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(Kevin) McCarthyism on the Agenda in the House: Déjà Vu All Over Again

This week House Republicans engineered a pair of concurrent resolutions to safeguard the country from the twin horrors of socialism and criticism of Israel. Or so they maintain. As often happens, there is more to the story.

H. Con. Res 9 "denounces socialism in all its forms, and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States of America." The resolution formalizes demonization of Democrats, social programs, and federal regulation as socialist and Marxist by people with scant knowledge of either. This has evolved from the blather of blockheads into well-nigh conventional Republican principle with blithe indifference to distinctions between socialism and Marxism and to the role played by other factors, e.g., historical, in horrific abuses committed in the name of socialism and Marxism. These ideologies harbor their share of blockheads and villains. More innocuous are members of the Democratic Party's progressive faction given to proclamations that have a certain Marxist ring, typically more Groucho than Karl. Few however could be characterized as socialist, much less Marxist, in any but an exceedingly loose sense of those terms.

The purpose here is twofold. The resolution provides fodder for political attack ads in 2024, and it will be utilized in Republican efforts to roll back and ultimately drive a stake through the heart of social programs and regulations that provide for the general welfare and common good. Defense spending, with an exception for support of Ukraine, and draconian measures against immigrants are safe. All else will be on the cutting board.

Rules Committee Chair Patrick McHenry (R–NC) and Congressman Thomas Massie (R–KY) gave the game away. McHenry said, "In an attempt to address social issues, those on the far left have taken an approach that more closely mirrors the Communist Chinese party’s actions of recent date than the proven free market solutions that make America the envy of the world." Comparison to the Chinese Communist Party is inane but will resonate with those for whom it is intended. Not to be outdone, Massie equated socialism with the size and scope of government: "I think it’s important to have a vote on, do we want to be socialist? What does that mean, though? To me, it means size and scope of government. And we have those on the other side of the aisle who embrace socialism" (Yarrow, Dems press GOP). In this he demonstrates only the scope of his ignorance.

Talley: Yea 328; Nay 86; Present 14; Not Voting 6. 219 Republicans voted for the resolution, none against. 109 Democrats voted for the resolution, 86 against, and 14 present. Not voting were six members, three from each party.

Progressive Caucus leadership recommended that members vote against the resolution because, as Pramila Jayapal explained, "however you vote on this bill, they’re going to use it against you, so it doesn’t really matter." Jayapal went on to state the obvious: the resolution "conflates historical despots with modern entitlement programs and Nordic social democracies: 'They're trying to tie those successful [welfare] programs…to [former ruler of Cambodia] Pol Pot'" (Solender, House Democrats call GOP's bluff). Moderate Democrats are every bit as aware of this as Jayapal. They are also aware that it will play well in some places and attempted to protect themselves from the smears of Republican opponents who could make effective use of a nay vote—maybe not profiles in courage, but reasonable efforts to remain viable in their districts in 2024.

H. Res. 76 removed Ilhan Omar (Dem–MN) from the House Committee on Foreign Affairs because of remarks deemed to be antisemitic, alleged trivialization of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and related misdeeds, and as payback for Democratic removal of Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar from committees during the previous Congress for violent videos depicting the killing of Omar, the suggestion that Nancy Pelosi should be hanged for treason, and conspiracy theories some of which were antisemitic. Greene and Gosar claimed in effect that they were just kidding around, it was all in good fun.

Republican Ken Burke (CO) was reportedly heard calling the action the "stupidest vote in the world."

He was speaking in an elevator on Capitol Hill, accompanied by Idaho Republican Mike Simpson, who reportedly agreed with Buck’s assessment and also indicated that the ousting might be counterproductive for the GOP as it made Omar a "martyr", the outlet continued, adding that the two representatives then asked others in the elevator not to relay their remarks to House Republican leadership. (Guardian staff, Ilhan Omar's removal)

Like many of her colleagues, and even on occasion a certain oft humbled scribe here at Portable Bohemia, Omar would do well to choose her words more carefully when she speaks or tweets. The rest of us might do equally well to look beyond poorly chosen words taken out of context and used to distract us from points she is trying to make.

The term "trope" has been weaponized by partisans of all stripes since it migrated from elitist academic literary criticism into the vernacular a few years ago. When accused of tropes of the antisemitic variety, Omar explained that she was unaware of antisemitic connotations and apologized. That her intent was to criticize Israeli policy and treatment of Palestinians will not satisfy those for whom any criticism of Israel is prima facie antisemitic.

Washington Post fact checker Glenn Kessler discussed the context of Omar's statement that some people did something in a column published almost four years ago ('Some people did something'). The remark was made during a twenty-minute speech at a Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) banquet in March 2019. It is worth noting that in the speech Omar defended herself from criticism that she was too critical of some Islamic countries, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for their human rights records, saying, "It doesn’t matter if that country is being run by my father, my brother, my sister. I will still criticize that country because I know every country is capable of living up to its best."

Omar was not making light of the terrorist attacks on 9/11; rather, she was addressing hostility directed toward Muslims as a group whenever something like that occurs. The thrust of the speech was Omar's assertion of her community's "right to a dignified existence and a dignified life" free from vilification, bullying, threats, and treatment as second-class citizens. It is a call for Muslims to stand up for their rights as American citizens.

Texas Republican Chip Roy said of his vote to oust Omar: "You hit one of our guys, we're going to hit back. That's raw politics. That's actually, I think, appropriate" (Amna Nawaz, Texas Rep. Chip Roy on the agenda of the GOP’s House majority, PBS NewsHour, February 2, 2023).

Omar is a prime target for Roy's brand of politics because she is black, Muslim, and an immigrant. He and his comrades know that bashing her plays well with a MAGA base that is not favorably disposed toward these groups. As he says, raw politics. No need to look for what were once in a time long ago and a place far from here thought of as conservative principles in any of it.

The two resolutions can be taken as a blueprint for the next two years. This isn't gonna end well even if the scoundrels are sent packing at the next election. An immense amount of damage can be done in the interim.


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