The Republicans messed up. Last week, House Republicans had the opportunity to firmly possess the moral high ground for at least the remainder of this electoral class. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brought a resolution condemning President Trump for his xenophobic tweets targeting the self-titled “Squad,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and former anonymous member of the House Ayanna Pressley. (Side note: Isn’t nicknaming your own group the most obnoxious move in politics? I can only assume they settled on “The Squad” because “‘N Sync” was already taken.)
But before you write angry letters, I am not here to argue whether or not the president’s statements themselves are racist, xenophobic, or just in poor taste. Unfortunately, we live in a time when Americans stopped backing ideas and instead back people. This forces one to defend the worst in politicians as long as those politicians agree with whatever one says about other topics. Therefore, I know that many Trump fans out there will try to either defend these statements outright, twist them in a way that is more pleasing, or even agree with them as a whole. I’m not going to waste my time arguing with those people. Instead, I am talking to those of you out there who recognize that the president’s tweets were at worst racist and at least xenophobic.
It wasn’t so long ago when Ilhan Omar made public statements that were blatantly anti-Semitic. The response of Republicans was outrage and a call for condemnation. President Trump called for her resignation. Vice President Mike Pence called for her to be removed from the House Foreign Affairs Committee. What ended up happening was a resolution that was initially meant to denounce Omar’s statements was altered by House Democrats to condemn all hate. No direct criticism toward Omar ever occurred, and the Democrats showed themselves to be a weak-minded party, and one without the backbone to reprimand their own for bad behavior. At that point, the Democrats lost the moral high ground they claimed to own. And it was then that Republicans began to shout from the rooftops, “Imagine if a Republican had said these comments. Just replace the word ‘Jew’ with ‘black’ and you’ll see the double-standard in how they are treated.”
Well, guess what? We now have that case. Donald Trump made a xenophobic comment that is on par with Omar’s comments from earlier this year, and no, it’s not his first offense. Remember when President Trump claimed that a Mexican judge couldn’t be impartial on his case? Remember when he claimed that there were good people on both sides in Charlottesville? Omar has absolutely made a number of bad statements. So has Trump. So now the statements of each one are comparable.
Predictably, the Democrats showed their true colors. They were quick to disparage the comments as racist, and quick to take out a resolution against them. There was no “condemn all hate” qualifier, just the same old Democrats. Remember, this is the same party that continues to allow the governor of Virginia, Ralph Northam, to be in power despite a picture of him in either blackface or a KKK hood. But Republicans dropped the ball here. They also showed that they have double standards. When it came to Omar, they were all quick to ridicule. They even pointed to how they handled Representative Steve King as proof of their willingness to act against racism, and laid the smackdown on Democrats for trying to defend Omar and ignoring Northam. And now, when they are faced with a situation where they were able to deride the president’s words, with a mere four exceptions they opted not to vote for condemnation. The Republicans had the chance to solely claim the mantle of morality, and they blew it.
I’ve heard the defenses of the Republicans. “The language of the resolution was ‘racist’ instead of ‘xenophobic.’” “They were just opposing the double-standard of the Democrats.” None of that matters. All the public sees is the fact that the vast majority of House Republicans refused to admonish the president on his awful tweets, and they lost the opportunity to punch back at Democrats in the process.
I hope that we here in the Jewish community behave the same way toward the president’s comments as we did toward Ilhan Omar’s comments. It’s easy to be outraged when the person making the comments is someone with whom we generally disagree, and when the comments are directed at us. However, we all must be consistent in our outrage. If someone with whom we generally agree makes terrible statements, even if they are not directed at us, we must be able to denounce the statements for what they are. We can still appreciate all the good that the individual has done while simultaneously reproving the bad. I have thus far been disappointed with the reaction from my party. I hope not to be disappointed by the reaction from my religion.
Izzo Zwiren works in healthcare administration, constantly concerning himself with the state of healthcare politics. The topic of healthcare has led Izzo to become passionate about a variety of political issues affecting our country today. Aside from politics, Izzo is a fan of trivia, stand-up comedy, and the New York Giants. Izzo lives on Long Island with his wife and two adorable, hilarious daughters.