In the midst of the depressing political situation in the United States, with a President who is borderline fascist, some hopeful developments took place in the Congressional elections in November 2018. We are only gradually learning about some of the truly progressive people who have been elected. Three of them have come into the public eye in the first two months since being elected to Congress and have made quite a stir. Here is a little portrait, so to speak, of these three:
Rashida Tlaib was elected as the representative of the 13th District in Michigan. She is a Palestinian-American and a Muslim, born in Detroit and aged 42. She holds a BA and a Doctorate in Law (JD). She is the first Palestinian-American to be elected to Congress and also one of the first Muslim women to be elected;
Ilhan Omar was elected for the 5th District in Minnesota, which covers the entire city of Minneapolis. She is Somali-American, born in Mogadishu, Somalia, and is 37 years old. She is one of the first Muslim Americans elected to Congress and she wears the hijab. She has a BA from North Dakota State University and is a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee in Congress;
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected to New York’s 14th District, edging out Joe Crowley, a long time-Democrat of the old school. Her mother is from Puerto Rico and her father from the Bronx but of fatino background. Before being elected to Congress she worked as a bartender and a community organizer. She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and thus supports a fairly radical political and social program. She has a BA from Boston University.
These three women have come into the limelight in the last two months in ways that many of their predecessors never did. In the Michael Cohen hearings in Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proved to be the most effective and competent questioner of Cohen. There was no grand-standing, as happened with many of her fellow Democrats and Republicans. She succeeded in getting information from Cohen which will be potent in getting to the bottom of the Trump rot. Clearly she proved herself to be a class politician and in a few minutes laid out the scam of the Trump organization and how it ripped off the Internal Revenue Service, the State of New York and other entities. She comes across as knowledgeable, articulate and authentic. She is essentially the author of New Green Deal, the most ambitious social and economic program to combat the climate crisis, economic and racial inequality and the phobia around immigrants and Muslims.
Ilhan Omar has come into the limelight because of her support for Palestinian rights and her objection to US unconditional support for Israel, no matter what crimes against Palestinian human rights they commit. Her first foray into this field was when she tweeted “it’s the Benjamins baby” as her explanation of why so many Congresspersons and Senators support Israel despite its crimes. The tweet was decried as an anti-Semitic trope in the usual hypocritical manner, as everyone knows that the only reason for supporting AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) is the reelection money. The Democratic conservative old guard swung into action, condemning Omar and demanding that she apologize for anti-Semitic remarks. Old school Democrats have put together a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and reprimanding Omar. Omar has got the support of progressive groups generally and specifically of younger Jews in groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace and If Not Now. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is Jewish, and Kamala Harris came out in support of Omar on Wednesday March 6. As would be expected, Trump and Republicans are faking outrage and demanding she should resign from the Foreign Affairs Committee and from Congress.
Rashida Tlaib made a name for herself in the new Congress when she took on Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina in the Cohen hearings, accusing him of using an African-American person as a prop to show that Trump is not racist. Tlaib added that this act in itself is racist, raising hackles left, right and center. Meadows, himself known for his racist remarks in regard to President Obama went into a tizzy and demanded that Tlaib be censured and punished.
Only two months into their tenure, these three women have exhibited great courage, tenacity and knowledge about the major issues facing this country and the world. They are acutely aware of the dangers of the climate crisis and of the US mess in the Middle East. The big issue is whether the Democratic Party will be capable of supporting them as its traditional prowar, pro-Israel and pro-imperialism positions are challenged. No doubt the Trump regime, with its fixation on socialism as the greatest evil in the world, will use these brave young women as a cudgel with which to bash the Democrats generally. The position of progressives all over the country must be to ensure that these young women, the hope of the future, are not thrown to the wolves that scour the halls of Congress.
by Michael Drohan, a member of the Editorial Collective