Wednesday, August 12, 2020


Back on August 1, Politico came up with story seeming to predict doom for Ilhan Omar, wingnut-scaring Muslim Congresswoman from Minnesota and one of the so-called "squad" of young firebrand Democratic women: "'We don’t need someone distracted with Twitter': Ilhan Omar fights off tough primary challenge," ran the headline over a picture of Omar looking pissy. Lede:
Rep. Ilhan Omar is one of the best-known Democrats from the class of 2018, a lightning-rod member of the Squad whose outspoken liberal politics have made her an enemy of Donald Trump. 
Back home in Minneapolis, however, her polarizing national profile is complicating her bid to win a second term. 
Polarizing! Complicating! The story intimated grave danger for Omar from who-he challenger Antone Melton-Meaux:
Facing a political newcomer who raised a jaw-dropping $3.2 million last quarter — much of it from pro-Israel donors who oppose Omar’s foreign policy stances — Omar suddenly finds herself on the defensive against claims that she’s too divisive to effectively represent the solidly Democratic district.
You had to go MinnPost to find out that Melton-Meaux's backers, who had built his war chest to six times the size of Omar's by mid-July, tended to be not only "pro-Israel" but also rich -- including, MinnPost reported, big cheeses like "2019 Minneapolis mayoral candidate Tom Hoch, former University of Minnesota presidents Bob Bruininks and Eric Kaler, former U.S. attorney in Minnesota Andrew Luger, Metropolitan Council Chair Charlie Zelle... Fairview Health Services CEO James Hereford, Ecolab CEO Douglas Baker, Kelly Doran, of Doran Companies, Vance Opperman, and Marilyn Carlson Nelson, the co-CEO of Carlson Holdings."

Three-quarters of Omar's money, on the other hand, came from small donors who don't have to report their contributions, MinnPost reported. This feature of the race Politico alluded to only briefly, via an Omar ally who "criticized Melton-Meaux for receiving 'big special interest money.'"

In pursuit of their "divisiveness" angle, however, Politico was more effusive:
Yet many constituents have been alienated by her comments about Israel. Omar has been accused of anti-Semitism after suggesting support for Israel was popular due to campaign donations, that pro-Israel lawmakers had dual allegiance to both the U.S. and Israel and Israel had “hypnotized the world.” 
“Rep. Omar's past comments invoked age-old anti-Semitic tropes and rhetoric that echoed and brought about the nightmares of persecution,” said Rabbi Avi Olitzky, who leads a congregation in the district.
I realize criticism of Israel means anti-Semitism to wingnut chuckleheads, but news organizations ought to have higher standards. The "donations" bit is apparently about her "all about the Benjamins" comment -- as described in yet another Politico story: "Omar tweeted, 'It's all about the Benjamins baby,' followed by a music emoji, which suggested that [AIPAC] money was calling the tune for [House Minority Leader Kevin] McCarthy." Politico apparently wasn't listening to rap music in 1997. (And boy, saying a political action committee uses money to influence votes -- that's what Hitler did.)

The "dual allegiance" thing seems to refer to this tsimmis in which Omar remarked on (apparently) Republicans who "push for allegiance to a foreign country," which admittedly is a weird way to describe the GOP's Israel policy, which is only corrupt in the ordinary Republican way, and for which she apologized.

Politico kept it up through Monday -- "Ilhan Omar’s career on the line in tough primary" -- even giving the impression that the whole Squad was hanging on by their fingernails:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez survived her primary. Rashida Tlaib did, too. Now it’s Ilhan Omar’s turn on Tuesday — and the Minnesota congresswoman faces the stiffest challenge of any member of the Squad.
"Survived," did they? Let's look at the results -- Tlaib won 66%-34% and AOC won with 75% of the vote. Well, that was a near thing!

Politico continued:
Omar (D-Minn.), one of the group’s four liberal women of color who were first elected in 2018, has drawn national attention with her repeated clashes with President Donald Trump — as well as accusations of using anti-Semitic tropes in articulating her position on Israel.
Punchline: Omar kicked ass in her primary. "Omar led by about 17 points when The Associated Press called the primary for the safe Democratic seat," reported Politico.

We hear a lot about "horserace" political journalism, and how reporters try to make every race look like a photo finish to keep readers fascinated. That's certainly true, but in many cases, and I think this is certainly one, it's an artifact of the conservative noise machine that's been yelling "bias" for decades now, causing nervous news orgs to bend over backwards to portray even their stupidest shit as something to be taken seriously.

So since Republicans scream anti-Semite every time they see a Muslim, and have an extra-special hate-on for the attractive young hijab-wearing Somali-American -- remember their eruption over "some people did something," including Bret Stephens' absurd misreading? --  political journos are compelled to portray the district that elected Omar in the first place as they might Fritters, Alabama, and talk about any race involving outspoken liberals, no matter how well-entrenched, as competitive -- something you never see them do in reboubts where Republicans only run against Even More Republicans. Hell, they hardly gave O'Rourke-Cruz 2018 that kind of play, and Cruz won by less than three percent!

Maybe this will change as more QAnon crackpots win Republican primaries -- though given their track record I imagine this will just shift their Overton Window so that Pizzagate Pedonuts represent Principled Conservatism, currently mainstream Republicans (including the most rabid Trumpkins) are moderates, mainstream Democrats are communists, and people like the barely-"surviving," "polarizing" Squad are just de trop. 

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