Reality checks in with congressional fresh(wo)men
As the new freshman class of congressional women bopped, hopped and doo-wopped into town, old sourpusses smirked –they’ll meet reality soon enough.
Actually, ’twas I who said this to herself. And, well, not to brag or anything.
The gals were barely through orientation before the powder room became a powder keg, with some of the more lively issuing brash statements that many have interpreted as anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, anti-Republican, anti-President Trump, and even anti-Sen. Lindsey Graham — all steeped in self-identity with an occasional dash of profanity.
Remember when women just wanted to roar? Now they want to impeach the “mother——.” So said newly sworn-in Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich. She was only speaking to a MoveOn.org reception, so she was given a break. Besides, women hardly have the corner on stupid, overreaching, profane commentary. Tlaib’s bigger problem out of the gate is her apparent preference for a one-state solution to a negotiated, two-state Israel and Palestine, which came as a bit of a surprise.
Tlaib initially campaigned as a pro-two-stater, for which she received the support of J Street, a nonprofit, pro-Israel organization. But after winning the Democratic primary, she seemed to drop Israel from the map. In an August interview with In These Times magazine, she was unequivocal: “One state. It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work.”
J Street withdrew its endorsement soon thereafter.
Whatever remains to be seen, it’s clear that Tlaib is a pro-Palestinian Palestinian, which she proudly clarified in a tweet earlier this month. “Right wing media targeting me again rather than focusing on the President’s reckless government shutdown. Yes, I am Muslim and Palestinian. Get over it.”
She’s got a point there. But her approach is further complicated by her support of the controversial boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement aimed at shunning Israeli products and services because of the nation’s alleged human rights violations against Palestinians.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. — the first Muslim woman to wear a hijab in Congress — also sympathizes with BDS. But her greater offense (to some) was last week’s comment that Lindsey Graham is “compromised,” insinuating that he was somehow beholden to Trump and was being essentially blackmailed into supporting the president.
If it were true that Trump is hanging something over Graham’s head, this would at least help explain why the media’s favorite senator has all but abandoned his former, jovial self. But the real explanation is much simpler. He can’t get re-elected without the president, who remains popular among Graham’s core constituency: South Carolina Republicans.
Not least (and by far most fun), the youngest woman ever elected to the Congress, 29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., danced her way into her office a day after being sworn in. This self-parody was in response to a video that right-wing critics had surfaced of her dancing on a rooftop during college. A proud socialist, Ocasio-Cortez says whatever pops into her head and is quickly becoming a quote collector’s favorite. Who doesn’t want to watch?
One of the greatest hazards to politicians is the temptation to buy into his or her own myth. And in politics as in real life, it’s always a good idea to take the temperature of a room before opening one’s mouth. In 2019, it’s also prudent to pay homage to the queen, in this case Speaker Nancy Pelosi, before trying to burn down the House. For your further consideration, note that the rise of this new class of young women coincides with the victorious return of the 78-year-old Pelosi to the speakership. Chew on that for a while.
The combustion of exuberance and overnight fame, thanks to the media’s excessive coverage of the rookies, could explain the giddy gall of some new members. And, really, who but the witless or numb could fail to appreciate that two women of the Islamic faith will bring strong voices to the floor for Muslim women (and men) around the world to hear? Or, that two Native American women will be among those guiding their country?
As history-making and fun as the past few weeks have been, the reality part is about to hit the rest of America in the face. No matter what the new members say, their governing philosophy by and large is several longitudinal notches to the left of mainstream Democrats, as we’ve understood them. The reality is that for now, these women, who will be driving a lot of the action and attention, are the mainstream.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is