One is an ungrateful refugee from a war-torn African nation who consistently demeans the country that saved her and her family. Another is a foul-mouthed historical illiterate who called the president a “motherf—er” and vowed to impeach him the very night she was sworn in as a new congresswoman. Yet another is a camera-hungry drama queen who injects gender, race, and nationality into every political debate because she can’t win on the merits of her argument. And one represents a congressional seat once held by John F. Kennedy and, on the night of her primary victory, called the president a “racist, misogynistic, truly empathy-bankrupt man.”
Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Talib (D-Mich.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.)—the so-called squad of freshman Democratic congresswomen now in Donald Trump’s Twitter crosshairs—have little in the way of professional accomplishments or hard-earned credentials. (Tlaib is the only one with a postgraduate degree; Pressley did not even graduate from college. None has started a business or built a career outside of public service.) They range in age from 29 to 44. Despite being on the job for less than seven months, they’ve captured the fawning admiration of the news media and earned a strong following on social media.
Their shared ideology is rooted in racial score-settling: As the squad tells it, white men are villains and captors, and white supremacists lurk in every corner of America. The plight of illegal immigrants is more important than the plight of working-class citizens in the Midwest. And the United States is a menace to the world. Earlier this week, Omar mocked the notion of “America the Great” and confessed she is “ashamed of . . . continuing to live in [America’s] hypocrisy.”
While their political tactics involve in-your-face protest, insults and intimidation, as “persons of color,” the squad is not to be challenged or questioned; anyone who dares to criticize them immediately is branded a racist, a sexist, or both. While they act tough, in reality, it is just that—an act. They are melodramatic attention-seekers who can pivot from raging to crying within seconds. It’s like the Minority Mean Girls Go to Washington.
But it isn’t just the president or Republicans or the Jews who are the targets of this unhinged hit squad: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) now is under fire for chiding the squad’s delusions of grandeur and imaginary legislative prowess.
Pelosi enraged the four lawmakers simply by pointing out that retweets and likes on social media don’t entitle anyone to an extra vote on the House floor. “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi said in a New York Times interview after the congresswomen refused to support a bill to fund humanitarian services at the border. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”
The vote set-off a cat fight between Ocasio-Cortez and the nearly 80-year-old speaker; Ocasio-Cortez suggested Pelosi’s public criticism of the defiant newcomers was based on race.
In an interview on “CBS This Morning” that aired Wednesday, Tlaib blamed Pelosi for stoking violence. “Acknowledge the fact that we are women of color, so when you do single us out, be aware of that and what you’re doing, especially because some of us are getting death threats,” the Detroit-area representative told Gayle King. Tlaib then demanded that Pelosi reach out to the women to hear their grievances.
Some pundits on the Left and the Right have extended their sympathies to Pelosi. “I don’t like her, I don’t agree with her politics, but she’s still serving her country. And that deserves respect from younger generations,” commented Meghan McCain on “The View.” Even President Trump defended Pelosi by insisting the long-time Democratic leader is not a “racist.”
But the speaker is not deserving of pity—this is the Democratic Party that Nancy Pelosi created.
The squad was weaned on Pelosi’s mother’s milk of identity politics, bad faith, and fear-mongering. Now, her political offspring make up the face of a party defined by race and gender with a hearty strain of anti-Americanism, animated by name-calling and threats. Diversity, not merit, rules the day. Capitalism is evil, socialism is just. Global warming, not terrorism, is the existential threat to humanity. We are citizens of the world, not to one nation.
Bullying is a substitute for persuasion. Critics are silenced by smears, not by facts. Imaginary systemic injustices excuse any bad behavior; indignation supersedes hard work. Seniority is a nice word for white patriarchy. Respect flows only one way.
The squad’s political hubris was a generation in the making, during which time Pelosi was a Democratic Party leader. Aside from her relatively tepid criticism of late, Pelosi, like a bad parent, has mostly accommodated the squad’s tantrums and antics since Election Day. As I wrote in January, it was obvious that Ocasio-Cortez would be the shadow speaker as Pelosi sucked up to her unruly freshman caucus early on.
When Ocasio-Cortez led a climate change protest at Pelosi’s office, which resulted in the arrest of dozens of people, the week after she won her New York City congressional seat, the speaker quickly agreed to Ocasio-Cortez’s demand to renew a long-dormant climate change committee. Pelosi refused to condemn Tlaib’s profane tirade against the president: “I wouldn’t use that language, I don’t establish any language standards for my colleagues,” Pelosi said on January 4. “But I don’t think it’s anything worse than what the president has said.”
The speaker continues to defend the squad’s outlandish rhetoric to describe the situation at the border, including comparisons between migrant detention centers and Nazi concentration camps. When Omar unleashed a vile attack against conservative Christians from the House floor in May, ridiculing their pro-life views and claiming that the “Religious Right” really doesn’t care about children, otherwise they would “be concerned about the children that are being detained and those that are dying in camps across our borders,” Pelosi was silent.
But Pelosi’s biggest mistake was watering down a House resolution originally intended to condemn Omar for her anti-Semitic remarks. After pushback from Omar’s allies, the final resolution instead covered any “hateful expressions of intolerance” including negative comments about “African-Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, [and] immigrants.” The capitulation even angered some House Democrats—but an emboldened Omar on Tuesday introduced a resolution to express support for the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.
Trump is shrewdly leveraging the squad for his own purposes, agitating his base and forcing Democrats to rally around a small caucus of kooks that—while largely offensive to the working-class voters the Democratic presidential candidate will need to win over in 2020—has been empowered by their leader.
This is the party Pelosi created. Now she must live with it because she cannot undo it. The re-election of Donald Trump next year, in addition to her losing the speakership, might be the price she will pay.
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