Ilhan’s friends

Ilhan Omar

On April 30, outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., a group of protesters consisting largely of black women held a rally based on a false premise: that Ilhan Omar, the hijab-wearing Muslim Democrat who was elected to Congress last November from a district that includes Minneapolis and some of its suburbs, is the victim of racism and sexism on the part of President Trump, most of right-wing America, and even a few members of her own party. In fact, as we discussed on Tuesday, Omar is a virulent anti-Semite who, ever since her election, has been digging herself a deeper and deeper hole by saying in public what she thinks about Jews. Other prominent Muslims who have also been inculcated with hatred of the Jews do a better job of hiding their bigotry; in a perverse way, perhaps Omar deserves a degree of credit for being incapable of dissembling on the subject. In any event, she is no victim; a refugee from Somalia, she found refuge in America, a country that she routinely disses almost as viciously as she disses Jews, and managed to become one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, a status that has made her an instant star on the left. Of course the topsy-turvy notion of the Jew-baiting Omar as a victim is typical of our time, when a violent group like Antifa can be described in the mainstream media as peaceful and anti-fascist and when every act of jihadist terror brings another round of media hand-wringing over the possibility of anti-Muslim backlash by evil “Islamophobes.”

But back to the rally. One banner described it as “Black Women in Defense of Ilhan Omar.” Another banner read “Black Women in Defense of Progressive Women in Congress.” Those progressive women, of course, include not only Omar but her fellow Muslim, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Only on the American left in the second decade of the twenty-first century can devout Muslims, one of whom wears a symbol of female subservience, be hailed as “progressive.” The other high-profile progressive Congresswoman, of course, is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the former New York bartender who hates capitalism, hates ICE, is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, sent the Senate a “green new deal” that was so wacky that absolutely nobody voted for it, and posted a video on social media in which she reported on her baffled encounter, in her new Washington, D.C., home, with a gizmo in her kitchen sink that made a scary sound when you flipped a switch. (She had never seen or heard of a garbage disposal before.) Also, although not a Muslim, she hates Israel almost as much as Omar and Tlaib do.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Anyway, the rally. One speaker described it as a gathering of “professors and labor leaders and artists and organizers.” Plus a whole lot of members of Black Lives Matter. The goal, explained one woman, was to “defend the right of black women to speak about and act upon what happens to black women in this country.” In particular, the idea was to stand up to Trump and the GOP, who had “put a hit out on Ilhan Omar,” who was described as a victim of “white supremacist violence” and of “racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, sexist, vitriol” on the part of white nationalists. But the protesters were also there to fight “Islamophobia” and to express solidarity with “trans people,” “black and brown people in the sex trades,” prisoners, migrants, and “our sisters and brothers in Palestine.” Attendees were told that the current crisis in Venezuela is the result of American foreign policy. They were also fed the revisionist version of Angela Davis’s criminal history, in which this felon is magically transformed into a victim. These were people for whom reciting chants like “let my people go” and “we aren’t going anywhere” and “hands off Ilhan” and listing the same dozen or so identity groups over and over again seemed to be a substitute for actual thought. America itself, of course, was depicted as an Evil Empire, a dystopia in which every problem ailing black women is the fault of racism and misogyny on the part of white people who are still, if only symbolically, “lynching” and “whipping” them. You would never have guessed that there exists any such thing as jihadist terror or black-on-black violence. All in all, a staggering display of ignorance, rage, willful refusal to face up to uncomfortable facts, and a claustrophobic, counterproductive fixation on group-identity labels.

Oh no, there’s another one

Somebody figured out how much one of Ocasio-Cortez’s outfits cost

We had just about gotten used to the phenomenon of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the proudly socialist Democratic candidate for the U.S. Congress from New York’s 14th District, which covers the east Bronx and some of the cooler parts of northern Queens. What Ocasio-Cortez lacked in actual understanding of the issues and of the basic facts of economics (even though she majored in the subject at Boston University) she made up for with talk-show-ready attractiveness, charisma, stylishness, and charm. When it turned out that her stories of being raised in grinding poverty in the Bronx were nothing but spin – in fact, she grew up in Yorktown Heights, a leafy suburb in Westchester County – nobody cared.

Julia Salazar

Now along comes Julia Salazar, who on September 13 won the Democratic nod for the New York State Senate race in the 18th district, which covers most of northern Brookyn, including parts of the super-hip neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint. Like Ocasio-Cortez, she’s a Latina who belongs to the Democratic Socialists of America, calls for the disbanding of ICE, and supports the anti-Israeli BDS movement.

Cynthia Nixon

Her primary victory came on a day that was otherwise disappointing for the far left in the Empire State: Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon lost the gubernatorial primary and Zephyr Teachout was a washout in the race for attorney general. In The New Yorker, which doesn’t usually devote a lot of space to state-legislature primaries, Masha Gessen spent a couple of thousand words recording for posterity the thrilling night of Salazar’s win: at her victory party in an East Williamsburg bar, the atmosphere was “incredulously triumphant,” with a young, largely white crowd “celebrating, hooting and clapping, each group to its own beat. They sang a union song, “Solidarity Forever,” one verse of which, sung to the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” goes like this:

Is there aught we hold in common with the greedy parasite
Who would lash us into serfdom and would crush us with his might?
Is there anything left to us but to organize and fight?
For the union makes us strong

Gessen acknowledged that in the weeks before the election, Salazar had “come under scrutiny: she self-identified as a working-class immigrant from Colombia and as a Jew, although she was born in Miami and was known as an evangelical-Christian anti-abortion activist during her time as an undergrad at Columbia University….There was also a bizarre incident involving Keith Hernandez’s ex-wife, an arrest for attempted identity theft (the charges were dropped), and a subsequent lawsuit that added fuel to the tabloid interest in Salazar.”

Masha Gessen

A more critical journalist might have paused to ponder the significance of Salazar’s wholesale misrepresentation of herself. Is she a compulsive liar? Is she a sociopath? Does she have any real core beliefs at all? But Gessen put her own special spin on Salazar’s systematic distortions of the truth: the young candidate’s campaign, wrote Gessen, “discovered something that the American President has known for a long time: communicating with people directly, whether by Twitter or by going door to door, takes precedence over anything that’s reported in the media.”

The real face of socialism

A curious take indeed: unlike Donald Trump, Salazar has not been the target of media bias, the subject of “fake news.” On the contrary, as Gessen’s own article exemplifies, mainstream journalists in the Big Apple are so enamored of her radical politics and her sexy-young-Latina-firecracker image that they’ve mainly been very eager to minimize, find excuses for, or tiptoe around her blatant falsehoods. The truth about Salazar’s primary win is that it represents a triumph of personality and trendy ideology over fundamental honesty and sound political thinking. Above all – and Gessen, who was born in the Soviet Union, should have recognized this and called it out – Salazar’s victory is one more lamentable proof that many young Americans are perilously ignorant of the tragic reality behind the word socialism. 

Just what New York needed – another socialist!

She’s accused Israel of committing massacres of Palestinians. She’s called for the abolition of ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement), charging that it’s on its way to becoming a “paramilitary” organization. She’s a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a former organizer of Bernie Sanders’ presidential run.

The candidate and her supporters at the moment of victory

Her name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, she’s 28 years old, and on June 26, in America’s biggest electoral upset since the 2016 presidential election itself, she won the Democratic primary in the race for New York State’s 14th Congressional district, defeating ten-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, who is head of the House Democratic Caucus, who had not faced a primary challenge since 2004, who was widely expected to replace Nancy Pelosi next year as Minority Leader, and whose seat pretty much everybody thought was safe. Since the district is heavily Democratic, it’s expected that she will sail to victory in the general election in November, becoming the youngest woman ever to sit in Congress.

Nixon’s the one!

Calling her victory “stunning” – she won by 15 points, after having been 36 points behind in the polls only three weeks earlier – the editors of New York Post suggested that it might signal that “the Democratic Party in New York is moving hard left.” The editors noted that Cynthia Nixon, Sex and the City actress who is mounting a radical-left primary challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo, has supported Ocasio-Cortez and “plans to use every opportunity to link their campaigns in the public eye.”

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

As for Ocasio-Cortez herself, she instantly became, in the words of John Cassidy in The New Yorker, “a national political sensation.” Never mind her radical views. Never mind that she’s in bed with the far-left group Move On and the deep-pink Working Families Party (which in turn is cozy with the Communist Party USA) and that she wants to impeach Trump. Never mind that during the campaign she sold herself as a working-class girl from the Bronx when, in fact, although born in that borough, she is the daughter of an architect and actually grew up, from age five onward, in the affluent Westchester community of Yorktown Heights.

Joe Crowley

No, in today’s mainstream American culture, far-left – and even borderline Communist – views have become normalized, while opinions (such as a belief in strong borders) that only a decade or two ago were taken for granted as reasonable on both sides of the aisle are now widely smeared as inhuman.

So it was that two days after her victory Ocasio-Cortez turned up on Stephen Colbert’s show, where the host – who, of course, makes a career of mocking everything the President says and does – slathered her with praise. Even before Colbert explained that she identifies as a “Democratic Socialist,” the audience responded to her account of her victory with several bouts of fervent, mindless applause, it appearently being enough for them, in these days when identity labels trump all else, that she was young, female, and Latina. (And pretty.)

But then, as noted, Colbert mentioned the “Democratic Socialist” label, and asked her what those words mean to her. She proceeded to answer the question with a Sanders-like laundry list of free stuff that everybody should get from the government, and with each new item, the audience rewarded her with yet another round of eager applause and cheers. Colbert told her that her list was a worthy one, and then proceeded to wax sarcastic – not about Ocasio-Cortez herself, heaven forbid, but about – who else? – President Trump, whose tweet about Crowley’s loss he read aloud. Trump’s take was that Crowley should have “been more respectful to his president.” Do you, Colbert asked Ocasio-Cortez, plan to be respectful to Trump? Her reply: “I don’t think he knows how to deal with a girl from the Bronx.” Lusty cheers all around. Welcome to 2018 America, where an ever-growing percentage of the population thinks socialism is just plain peachy keen.