For more than a decade, Republicans made Speaker Nancy Pelosi the poster child for Democratic Party looniness. The San Francisco liberal was a perfect foil for GOP attack ads during campaigns.
But times change, and when opportunity presents itself, good politicians pounce.
The four House members who make up “The Squad” — Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ayanna Pressley, (D-Mass.) — have been given as a gift by the political gods, to ease the way for Republican candidates in swing districts. They have taken extremism to the next level…and beyond. As one ripe example, AOC recently tweeted that Republicans have an inordinate fear of socialism.
The “old-fashioned red-baiting approach, familiar to those of us who lived through the Cold War, doesn’t seem to be working.”
Drumming fear around socialism is the GOP’s big play, & it’s failing, bc capitalism = GoFundMe as our national healthcare system. https://t.co/IOrDu1VYe0
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 29, 2019
I dunno. Anyone check to see how Venezuela, North Korea, and Cuba are doing lately? Nothing to fear from socialism. Nothing at all.
It’s that sort of looniness that normal people in Middle America find incomprehensible. It certainly makes The Squad sitting ducks.
Yet it remains to be seen whether this line of attack will work. For years, Republicans relied on attacks depicting Pelosi, the House speaker, as an out-of-touch San Francisco liberal as they tried to snap GOP voters to attention.
But singling out a new generation of female leaders is risky when Republicans are trying to prevent an exodus of suburban women and independent voters.
The attacks are especially fraught because two of the women — Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., and Ilhan Omar, D-Minn. — are the first Muslim women elected to Congress, part of the historic freshmen class with more women and minorities than ever. The other two members of the self-described squad are Ocasio-Cortez, of New York, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass.
Because, of course, “women of color” can’t be criticized without the critic being accused of being a “racist” or “Islamophobe.”
Michael Fauntroy, an associate professor of political science at Howard University, said Republicans down the ballot are taking Trump’s cue with thinly veiled attacks on race and religion.
“Beating up on Pelosi isn’t such a big deal because she’s been around forever,” he said. “This ‘squad’ is perceived as a new threat and it’s this perfect collection of religion, race and policy position, all tied up in a neat little bow, if you will.”
A political scientist from an historically black college says that anyone who uses The Squad as a punching bag is actually attacking their race, religion, and gender. Because…they are. Because…he says so.
But don’t ask him for any proof.
“We will make every Democrat own de facto Speaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist agenda,” said Bob Salera, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “And if a member isn’t for it, what are they doing to stop it?”
Republican strategists believe the squad, like Pelosi, will provide a powerful focal point for attacks. Ocasio-Cortez is a recognizable name among voters — higher than some presidential candidates — and not all favorable, they say. The Congressional Leadership Fund, the main outside group aligned with House Republicans, is calling out freshmen Democratic lawmakers they say are “as woke” as Ocasio-Cortez and “palling around” with the New Yorker widely known as AOC. The NRCC routinely assigns Democratic candidates Trump-style nicknames.
It’s a no-brainer of a strategy — which is why it is likely to work. No sense in overthinking things when a gift from the gods falls into your lap.