Democrats Rally Behind Ilhan Omar After Trump's Attacks

Photo: ASSOCIATED PRESS.
After President Donald Trump continued his attacks on "the Squad" at a rally in Greenville, NC on Wednesday night — with the crowd feverishly chanting "Send her back!" about Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — there was an outpouring of support for Omar.
Many lawmakers and others posted their support with the hashtag #IStandWithIlhan. Democratic presidential hopefuls weighed in, with Sen. Kamala Harris calling the chant "vile," "cowardly," "xenophobic," and "racist," adding "it defiles the office of the President." Her colleague Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said misogyny is at the root of the president's remarks and the chants. "Whether it's 'send her back' or 'lock her up,' 'there has to be some form of punishment,' or 'grab her by the p***y' — the through line is contempt for women and anyone who threatens this president's fragile ego," she tweeted. "He should be afraid. We are his worst nightmare. And we will beat him."
Advertisement
Fellow progressive Democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders also spoke up. "#IStandWithIlhan and am proud to work with her in Congress. Trump is stoking the most despicable and disturbing currents in our society," he posted on Twitter. "And that very hatred and racism fuels him. We must fight together to defeat the most dangerous president in the history of our country." He also emailed supporters that he was having dinner with Omar and other members of Congress when news of Trump's comments broke and that she was "pretty unfazed."
At the rally, Trump also attacked the other members of the Squad, which is made up of four progressive congresswomen of color — Reps. Omar, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan — painting them as the dangerous face of the Democratic party. "These congresswomen are helping the rise of a militant, hard left. They never have anything good to say, which is why I say, 'If they don’t like it, let them leave.'" Trump said. "They don’t love our country, and in some cases I think they hate our country."
It was not a surprise that he reserved most of his anger toward Omar, one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress along with Tlaib. After all, the president did build part of his 2016 presidential campaign on anti-Muslim sentiment. He is continuing to stoke hateful sentiments, and not only against Muslims: In November, the FBI reported there was an increase in hate crimes targeting Muslims and Jews for the third year in a row.
Advertisement
With his xenophobic rhetoric, he is also distracting the public from issues that actually matter, as Pressley said at a press conference the congresswomen held on Monday. "This is a disruptive distraction," said Pressley. "Don't take the bait." The women stressed that instead of sparring with Trump over personal attacks, they are committed to working on issues such as healthcare and condemned the horrific conditions in migrant detention centers.
The chants at the rally followed Trump's decision to spend several minutes attacking Omar and implying she is un-American. He falsely claimed once again that the Democrat supports al-Qaeda and that she "minimized the September 11 attacks on our homeland." Trump previously attacked Omar in April, just days after a New York man was arrested for threatening to assault and murder her. The Minnesota congresswoman said there has been an increase in death threats against her following the president's remarks.
Trump went on a racist Twitter tirade on Sunday, in which he said the four "Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe" should "go back" to where they came from. (Everyone but Omar was born in the U.S.) But the chants calling for the deportation of Omar, an American citizen and refugee who was born in Somalia, reeked of white nationalism more than any of the previous rhetoric. Of course, Trump backtracked and reportedly said he "disagrees" with the chant on Thursday. But a video of the event shows no indication that he disagrees, or that he tried to put a stop to it.
Advertisement
The event also made it clear that Trump plans to target the progressive lawmakers, all women from marginalized communities, as a way to rile up his base in order to increase his chances of reelection in 2020. It's an old strategy from his 2016 playbook: Stoke xenophobia and racism among his supporters, and pick someone easy for them to hate. In the last election, it was Hillary Clinton and the "Lock her up!" chants. "Lock her up!" is now "Send her back!" Sense a pattern?
Omar responded to Trump and his supporters on Wednesday by writing on Twitter: "I am where I belong, at the people’s house and you’re just gonna have to deal!" She also shared Maya Angelou's legendary poem, "Still I Rise." "You may shoot me with your words, You may cut me with your eyes," she wrote. "You may kill me with your hatefulness. But still, like air, I’ll rise."
Advertisement

More from US News