - 05:59 am.

        I do. If Rep. Omar doesn’t want to be treated like a mouthy teenager, she shouldn’t behave like one.

      • Submitted by Matt Haas on 03/13/2019 - 06:40 am.

        Yeah it’s strange, almost like an entire generation pushing back against the future (no offense RB). No, Mr. Foster, a congressperson’s only job is to FIX everything the Congress of the last 60 years, and the public that supported them, has screwed up. Anyone whose sole concern is optics, needn’t enter the debate, their time is past.

        • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/13/2019 - 08:59 am.

          Flirting with anti semitism isn’t the sort of behavior that fixes things. Embarrassing her constituents and her party doesn’t help much either. She should know better.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/13/2019 - 09:14 am.

          No offense taken.

          I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be if Ilhan Omar were Dylan Anderson, a nice young white man who was a vocal proponent of his own beliefs. Would he be a “mouthy teenager,” or would he be a rising force who is taking Washington by storm?

          • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/13/2019 - 10:20 am.

            I can’t help but wonder what the reaction would be if Ilhan Omar were Dylan Anderson, a nice young white man who was a vocal proponent of his own beliefs.

            I tend to be far more critical of politicians who are accountable to their constituents in ways other people are not.

  12. Submitted by Eric Snyder on 03/12/2019 - 12:35 pm.

    The recent controversy surrounding Omar has not only strengthened my support for her, but it has helpfully revealed truths to a wider public about the normalized pro-Israel extremism in mainstream politics. Rather than raise questions about the viability of Omar’s political career, this controversy has for me raised questions about the political legitimacy of her critics.

    Thus, there’s something rather perverse about Ostermeier’s article.

    Here’s the indisputable facts: Israel (far from being alone in the world in this regard) regularly engages in grotesque violations of Palestinian human rights and violates international law with impunity. No serious person can disagree with this.

    Also beyond rational disagreement is that there’s a highly peculiar wall of silence and suppression of dissent about these facts about the Israeli government. Those who believe in democratic norms also believe that there must room for debate and discussion, and especially around controversial and sensitive topics, because this is often where injustices and hypocrisies are hiding.

    So, Omar, in the process of honoring her ethical adherence to justice, makes some, at worst, indelicate comments. The ensuing uproar was not only about someone daring to crack the glass of permissible discussion, but one has to suspect that it went beyond this and revealed other unsavory aspects of mainstream attitudes about Omar’s religion, gender, origins and race. Let’s be honest—we already know this is a problem in the GOP. It might also be the case among many Democrats.

    Far, far worse than Omar’s mere words—because we’re dealing with grave assaults on actual human lives, well-being, human rights, justice and fairness—is the current norm of protecting Israel from criticism and international sanction. These words, uncritical, injustice-rationalizing words, and words that never get spoken because silence is a way we protect the criminal—these words are apparently acceptable. Hence, the stench of hypocrisy in the congress.

    And hence, Ostermeier’s curious article.

    Curious because it wants you to join with it in presupposing that Omar is damaged goods, that there’s even a basis for talking about replacing her so early in her term. There’s the veneer of academic disinterest in the form of an almost belabored discussion of truncated political careers. But that disinterest obviously has a perspective.

    It’s not a legitimate one, in my view.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 03/12/2019 - 12:55 pm.

      That’s quite a strawman you have put together.

      The Michelle Bachmann comparison someone made is spot on.

    • Submitted by Mike Schumann on 03/12/2019 - 01:57 pm.

      Excellent analysis. People are freaking out about Omar because she is one of the few politicians who aren’t afraid to publicly question the knee-jerk support for Israel. A lot of people are really afraid that if she gets away with this, other politicians will grow a backbone and come out of the shadows.

      I don’t particularly care for her politics, but I am really sick and tired of politicians who aren’t willing to say what they think. In that regard, Omar and Trump are a welcome exception. I suspect that Omar’s support will grow, not necessarily because her constituents support her positions, but more importantly because they appreciate her honesty.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 03/12/2019 - 06:56 pm.

        Don Trump does not say what’s on his mind.

        He says what he thinks his base wants to hear. And he is very good at it.

      • Submitted by Thom Roethke on 03/13/2019 - 01:52 pm.

        Well, there’s criticizing current Israeli policy, and then there’s throwing out dog whistles the way she’s been doing.

  13. Submitted by Bill Schletzer on 03/12/2019 - 12:45 pm.

    You can be inside making policy or outside making speeches. I’d say so far she is making this about herself and not her constituents.

    • Submitted by Jim Bernstein on 03/12/2019 - 01:37 pm.

      I really doubt that Ms. Omar imagines her new constituency to be anything different than her old House district. One of the many things that impressed me about Keith Ellison is that when he decided to run for the 5th District seat that Marty Sabo was leaving, he did not forget his old House district but immediately expanded his vision to include the much larger, much more diverse larger constituency he was seeking to represent.

  14. Submitted by Andrew Kearney on 03/12/2019 - 04:52 pm.

    As a DFL’er who doesn’t support current Israeli policy re the Palestinians can we please get rid of the inexperienced and unqualified IO. We need Margaret! She would be doing such a great job for us. It’s nothing personal it’s IO’s lack of experience that is showing-we can and should do better.

    • Submitted by Matt Haas on 03/13/2019 - 01:03 pm.

      Why yes, what is needed is a two time loser who not only couldn’t garner support in the most liberal district in the state, but also was roundly defeated for a gubernatorial primary which SHE was the party endorsed candidate. I’ve said it before, I just don’t get it, is it JUST because she’s white? Is it her milquetoast political acumen? What could possibly be your rationale?

  15. Submitted by Howard Miller on 03/12/2019 - 05:15 pm.

    Rep. Omar won with 77% of the vote total here in the Mn 5th.

    I supported her, as did my friends and neighbors.

    She’s received some heat for remarks she offered recently about international relations, performance of past presidents, expectations for members of Congress

    Everything she has brought up she brought facts to the discussion, not bigotries. I am delighted with her work, especially so early in a first term. Perhaps others disagree in the Mn 5th.

    It would shock me if she failed to be re-elected with a huge margin yet again come 2020. I plan on supporting and voting for her, unless (… the Pelosi impeachement exception inserted here)

  16. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 03/12/2019 - 09:49 pm.

    Answer to the headline: No. Not in the 5th District.

  17. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/13/2019 - 09:31 am.

    At this point I just have to bring the circular reasoning of Omar’s critics into focus.

    We have several articles about Omar’s alleged anti-Semitism accompanied long and thoughtful comment threads and there are two common elements that are clear to any obserer:

    One is the hate on Omar. For anyone who’s been paying attention this actually predated her alleged anti-Semitism.

    The other is the circular nature of the allegations themselves. Over and over again we see comments threads wherein the allegation of anti-Semitism is made and repeated, and over and over again we see comments almost pleading for some kind of explanation as to what it is EXACTLY about Omar’s actual words that makes them anti-Semitic. Maybe I’ve missed it, there are hundreds of comments here… but I don’t recall any Omar critics actually trying to answer THAT question in any serious way beyond referencing “tropes”. The problem with the tropes is that there really just a way of saying: “Because I say so.” Tropism pretends that a question doesn’t have to be answered, it doesn’t actually answer the question.

    So over and over again people ask: Why is questioning the power of the Israeli lobby anti-Semitic? Why is merely recognizing the power of the Israeli lobby ant-Semitic? We’re told that it’s not anti-Semitic to criticize Israel… but when anyone criticizes Israel it’s just a matter of time before someone accuses them of anti-Semitism. Even Jews that criticize Israel eventually come under attack for being “self hating” Jews. Consider Noam Chomsky for instance.

    Here’s the thing: Americans of conscience who want peace and justice for Israeli’s and Palestinians, have a moral AND constitutional right to question, challenge, and oppose policies they think are illegal and inhumane, even if those policies are Israeli policies. Criticisms of Israeli policy cannot be limited to only those criticisms that supporters of Israel find “acceptable”. And if you’re going to tell us that some criticism is also anti-Semitic you need to explain why, not merely call it a “trope”.

    Here’s another thing: My concern is that tropism can and will actually undermine the credibility of those who rely on tropes. In this case, I worry that charges of anti-Semitism lose their impact and credibility.

    The way language and culture works is that if a thing cannot be distinguished from anything else, that thing ceases to exist. So if everything is a “trope” than nothing is a trope. If charges of anti-Semitism lose their credibility… they cease to be credible.

    Since anti-Semitism is a REAL and present danger, I don’t want charges of anti-Semitism to lose their credibility. We have to be able to distinguish between a politicians discussing the AIPAC and Nazis bombing Synagogues. So with that in mind, I’ll include two links: one to a discussion with Ben Greenwald about his tweet exchange with Omar in which she referenced the Benjamin’s, and the to a video showing Omar’s discussion of “allegiance” to other countries. And I’ll ask Omar’s critics… again: What exactly is it about these exchanges that makes them anti-Semitic?

    Ben Greenwalk on Omar and AIPAC:
    https://www.democracynow.org/2019/2/11/glenn_greenwald_defends_rep_ilhan_omar

    Omar in her own words: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qos-_bA9VKo

  18. Submitted by Ted Hathaway on 03/13/2019 - 08:32 pm.

    Not about Omar: It’s worth noting that Ernest Lundeen most likely lost his reelection bid in ’19 because he was one of only 50 congress members to oppose entry into WWI. He had long since dropped that opposition by the ’18 campaign, of course, but it surely came back to bite him in the rear. Lundeen found his way back into Congress in the 30s. Ironically, he eventually became know as a major Nazi sympathizer. So much so that his death in ’40 in a plane crash probably saved him from investigations and other public humiliations over his pro-German viewpoints.

  19. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/14/2019 - 10:30 am.

    Why is questioning the power of the Israeli lobby anti-Semitic?

    Because it singles out Jews for being Jews. Whenever questions are raised about a specific group that has been the target of prejudice in the past, it raises issues of racism. If it doesn’t cross a line, it comes needlessly near it.

    The role of money in politics is a legitimate issue. The role of Jewish money in politics is antisemitism.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/14/2019 - 11:00 am.

      It does nothing of the kind.

      First, the strongest supporters of Israel in the United States are conservative evangelicals. They have made unquestioning support for Israel, or, more accurately, for the Likkud government, a foreign policy litmus test.

      Second, you have fallen into the trap of equating the “Israeli lobby” with Jews. Criticizing a group that seeks to exert influence over the United States government crosses no line unless it resorts to anti-Semitic caricatures and dog whistles.

      I know Jewish people who feel no particular connection with Israel. I know others who are supporters, but who rue the direction the Netanyahu government is taking. Saying that “questioning the power of the Israeli lobby” is singling out “Jews for being Jews” is treating Jewish people as belonging to some monolithic bloc.

      Incidentally, are you similarly excised over the tenor of attacks on George Soros?

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/14/2019 - 11:56 am.

        you have fallen into the trap of equating the “Israeli lobby” with Jews.

        If you are going to rework my arguments, please don’t make them weaker. The issue here wasn’t the “israeli lobby” which for various reasons extends beyond Jews and includes in fact some very seriously ant-Semitic individuals, it’s with AIPAC which is primarily a Jewish lobby.

        I don’t criticize people who try to influence policy. It’s a right guaranteed by the Constitution. I have been known to do it myself. And I am loathe to criticize people who have a right to do what they are doing, for doing it effectively and well. Money is a problem in our politics, but the problem is with the rules that allow it to have inordinate influence, not the people who follow the rules, however effectively they might do it. If Rep. Omar wants to take up issues of campaign reform, no one would be happier than I am, but that doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing she has the personal discipline do. It doesn’t fit into the personal life narrative she has for herself that seems to obsess her.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/14/2019 - 12:25 pm.

          Sorry, but you mentioned the “Israeli lobby.” If you meant “only AIPAC,” you should have said “only AIPAC.”

          “I don’t criticize people who try to influence policy. It’s a right guaranteed by the Constitution. ”

          A person who tries to influence policy is subject to criticism. That, too, is a right guaranteed by the Constitution (within limits), and it is an inherent risk of participating in public discourse. We can call out hypocrisy, or note someone’s self-interest in their advocacy. It’s just how we work things.

          “If Rep. Omar wants to take up issues of campaign reform, no one would be happier than I am, but that doesn’t seem to be the kind of thing she has the personal discipline do.”

          It’s awfully easy to demean a young Muslim woman of Somali descent, isn’t it? Sort of a trifecta plus one.

          • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/14/2019 - 03:18 pm.

            A person who tries to influence policy is subject to criticism

            Of course, but that’s generally a good thing, not a bad thing. I know I do it a lot of the time. I am often criticized, but I don’t take it personally. And I value constructive criticism and opposing views that are well argued.

            It’s awfully easy to demean a young Muslim woman of Somali descent, isn’t it?

            I suppose it is. It’s also easy to criticize people who are not up to their job.

            • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/14/2019 - 03:30 pm.

              It’s awfully easy to demean a young Muslim woman of Somali descent, isn’t it

              I will ‘fess up to my prejudices here. Because Rep. Omar is Muslim and of Somali descent, I tend to go a bit easy on her. I voted for her in 2018 and if she runs in 2018, I will vote for her again. This was despite a lot of misgivings. Believe me on this, if someone who wasn’t Muslim and of Somali origin had pulled some of the stuff she has, I would have been a lot more severe.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/14/2019 - 11:42 am.

      “The role of money in politics is a legitimate issue. The role of Jewish money in politics is antisemitism.”

      This is an unsustainable argument.

      BDS isn’t about attacking Jews for being Jews, it’s about combating what many people of conscience believe are inhumane and illegal Israeli policies effecting Palestinians. Since AIPAC is the strongest lobby against BDS it simply cannot be inappropriate to question or challenge AIPAC’s power. Nor can challenging AIPAC’s power constitute de facto anti-Semitism because arguing with AIPAC is not equivalent to attacking the Jewish religion or Jewish people.

      Few if any American critics of Israel are claiming that human rights violations are a unique feature of the Jewish religion. On the contrary, the arguments against the occupations etc. is that they violate the very principles of the human decency that Israel (and Jews) are committed to.

  20. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/15/2019 - 08:21 am.

    Few if any American critics of Israel are claiming that human rights violations are a unique feature of the Jewish religion.

    Few if any Americans who just criticize human rights violations are regarded as anti Semitic. It becomes more of a problem when one group which has been historically the target of prejudice is singled out for criticism. Rep. Omar hasn’t gone to the trouble of addressing specific issues in the middle east, instead she is complaining about Jewish money, a clearly anti Semitic trope.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/15/2019 - 11:47 am.

      Hiram, when we talk about Israel, we’re talking about Israel. That’s not “singling” Israel out, it’s just talking about Israel. No other country has anti-BDS legislation passed in the US Congress and 33 State legislatures. You can’t dictate the limits of other peoples conscience, if people are concerned about Israeli violations they are allowed to express those concerns specifically. If people have problems with legislation their elected officials are passing, they have a right to discuss, debate, and criticize that legislation, even if it pertains to Israel. You can label those discussion as anti-Semitic if you want, but I worry that you damage your own credibility and diminish the concept anti-Semitism by doing so.

      We can talk about human rights violations elsewhere, and elsewhere those conversations, debates, and criticism are legion. The suggestion that no other country or group is criticized for human rights violations is simply ridiculous. The requirement that we can’t discuss alleged Israeli violations without talking about EVERY OTHER violation in the world is a de facto prohibition against discussion alleged Israeli violations.

  21. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/15/2019 - 08:36 am.

    I’ll just make one final point about Hiram’s claim regarding Jewish money in politics, i.e. talking about Jewish money is anti-Semitic.

    The claim isn’t credible not only because it functions as a silencer of Israeli critics, but also because it’s based on a false assumption that everyone recognizes a difference between “Jewish” dollars and everyone else’s dollars. Most American’s don’t actually recognize THAT difference, a dollar is a dollar no matter who’s dollar it is.

    When Omar says is all about the Benjamin’s she’s literally saying it’s about the money in politics, She’s not saying: “It’s about the Jews”. In fact it’s apparent even from the comments across the various articles here that pro-Israeli “money” isn’t necessarily Jewish money, since evangelical Christians are considered by many to be as strong if not a stronger pro-Israeli lobby.

    Look, I understand the stereotype, and understand the sensitivity to the stereotype’s, but as a famous Jew once said: “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.

  22. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/15/2019 - 12:17 pm.

    The claim isn’t credible not only because it functions as a silencer of Israeli critics, but also because it’s based on a false assumption that everyone recognizes a difference between “Jewish” dollars and everyone else’s dollars.

    I am not interested in silencing anti semitism (it is a free country), rather calling it out for what it is. And if Jewish money isn’t distinguished from other money, why make an issue of it?

    There is a line here and it is a fundamental political mistake to get any where close to it. I think money plays way to large a role in our politics and that has nothing at all to do with support or lack of support for Israel.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 03/16/2019 - 09:18 am.

      “I am not interested in silencing anti semitism (it is a free country), rather calling it out for what it is. And if Jewish money isn’t distinguished from other money, why make an issue of it?”

      Dude, the only one making an issue of it is Omar’s critics like yourself. Omar didn’t say: “It’s the Jewish Benjamin’s Baby”, you’re actually the one saying that. You’re the one bringing the concept of Jewish money into the conversation, not Omar.

      You’re just doubling down on circularity.

      • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 03/17/2019 - 06:03 am.

        Lots of people are concerned with what is seen as a rise in prejudice generally. Rep. Omar is of concern to me because she is my representative and because she should know better. Because of this and other matters, my patience is pretty much exhausted with her.

  23. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 03/15/2019 - 02:06 pm.

    As each of the newly elected representatives get their day in the cable news sun, I am impressed with their grasp of the issues and preparation for the job.

    IO is seemingly absent from this process and legislates/communicates by tweet.

    Look at AOC, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, smart, well informed, ready to hit the ground running for their constituents. I watched Pressley last night and wished we had someone as capable.

    We elected IO because it sure would be neat to elect an immigrant, female, Muslim from an oppressed land. Never mind that she has yet to show any aptitude for the job.

    She will be gone in 2020 unless there is some resemblance to competence coming up. Maybe Phyllis Kahn has one more campaign left in her? (And I contributed to Omar taking her down)

Leave a Reply