Omar controversy exposes GOP hypocrisy on hate speech

Omar controversy exposes GOP hypocrisy on hate speech
© Stefani Reynolds
The House of Representatives has passed a historic resolution condemning hatred of any kind, including anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, white supremacy, xenophobia and racism. 

It came about because Rep. Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarOmar says she hopes Netanyahu not reelected Sunday shows - Guns dominate after Democratic debate Omar responds to family of 9/11 victim who called her out at anniversary ceremony MORE (D-Minn.), one of only two newly elected Muslim women in Congress, tweeted out two alleged anti-Semitic tropes and then made comments that were perceived as anti-Semitic.

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What has been jaw-dropping in this chaotic episode is the Republican hypocrisy surrounding it. It exposed, yet again, that Republicans hold no moral high-ground in calling out Rep. Omar as an anti-Semite, given that they've stood by as President TrumpDonald John TrumpTed Cruz knocks New York Times for 'stunning' correction on Kavanaugh report US service member killed in Afghanistan Pro-Trump website edited British reality star's picture to show him wearing Trump hat MORE has tweeted out his offensive comments and waited a decade to reprimand Rep. Steve KingSteven (Steve) Arnold KingOcasio-Cortez rips Steve King after he shares video drinking from toilet-fountain hybrid at border Steve King says he drank from toilet at detention center Steve King jokes about China forcing Muslims to eat pork MORE (R-Iowa) for repeated statements condoning white supremacy and bigotry.

But let’s take a step back: Rep. Omar regurgitated language that has been used to denigrate and insult Jews, phrases that many heard as anti-Semitic dog whistles. She initially apologized and had tough conversations with her colleagues and Democratic leaders in Congress, who tried to educate her on how her words were taken by others. 

Since then, she has made comments about how she should not be forced to pledge allegiance to a foreign country — referring to Israel — in order to serve in Congress. These comments also were considered anti-Semitic and perceived as furthering the corrosive language historically used against the Jewish population. 

While her choice of language was ill-advised, her arguments are valid. Paul Waldman, a Washington Post columnist who grew up in a Zionist household, explains and educates as to why Omar’s comments should be looked at more closely, given validity and not dismissed out of hand as being anti-Semitic. 

Waldman makes some uncomfortable arguments that get to the heart of this controversy. We should be able to have a robust debate about the policies and practices of the Israeli government without devolving into a shouting match about anti-Semitism. The two are not the same.

Does Omar need to change the language she uses to make her points? Yes. That way she will be taken seriously, and it will be harder for her comments to be taken out of context. 

Was the process that Democrats went through to pass their resolution a messy one? No doubt. But that is what happens when you elect — proudly so — the most diverse Congress in history. 

The Democratic Party is growing, expanding and evolving. It is incorporating diversity into Washington’s halls of power; it is giving a seat at the table to all the communities that the new Democratic members of Congress represent.

It is hearing new points of view and vastly different perspectives. That’s a good thing; Republicans should try it some time.

I’m incredibly proud of what the Democratic Party achieved in passing a broad resolution condemning all forms of hatred. It has put Democrats on record as exercising their values in protection of all communities who have felt denigrated, marginalized and disrespected over the years.

Every House Democrat voted for it. Some of them were disappointed that the resolution was not solely aimed at condemning anti-Semitism but they voted for it anyway, believing it was the right thing to do. In contrast, 23 Republicans voted against it.

And, indeed, it was the right thing — because real anti-Semitism and hate crimes against Jews are on the rise across the country, along with hate crimes targeting many other groups.

Domestic terrorism perpetrated by white nationalists — against Jews, as well as people of color and immigrants — is increasing, and is a true national emergency. 

The whole process of adopting this anti-hate resolution in the House did not divide the Democratic Party. It has made the party stronger — and that, in turn, will make the country stronger, as we fight for the dignity of all Americans. 

Republicans should join Democrats in that process. But to do so, they need to come to terms with whom they are falling in line behind and what that says about their party.   

Sadly, they have proven time and again that they are not ready, willing or able to do so.

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.