How Do You Solve A Problem Like Ilhan Omar?

How Do You Solve A Problem Like Ilhan Omar?

Ben Weingarten's new book 'American Ingrate: Ilhan Omar and the Progressive-Islamist Takeover of The Democratic Party,' makes a compelling argument that Democrats' sharp leftward turn threatens both American ideals and national security.
Kyle Shideler
By

There is always a temptation in politics, and indeed in all human life, to reduce people to symbolic representations. Storytelling — or, if you prefer the D.C. swamp lingo, “the narrative” — remains the evolutionarily prescribed way to relay complex information to large groups of people and ensure they retain the core message. Narratives need heroes and villains, someone who will embody within himself the key ideas being transmitted.

Understanding this is important to getting to the heart of Ben Weingarten’s American Ingrate: Ilhan Omar and the Progressive-Islamist Takeover of The Democratic Party. While ostensibly it is a book about Ilhan Omar and her sordid history – allegations of immigration fraud, long-standing ties to anti-American regimes and terror-linked groups, her long train of antisemitic remarks – this is not Weingarten’s real focus.

Weingarten has not really written a book about Omar so much as a book about how it is that a person with Omar’s baggage became a battle standard to which all the left now repairs. They do not defend her in spite of her foibles, but because of them.

Red and Green Together

American Ingrate portrays Omar as representing two significant trends for the Democratic Party. First, there has been a sharp leftward pivot to overt and unapologetic socialism. Second, there has also been an inversion of America’s traditional enemies and allies in foreign policy.

This is most clearly demonstrated in the Middle East by the Democrats’ rejection of Israel and embrace of Islamists, whether Shia, in the form of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or Sunni, as embodied by their endorsement of Muslim Brotherhood-led Islamist revolutionaries and regimes throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Many have long presumed that the positions of the left, and especially the woke, intersectional, pro-LGBT, pro-libertine left, are antithetical to the dour and clerical Islamists who declare “the Koran is our constitution.” Weingarten endeavors to explain in American Ingrate just how increasingly narrow the gap has become.

Weingarten points to Omar’s familial upbringing in the Somalia of dictator Siad Barre as playing a key role in preparing her to be the representative of this syncretism of socialism and Islamic theocracy.  Siad Barre, who rose to power in a military coup in 1969, enforced an explicit doctrine of Islamic Marxism. Weingarten quotes The New York Times in 1977 on Barre’s ideology:

President Siad Barre has often insisted that Marx and Mohammed are not only compatible but also complimentary, that the religious asceticism of Islam can combine with the concept of mass discipline inherent in ‘scientific socialism’ to forge a strong national will and lift the country from the ranks of the 25 poorest nations.

Omar has often described the influence of her familial background on her political development. The mainstream media happily reported the beautiful story of a young refugee’s emergence into the heady local politics of Minnesota as she sat at the knee of her grandfather and translated his tribal wisdom for the benefit of the Democratic Farm-Labor Party.

Weingarten notes that this story leaves out that Omar’s grandfather derived his political experience from his senior position within Barre’s dictatorship. Likewise, central to Omar’s personal political story is having been born the child of “educators.” The media repeats this uncritically, choosing not to notice that her father’s role as “teacher trainer” had more in common with the position of political commissar than pedagogue. Weingarten documents how Omar’s political rise took place in a Minneapolis district perhaps uniquely suited for this ideological mixture. He writes:

As DFL vice chair, the self-identified progressive Somali woman in her early thirties cemented her role as a conduit for the party to Somali immigrants and stood well-positioned to appeal to the disproportionately young constituents in her district, given the large college student population it encompasses. Both the Somali and college student constituencies would soon prove central to her future electoral triumphs.

Omar’s narrative appeal to intersectional identity politics, including Omar’s self-identification as a progressive feminist, won her the support of the predominately white, middle-class college students.

Weingarten identifies Omar’s support as a consequence of a “Great Awokening,” a phrase coined by Vox’s Matthew Yglesias, to denote the trend by which white liberals (and particularly young white liberals) hold views on race and identity that are significantly more favorable to racial minorities, and support policies that preference minorities, at rates even greater than do minorities themselves.

Here Weingarten relies on a number of sources worth reading on their own, including Claremont Review of Books’ William Voegeli and the extensive work of Zach Goldberg, a University of Georgia Ph.D. student who has explored the concept in great depth.

Goldberg writes in a Tablet article, from which Weingarten quotes extensively, that this radical affinity by white liberals for the “out-group” rather than their own “in-group” has had a disturbing impact on Liberal views towards both Israel and antisemitism:

the surveys show that among white liberals, Jews are perceived to be privileged—at least in comparison to other historically victimized groups. Having made a full recovery from the Holocaust, Jews are no longer the downtrodden collective that white liberals can readily sympathize with. Other groups lower on the privilege hierarchy and less tainted by association with whiteness now have priority. So long as anti-Semitism has a white face to it, there is no problem here. But if the face is actually that of a member from an ‘oppressed’ or ‘vulnerable’ group, there may be a cognitive dissonance.

Through this window of cognitive dissonance crashes Omar, whose status as intersectional icon suffers no damage despite statements such as, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.”

All Hail ‘The Squad’

Here members of the Democratic Party who self-describe as “liberal,” particularly many Jewish Democrats, may argue that Omar did not have free rein to engage in her multiple acts of social media antisemitism, but instead faced criticism, and even a demand for an apology from no less figure of Democratic prominence than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Weingarten successfully preempts this objection in his apt handling of the battle for influence between Pelosi’s wing of the party and Omar and her cohort, ubiquitously known as “The Squad ”— the freshman Democrats who entered the House with Omar, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley. As Weingarten documents, this confrontation, which began with Pelosi’s demand for an apology, ended with a Squad victory by K.O.

First efforts by the House of Representatives to censure Omar for her overtly antisemitic remarks about Jewish money and influence over American politics collapsed in the face of leftist protest. Weingarten writes:

In early March 2019, establishment Democratic leaders rushed to draft a resolution condemning Rep. Omar’s anti-Semitism. Seemingly sensitive to the line they were walking, the party floated what appeared to be a trial balloon resolution condemning anti-Semitism, including the usage of the dual loyalty canard. However, the resolution refused to call out Rep. Omar by name, already indicating weakness. Yet even this language did not satisfy the Left. Within hours of the release of the draft resolution, at the urging of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), Speaker Pelosi vowed to expand its language to condemn not just anti-Semitism, but anti-Muslim expressions. Later, the language would widen still more—thereby further watering it down—to include condemnation of ‘bigotry against minorities’ as well. Leadership’s inability or unwillingness to maintain the original resolution stemmed from an uproar from party progressives, who commenced their pivot to the victimhood narrative, and played the race card, as they would later do in defense of the entire Squad against Speaker Pelosi…

Fresh off this upset, Omar openly criticized Pelosi for daring to publicly oppose the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. As Weingarten notes, support for BDS is mainstreamed in the Democratic Party.

The Squad achieved total victory as the Democrats rallied to Omar’s defense and condemned the president of the United States, by name, after he criticized “Progressive…Congresswomen who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe…”

Of course, in his frank way President Trump was enunciating the conservative critique that Omar represents and supports failed and foreign ideas that are antithetical to the American ideals held by those who were so kind as to take in Omar and her family in the first place.

Fundamental Transformation

Central to Weingarten’s thesis is that Barack Obama, although he had different and more pragmatic political approach, paved the way for Omar’s rise. (In fact, Chapter 8 is titled: “How Barack Obama Made Ilhan Omar Possible.”) Weingarten views the Obama administration through two signature policy “accomplishments,” namely Obamacare at home, and the Iran Deal abroad, which he views as illustrative of Obama’s time in office. Regarding Obamacare, Weingarten summarizes:

The latter law, it bears noting, led to the hyper-regulation of one-sixth of the U.S. economy. It gave the U.S. government unprecedented control over Americans’ most personal and intimate decisions—ones regarding their own health. It set the country on a path towards the collapse of private medicine and laid the groundwork for current progressive calls for ‘Medicare for All.’ It led the Supreme Court to do incalculable damage to its own legitimacy, the rule of law, and perhaps liberty itself, by deeming a government mandate to purchase a good or service a ‘tax,’ making the unconstitutional constitutional.

In the same way that Obamacare required reorganizing the economy and abandoning basic regime principles about the rule of law, the Iran Deal also required an inversion of what both parties had previously agreed on as long-standing foreign policy norms. These norms included proudly bipartisan support for Israel and a Middle East policy that relied on Arab states and Israel to help stabilize the region. Regarding the depths to which the Obama administration was willing to go to violate these norms, Weingarten writes:

That President Obama harbored real animus towards Jews came through in the course of his lobbying for his central foreign policy ‘achievement,’ the Iran nuclear deal. In order to summon Jewish support for the disastrous pact, the administration’s Iran Deal echo chamber, led by the aforementioned Ben Rhodes, engaged in a campaign of vicious Jew-baiting. In accordance with rhetoric later employed by Rep. Omar, Team Obama tried to browbeat recalcitrant American Jews into backing the deal by raising the classically anti-Semitic dual loyalty canard. Meanwhile, in the years leading up to the Iran Deal, the Obama-controlled National Security Agency spied on Israeli leaders, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, in contradiction of its stated policy not to surveil allied heads of state. Its main reason for doing so was to ensure Prime Minister Netanyahu would not scuttle the deal. Secretary Kerry threatened that Israel would be blamed if Congress opposed the Iran Deal. The Obama administration further demonstrated its malice towards Israel by leaking sensitive information about its military and intelligence activities and capabilities, including breaking the several decades-old practice of not publicly discussing Israel’s nuclear program.

Through the Iran Deal, the Obama administration forced traditionally left-leaning pro-Israel democrats to make a choice. Either directly confront the administration, thereby exposing the increasing weakness of the pro-Israel view in liberal democratic circles and risk the Obama administration leaking about you, or else remain mum.

Weingarten also notes the Obama administration’s broader endorsement of Islamist groups, abroad in the form of supporting Muslim Brotherhood-backed revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa, justified the Obama administration’s mainlining of many domestic Islamists in political relevance.

Covering Collusion

Many of those same Islamists now maintain close ties with Omar. It is in covering these relationships with Islamists that Weingarten’s narrative bogs down slightly.

One of the challenges facing any writer, but especially those on the right, is media bifurcation. With the increasingly partisan derangement of the mainstream media, it is impossible to be entirely sure that your audience understands basic key facts. So, while Weingarten is anxious to get to the meat of his argument, he finds himself susceptible to tangents and historical anecdotes to ensure his bases are covered.

This means that to cover Omar’s relationships with Islamists, he feels partially obligated to cover nearly two decades of recent and history into America’s counterterrorism failures and inability of the U.S. government to adequately comprehend the Islamist ideology that gives rise to jihadist terror.

Weingarten does a solid job summarizing the arguments articulated in works like Stephen Coughlin’s Catastrophic Failure: Blindfolding America in the Face of Jihad, and Andrew McCarthy’s Grand Jihad regarding the Obama administration’s extensive outreach to Islamists. (Weingarten also cites work from my organization, including my own work, and I can confidently say he covers the material with aplomb.)  Weingarten amply establishes the robust links between Omar and a variety of domestic Islamist groups with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorism, including The Council on American Islamic Relations, the Muslim American Society, and Islamic Relief, among many others.

Weingarten also ably documents Omar’s long and disreputable relationship with foreign government figures, most with a shared affinity for Islamism. Weingarten’s examination of Omar’s ties to key corrupt Turkish and Somali government leaders is particularly illuminating, both because of how extensive the ties are, but also how far back they stretch her political career, with Omar meeting key Turkish leaders when only a Minnesota state senator.

These ties are even more dramatic when one considers Omar’s role on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and when compared to the trite and irrelevant meetings between foreign figures and members of the Trump campaign that came to be treated as prima facie evidence of collusion.

“[I]f one were to apply the Special Counsel’s mandate to examine any ‘links and/or coordination’ between the global Islamist network and Rep. Omar,” Weingarten writes, “the case for collusion would be beyond compelling. This poses a significant national security threat to our nation.”

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

An adequate encapsulation of Omar and her meteoric rise would not be possible without at least addressing the controversy about Omar’s history, specifically the allegation that Omar participated in what amounts to an immigration fraud scheme by marrying her own brother, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, and that she later allegedly engaged in campaign finance violations, tax fraud, and other corrupt behavior in furtherance of the sham marriage or the cover up which followed.

Here Weingarten summarizes and expands on the ample investigative reporting done (and still being done) by freelance journalist David Steinberg, Powerline’s Scott Johnson, and Alpha News’s Preya Samsundar. These explosive, yet thoroughly documented, claims have been developing for several years within the conservative media ecosystem. Yet the mainstream media, which saw fit to smear Brett Kavanaugh with utterly specious claims, has said little to nothing regarding the allegations facing Omar, despite much stronger substance.

Weingarten does a laudable job of recounting the case, examining the evidence of the claims, and weighing them appropriately. For those who haven’t bothered to stay abreast of the Omar case, Weingarten’s book will be helpful in catching up. As it appears federal investigators may be closing in on the freshman congresswoman, Weingarten’s coverage of this particular element of Omar’s story could not be more timely.

Is Omar Too Big to Fail?

This investigation may ultimately help determine the accuracy of Weingarten’s hypothesis in American Ingrate that the Democratic Party has become the party of Ilhan Omar. Surviving federal investigation despite clear issues of malfeasance is a perk more typically reserved for Democratic party leaders than freshmen backbenchers, after all.

Given the ongoing Democratic presidential primary, it’s an open question whether Omar will remain a mere backbencher.  If Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is successful in seizing the Democratic nomination for president despite radicals and antisemites (including Omar) supporting his campaign, then Democrats’ trajectory will be clearly defined.

Is the thinnest veneer of woke politics sufficient shield for corruption, foreign cronyism, and vile antisemitism? Does the “Great Awokening” mean that liberals will abandon any pretense of policing their own side if the offender has a suitable background narrative? After reading Weingarten’s work it’s hard to conclude the answer is anything other than a resounding yes.

Whether you view Omar as an intersectional hero or Islamist-socialist villain may be a matter of perspective. But after reading American Ingrate you should be convinced that Omar is increasingly an archetypal representation for where the modern Democratic Party has come to reside.

Kyle Shideler is the director and senior analyst for homeland security and counterterrorism at the Center for Security Policy. Follow Shideler on Twitter at @ShidelerK.

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