At a recent rally in North Carolina, Donald Trump spewed a litany of racist lies about Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN), including the outrageous falsehood that she supports al-Qaeda. As he told lie after lie about her, the crowd launched into a chant of “Send her back!” Just as he did all through the 2016 election when his supporters chanted, “Lock her up,” Trump soaked up the hostility he triggered. (He later claimed that he tried to silence the chant by moving on with his lies about Omar, but the recording of the rally proves this is just one more of his lies.)
The chanting was the culmination of racist tweets and Rose Garden attacks against Omar, as well as her colleagues Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA). Trump’s incitement has resulted in a spike in death threats not just to Omar, her colleagues, and their families but also to organizations fighting for the civil rights of Muslim Americans.
This presidential incitement to violence is shameful. Vice President Joe Biden and others have compared Trump to George Wallace, who ran openly racist campaigns for president in the 1960s and 1970s. But Trump is actually much worse. Wallace was a fringe candidate who never came close to winning. In stark contrast, Trump is sitting in the Oval Office.
Trump’s longstanding and well documented racism, anti-Semitism, islamophobia and misogyny are divisive at home and corrosive to our image, and therefore our power, abroad. Trump and the rally-chanters are telling the world that America stands for hate, xenophobia, intolerance of dissent, the muzzling of a free press, and the intimidation of free speech. Trump and his followers’ image of America is in danger of replacing the image of the welcoming Statue of Liberty in the eyes of the world.
What is going on right now is a matter of right and wrong, far transcending policy. But the irony is that Trump’s supporters are chanting against their own economic interests.
Omar is one of the greatest champions in Congress of increasing economic security for working people. She is the lead House sponsor of the Student Debt Cancellation Act of 2019, which would wipe out all student debt. While often thought of as a young people’s issue, cancelling student debt would help people of all ages. Currently, three million seniors are burdened by student loan debt. Many are having their hard-earned Social Security benefits garnished by the federal government as a result of going back to school or wanting to help their children and grandchildren achieve the American Dream.
Furthermore, Omar and her colleagues in the “squad” are leaders in the fight to expand, not cut Social Security, while ensuring that all benefits can be paid in full and on time throughout the 21st century and beyond. Indeed, all four are original cosponsors of the Social Security 2100 Act, sponsored by Rep. John Larson (D-CT), which would do just that. Thanks to the efforts of Omar and her fellow Democrats, hearings on expanding Social Security are happening for the first time since 1972. This fall, the Social Security 2100 Act, which already has 211 co-sponsors, is likely to pass the House of Representatives.
Omar and her colleagues are also champions of expanding Medicare to cover long-term care, which is bankrupting too many seniors and their families. She is a champion of adding vision, hearing, and dental services to Medicare, as well as ending all co-pays, deductibles and premiums. And for those not yet age 65, she is a champion of extending this improved Medicare to all of us.
Omar and the other Congresswomen that Trump has been attacking are also fighting to lower our drug prices. All four are co-sponsors of the Medicare Negotiation and Competitive Licensing Act of 2019, sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), which would give Medicare the power to negotiate lower drug prices – and take away the monopolies of drug corporations that refuse to bargain in good faith.
These policies would help all of us, but particularly Trump’s supporters, who are older on average than the general population. If Trump’s supporters got their wish and sent Omar “back,” they would lose a powerful advocate for policies that would drastically improve their lives — and the lives of everyone in America. Congresswoman Omar is fighting for all of us. We must fight for her.