Joe Biden was at the Dakota County Technical College in Rosemount last Tuesday, touting his infrastructure bill, which will provide billions to Minnesota for needed infrastructure projects. But one prominent local Democrat was not in attendance.
Not surprisingly, it was U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, who voted against the bill. Apparently, the vote was a grandstanding statement, because the far larger social welfare bill was not passed along with the infrastructure package.
It's not the first time Omar has done this sort of thing. She refused to support a Capitol security bill, claiming it failed to combat white supremacy, and despite the fact that the majority of African American Democrats in the U.S. House supported it.
There was also her decision to abstain from supporting a resolution acknowledging the Armenian genocide in her first term, in contrast to her predecessor Keith Ellison, who once was arrested outside the Sudan embassy to raise awareness to the genocide in the Darfur region in 2009.
All that said, the anti-Muslim attacks directed toward Omar from fellow members in Congress are disgusting and intolerable.
But politically, keep in mind that Omar was one of the big losers in the Minneapolis city elections last month. Her push to defund the Minneapolis police failed. Her push to oust Mayor Jacob Frey failed. (Frey met with Biden when he was in Minnesota and Omar did not.) Additionally, four candidates who won elections in Minneapolis in 2017 riding a hard-left wave that later helped Omar win a congressional seat also lost last month. They were Minneapolis City Council Members Jeremy Schroeder and Phillipe Cunningham and Minneapolis Park Board Commissioners AK Hassan and Londel French.
Here is the question Democrats have to ask: Could Omar hurt Democratic chances in 2022 because of her political rigidity? Last summer there was a Democratic primary in Ohio for an open congressional seat. Omar supported Nina Turner, who was well known for her work as co-chair for the presidential campaigns of Bernie Sanders. Turner had refused to support or endorse Hillary Clinton in 2016 after Clinton got the Democratic nomination over Sanders and may have helped Donald Trump win the election as a result. In 2020, Turner compared Biden to a piece of manure.
Fortunately, Turner lost the primary to Shontel Brown, like Turner an African American woman, who won the general election and did vote for the infrastructure bill, which Turner likely would not have done.
At what point does a politician go too far to the extremes?
I believe a lot more Republicans than Democrats put rigid ideology over the needs of constituents and citizenry. But the fact remains that Omar's antics could endanger Democrats and help lead to Republican control of the state Legislature and governorship in 2022, and even to GOP gains of two congressional seats.
Democrats have to decide what to do about Omar very soon.
William Cory Labovitch is a political activist who lives in South St. Paul.