Perhaps the most significant long-term development taking place in the Democratic Party is its surrender to the party’s Blame America First wing. One of many indications of this is House Democratic leadership’s ardent defense of its virulently anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, and fundamentally anti-American and anti-Western colleagues.
The Democrat establishment’s cave began when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chastised Rep. Ilhan Omar for her anti-Semitic comments, only to then cravenly acquiesce to party progressives by passing a House resolution that refused to condemn Omar by name, and refused to solely condemn Omar’s offending anti-Semitic rhetoric. It accelerated with the party’s attack on critics of Omar’s comments seemingly trivializing the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Then, in the wake of Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer’s feckless, supportive responses for Rep. Rashida Tlaib following the firestorm she created with her historically illiterate, Hamas-ian hagiography of Israel’s founding, the Holocaust, and the Arabs’ role in relation to both, the cave to the Blame America Firsters appears to be complete.
The Democrat Old Guard will no longer engage in even muted criticism of its Party’s provocative Young Turks. Rather, it will wholeheartedly defend the provocateurs and vociferously condemn their condemners.
Republicans’ desperate attempts to smear @RepRashida & misrepresent her comments are outrageous. President @realDonaldTrump & House GOP should apologize to Rep. Tlaib & the American people for their gross misrepresentations.
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) May 13, 2019
The pertinent question few are asking is, “Why?” Assuming the Democratic leadership is driven above all else by power, I suggest three primary reasons for this shameful shift.
The Progressives Are Taking Over
At the start of this Congress, leading House Democrats were content to dismiss radical freshmen such as Tlaib and Omar as a small, powerless minority, while still happily gracing magazine covers with them. Tlaib rightly recognized that she and her colleagues were being used as political props, playing to the party’s identity politics predilections.
They put us in photos when they want to show our party is diverse. However, when we ask to be at the table, or speak up about issues that impact who we are, what we fight for & why we ran in the first place, we are ignored. To truly honor our diversity is to never silence us. https://t.co/7T1OlwS1YG
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) April 13, 2019
Party elders understood they had to appear reasonable to their facially more moderate bicoastal elites and middle American voters, while at least tacitly embracing their progressive urban constituency with 2020 on the horizon. But Democratic presidential candidates’ jockeying to stake out farther left positions on myriad issues indicated that the radically progressive portion of the Democratic electorate was energized and ascendant.
Pelosi and other Democratic leaders seem to have surmised that to keep together a party splitting both generationally and ideologically, they had to either court the radicals or risk early retirement. Of course, the Democratic establishment should have seen this coming. President Barack Obama presaged the likes of Tlaib and Omar, particularly on matters such as Israel, global jihadism, and American policy towards the Islamic world.
That the new House progressives are so outspoken in their extreme positions suggests Obama shifted the Overton Window. The Democrat establishment is taking commensurate action.
Faux Martyrs Can Be Used as Cudgels Against Republicans
The more narrow reason the Democratic Old Guard is leaning into Tlaib and Omar is that they can be used as faux martyrs to score political points: The more provocative their comments, the bigger the backlash from Republicans and thus the larger the cudgel the left can wield against Republicans for “pouncing” and “seizing” on hapless minority women.
Since the provocateurs are Democrats sitting atop the identity politics hierarchy, any attacker must be evil. While Democrats have screamed “racist” and “bigot” so frequently and in such inapt circumstances as to have depreciated such charges, their backing of Tlaib and Omar enables them to continue virtue-signaling and framing their political opponents as deplorable.
Also, by judging critics based on the identity of those being criticized, rather than on the merits of the criticism, the left seeks to render debate in America impossible. Democrats have argued that scrutiny of Muslim congresswomen represents “Islamophobic” “incitement.” This fits the European anti-free speech paradigm whereby “hate speech”—as defined by enlightened progressive leaders—somehow equates to violence, and is criminalized.
Again, the point of raising bigotry and incitement is to shut up dissenters by threatening punitive action. This cynical attempt to chill free speech is of course completely inconsistent with the American Founders’ view that political speech was the “primary object of First Amendment protection.”
But as the Brett Kavanaugh hearings illustrated, Democrats care chiefly about winning. They believe they can use Tlaib and Omar as faux martyrs to muzzle political competitors as a means to that end.
Tlaib and Omar are the Future of the Democratic Party
Last but not least, the Democratic establishment likely sees future political power as residing with those ideologically aligned with Tlaib and Omar. For several generations, America’s schools have churned out students inculcated in the same regressive progressive milieu as the young House provocateurs. Among the most dominant political features of U.S. campuses is the “anti-Zionism” and anti-Semitism that the likes of Tlaib and Omar espouse.
Still, the positions these congresswomen have taken would have been considered beyond the pale for establishment Democrats even a few years ago. I believe they made a political calculation to endorse those who hold such retrograde views distinct from their broader effort to appease the party’s young and swelling radical progressive wing.
The calculation is this: Muslim Americans will be a political growth industry for the Democratic Party that will offset any losses attributable to Jewish voters and supporters of assumed Jewish causes.
Consider that a record number of Muslim Americans ran for state or national office in the 2018 election cycle, the most in nearly two decades. Nearly 70 percent of Muslims in America are Democrats. The U.S. Muslim population is expected to double by 2050. Presumably, the number of Muslim candidates and voters will only grow.
Conversely, the Jewish population, which also votes reliably Democrat, is expected to decline from 1.8 percent to 1.4 percent by 2050. The only Jewish cohort that is growing, Orthodox Jews, tends to vote majority Republican.
Ideologically, one might expect Tlaib and Omar’s views would repulse Jewish voters, threatening Democrats’ hold on a prominent longtime constituency. Polling on any number of issues indicates otherwise. Among less religious Jews, which is the majority of Jews, progressivism predominates.
Even if a mass “Jexodus” were to miraculously materialize, Jews are likely going to represent a declining share of the voting public. Meanwhile, Muslims are likely going to represent a growing share of the voting public. They may well support those with views akin to Tlaib and Omar, themselves representatives of heavily Muslim districts.
Notably, the only Democrats who have consistently condemned their colleagues are Jewish representatives in relatively moderate districts with sizable Jewish populations. Among them, Rep. Eliot Engel, on whose House Foreign Affairs Committee Omar sits, refuses, to the public’s knowledge, to lobby leaders to remove her, likely knowing it is a losing cause.
One would be hard pressed to find any Democrat who would condemn Tlaib and Omar and face a political backlash among their constituents for doing so. The silence of the gutless Democratic establishment makes it complicit. As with Western civilization, Israel and the Jews are serving as the canary in the coal mine for the Democratic Party.