AOC Fails Ilhan Omar


Mira Bohannan Kumar

Photo credit: Creative Commons.

Rhys Holman, Opinion Editor

In the months since the 2018 midterm elections, the political discourse surrounding the Democratic party has dramatically changed. This change has been marked by the increase in diversity of the newly elected representatives, as well as many new Democratic representatives being more far progressive and left-wing. The most famous and popular of these new representatives is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Elected from New York’s 14th district, Ocasio-Cortez defeated the longtime incumbent Joe Crowley on a campaign of supporting ideas like Medicare for all, criminal justice reform, and economic equality, which resonated with young, further-left voters and resulted in her victory.

Since then, she’s been heavily covered by the media and has been at the forefront of many political issues such as her proposition of a Green New Deal and increasing the national minimum wage. However, in some cases Representative Ocasio-Cortez has taken actions that have failed to uphold the liberal values that have thus far been critical to her support. One such case is her mishandling of the recent controversy concerning Representative Ilhan Omar from Minnesota’s fifth district.

In early February, Omar made a tweet that said that Republican criticism of her was due to her criticisms of Israel and criticized groups that give money to politicians with the intent of them supporting Israel. This drew a large amount of criticism from right-wing political commentators who interpreted the comment as antisemitic and hateful. This same sentiment was then echoed by many Democrats who denounced her actions and then called for a vote against all hate in response to her actions.

However, this characterization of her comments fails to acknowledge what Omar is truly criticizing and why she said it. Her criticism is not of the overall Jewish population; it is specifically about Israel and a particular lobbying group that donates money to candidates for their support of Israel despite its murder and colonization of the Palestinian people.

Ocasio-Cortez’s response to this was lukewarm at best. In contrast to presidential candidates that are comparably as left as Ocasio-Cortez, such as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who came out in support of Omar, Ocasio-Cortez continually tweeted out meaningless platitudes about learning from the experience, all of which implied that what Omar said was in fact antisemitic.

The representatives who are meant to represent the left wing of the Democratic party must represent the values they purport to hold and must neither accept right-wing misrepresentations nor cave on their progressive beliefs. This is not to say Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t done a lot of good for her party. She has made great progress in promoting progressive ideas and causing media to cover those ideas more, but that does not mean that she and other progressive Democrats cannot be held to a higher standard. Only by holding progressives accountable for their actions will we ensure that politicians properly represent their constituents and stay strong in their political beliefs as they continue to represent the left wing of the party.