This is ‘a fight for the soul of our nation’
WASHINGTON – Rep. Ilhan Omar on Thursday, in a new pushback against President Donald Trump’s “go back” rhetoric, said the president is using his bully pulpit “to mount racist attacks on communities across the land.”
“Throughout history, demagogues have used state power to target minority communities and political enemies, often culminating in state violence,” Omar, D-Minn., wrote in an op-ed published in the New York Times. “Today, we face that threat in our own country, where the president of the United States is using the influence of our highest office to mount racist attacks on communities across the land.”
Trump on July 14 tweeted that Omar, as well as Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, should “go back” to their countries.
All four congresswomen of color, who are known colloquially as the “Squad,” are U.S. citizens, and three were born in the U.S. Omar is a naturalized citizen and immigrated to the United States from Somalia over 20 years ago.
Omar and Tlaib are the only two Muslim women in the House of Representatives.
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Several days after the president posted his initial tweets, chants of “send her back” erupted at a Trump rally in North Carolina when he brought up Omar. Trump initially condemned the chant, but later called those who attended the rally “patriots.”
In her op-ed, Omar said the chant “will be a defining moment in American history” that “reminds us of the grave stakes of the coming presidential election.”
“This fight is not merely about policy ideas; it is a fight for the soul of our nation,” she wrote. “The ideals at the heart of our founding — equal protection under the law, pluralism, religious liberty — are under attack, and it is up to all of us to defend them.”
Omar went on to say that what she sees as the president’s efforts to stoke division and conflict among Americans serves to distract the public from the “very real and deep problems our country faces,” such as climate change, growing inequality and achieving affordable health care.
She added that it is not enough to condemn Trump’s rhetoric and racism — like that embodied in the attacks he has leveled recently at her and the three other Democratic congresswomen. She writes that Americans must “affirmatively confront” Trump’s “racist policies,” which she said include “caging of immigrant children at the border,” “the banning of Muslim immigrants,” and “the allowing of segregation in public housing.”
Trump’s rhetoric is also impacting other countries, Omar warned.
“Right-wing nationalism in Hungary, Russia, France, Britain and elsewhere is on the march in ways not seen in decades,” she wrote. “America has been a beacon of democratic ideals for the world. If we succumb to the fever of right-wing nationalism, it will have consequences far beyond our borders.”
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Omar went on to say that she believes that Americans need to look back at moments like the civil rights movement to move past Trump’s rhetoric and policies.
“The proudest moments in our history — from the Emancipation Proclamation to the civil rights movement to the struggle against fascism — have come when we fight to protect and expand basic democratic rights,” she said.
“Today, democracy is under attack once again,” Omar concluded. “It’s time to respond with the kind of conviction that has made America great before.”
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