• Local
  • Pittsfield, MA
  • more weather >
Greg Nash
Reo. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

Alan Chartock: Democrats on the edge

More Info
By Tuesday, Mar 19, 2019 Viewpoints 4

The Democrats in both the House of Representatives and the state Senate are risking it all and to some extent, they are being aided and abetted by the news media, who know a story when they see one. We all know that any story that involves a fight or a contest has the potential for good copy and there is no hotter story on the American political scene than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

When the Democrats took over the House of Representatives, they won a slew of new seats. Most of these were moderate, swing seats in competitive districts and certainly not self-identified Democratic Socialists. But a few seats did go to progressives, and Ocasio-Cortez was one. What a candidate. She did a little dance outside her office in reaction to Republican nonsense and that little dance was seen around the world! She doesn’t take any garbage and when Trump insults her, she gives it right back to him. Her problem is, now, that seems to be alienating significant groups in the American electorate.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.

In the beginning, a small group of progressives presented a threat to Nancy Pelosi’s assumed speakership. Pelosi prevailed by making a series of deals and promises that obviously involved some committee assignments, like that of Ilhan Omar to the Foreign Affairs Committee. Unfortunately, Omar made what many people are calling an anti-Semitic trope, and not for the first time. That made a lot of people crazy because they interpreted her words as implying that American Jews were incapable of giving full loyalty to the United States but owed primacy to Israel. She cited the Jewish group AIPAC. Frankly, as a Jew, I had a hard time with what she said. I have been assiduous in my belief that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is leading Israel in the wrong direction. I am not alone in that. Public opinion polls show some disparity between American Jewish voters and contemporary Israeli policy.

When asked about Omar’s penchant for perceived anti-Semitic remarks, top Jewish leaders in the Congress, like Eliot Engel, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, refused to exonerate Omar. However, it is feared that Omar will not be removed from her prestigious committee assignment unless things get worse. In the meantime, Republicans are having a field day with Omar’s remarks. Obviously, many American Jewish voters are loath to agree with Donald Trump’s negative assessments of Omar. Just for the record, Jews comprise around 2 percent of the American population.

The fact is that AOC has vigorously defended her contemporary, Omar. This has exacerbated the tension between the old- and new-style Democrats. This tension and possible infighting has created a potential schism that the Republicans can use to alienate voters. The Democratic penchant for forming circular firing squads is well-known and it is showing not only in the House of Representatives, but in the New York State legislature, where the newly elected state Senate is picking unnecessary fights with the governor—like the debacle that lost Amazon to New York City. When you get power and you are not used to it, you have to be particularly careful about what you do and say because of your instincts. I get that Andrew Cuomo is suspected by the new Democratic majority of having kept the Republicans in power. I also get that the age-old instinct to get even is pretty powerful. But, hey, in the case of both the Congressional Democrats and the new majority in the New York State Senate, the greater good will surely be met if they stay in power. They have just emerged from the wilderness of oppression under their Republican colleagues (tormentors.)

Let’s face it: If they retain power and continue to pass good legislation, we will all benefit. Let’s just hope that they take a course in anger management and road rage before they continue their present ways.

More by »

4 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Ashley Wright says:

    In Alan Chartock’s piece – Democrats on the edge, he says “Unfortunately, Omar made what many people are calling an anti-semitic trope, and not for the first time. He adds, “Frankly as a Jew, I had a hard time with what she said.” If we can see beyond partisan politics and our obsessive concern with winning, Rep. Ilhan Omar’s comments will be understood as anti-Semitic, plain and simple. Mr.Chartock ought to have the courage to call it as it is, unless he agrees with Rep. Omar

  2. Joseph Method says:

    Alan Chartock is on the outside of the circular firing squad firing in. Also he just has his facts wrong. If you actually follow the blow by blow online (I don’t recommend it) leftists are angry at AOC for supposedly throwing Ilhan Omar under the bus. This is because she didn’t unequivocally defend Omar at the same time that she didn’t condemn her. Her line was something like “we should listen to the concerns and fears of every group”. She also pointed out that Omar was being criticized for using a single supposedly coded word while there were Republicans making explicitly anti-semitic and Islamaphobic statements. So to Chartock this becomes “vigorously defended” while leftists saw it as lukewarm at best.

    1. martin weinstein says:

      Instead of getting all tied up in knots over the comments of some new Democratic Party representatives, energy should be focused on the increasingly disturbed and disturbing comments of our President.His tweet about the military, police and motorcycle gangs being on his side -so that things could get very bad and very ugly -should be condemned as threatening a
      violent and authoritarian solution to our political differeces.

  3. Howie Lisnoff says:

    I’m surprised by the lack of important details in Alan Chartock’s article “Democrats on the edge.” Professor Chartock takes Representative Omar to task for statements that are anti-Semitic. Reading several articles in the national and international press about the representative, I have found only one reference to “the Hamiltons” that some have found reason to criticize. I find nothing offensive in that statement, but see it as a reference to those in the political system who have lots of money and influence to pass around. If there is information that Professor Chartock knows of that involves clear statements of anti-Semitism, besides valid criticism of Israel for its treatment of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, then the professor needs to be specific and list those statements or assertions on these pages. It would also be helpful to have the citations for statements by the representative that the professor believes to be anti-Semitic. 

    I don’t doubt that like racism, there is a lot of anti-Semitism in this society. I think a focus of what’s going on with hate in this part of the U.S. might interest readers. There has been a spate of anti-Semitic incidents in the lower Hudson Valley in New York over the past few years. That these incidents have taken place around the time of the Tree of Life massacre in Pittsburgh seem to rise to the level of comment. That the President of the United States says some “very fine people” were among the neo-Nazis and white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia at the Unite the Right rally in August 2017, is also something worthy of comment in an article on anti-Semitism. That several advisors to the president are known to hold anti-Semitic views is also important to consider.

    While it is important to cite actual anti-Semitic statements and actions, it is equally important to recount a recent incident when someone asked for directions to a nearby home and noted that he could not understand the directions given him by the homeowner because that person was probably eating a bagel. Sometime around 2007, a racist and anti-Semitic “newspaper“ was left on my driveway. The Berkshire Eagle carried an article at that time about how that hate-filled rag was found throughout the Berkshires. Or how about the countless times I have heard complaints about “New Yorkers.” The list goes on and on and this is but the tip of the iceberg of intolerance. 

What's your opinion?

We welcome your comments and appreciate your respect for others. We kindly ask you to keep your comments as civil and focused as possible. If this is your first time leaving a comment on our website we will send you an email confirmation to validate your identity.