Living in 2019 means getting used to the fact that every week brings with it some new, scurrilous attack on Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN). Sometimes these come from Democrats; most of the time they come courtesy of Trump, right-wing media, and the gaggle of ethnonationalists increasingly becoming the face of the Republican Party. Whatever their origin, the attacks build on each other, day after day, week by week, to the point where you’d be forgiven for thinking there was little else happening in the world.
The “why” isn’t hard to understand. For Democrats, terrified of running afoul of AIPAC and the imaginary centrist voter that comes to them in their sleep like the Ghost of Christmas Past, attacking Omar and the rest of the so-called squad is a good opportunity to reassure those forces that the party won’t do or change anything when in power. For the Right, no doubt, the attacks are an expression of simple racism, and an attempt to strike fear into the hearts of an American public they’re gambling is as bigoted as they are.
Yet there’s something else to it as well. As Omar herself said, by trying to paint her as a Bush-era, Islamophobic caricature come to life, Trump is, on one level, trying to use racist fearmongering to distract from his own wilful failure to improve the lives of working Americans, a strategy that’s already failed spectacularly during the 2018 midterms. On another level, he’s trying to undermine the working-class solidarity Americans of all backgrounds ought by rights to feel.
“Throughout our history, racist language has been used to turn American against American in order to benefit the wealthy elite,” she wrote. “If working Americans are too busy fighting with one another, we will never address the very real and deep problems our country faces.” […]