“Sit still for a minute and learn the job.”
Such was the advice Whoopi Goldberg offered Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly sworn-in congresswoman from New York, and one of the Democratic Party’s brightest stars. Democrats should hope AOC and her fellow first-term members of Congress take Whoopi’s advice. Republicans should hope they don’t.
The Democrats elected to Congress in 2018 have attracted a great deal of media attention, partly because of the size of the contingent, partly because their presence is seen as a rebuke to President Trump, partly because so many are women, partly because several are Muslims, and partly because so many are “democratic socialists.”
Left unsaid is the probability that after the 2020 election, many of the “Class of 2018” may not be around any longer, for two reasons: First, many newly elected members of Congress swept into office by “wave elections” as a rebuke to the opposition party tend to be underqualified and too weak to have been elected on their own. They promptly lose their re-election bids in the next election. About half the Democrats elected to Congress in the Lyndon Johnson landslide were tossed out of office the following election. By the same token, about half the Republican senators pulled into office by Ronald Reagan’s coattails were defeated for re-election the first time they had to run without Reagan at the head of the ticket.
Moreover, in general elections, at least, the voters prefer to support centrists, whether they be moderately conservative or moderately liberal, over right wing or left wing extremists. The Republican senate majority is smaller than it could have been because in recent years right wing radical Republicans have defeated conservatives in the primaries, only to throw their elections to Democrats in November.
Among the recently elected Democrats to the House of Representatives, three in particular stand out as possible faces of the Democratic Party—a prospect Democrats should fear and Republicans should salivate at. First, there’s Michigan Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib who, as I noted a few weeks ago, called Donald Trump a “motherf!@#$%” as she called for his impeachment. She’s also said that Jewish members of Congress “Forgot what country they represent…Maybe a refresher on our U. S. Constitution is in order…”
Then there’s Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota who, like Congresswoman Tlaib, is a Muslim. She once said, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” She now says, “I don’t know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans.”
And, of course, there’s AOC herself. She’s best known for claiming to be a “democratic socialist,” for advocating free college for everyone and “Medicare for all,” and for being unable to offer a realistic plan for raising the money necessary to pay for the additional 40 trillion dollars she wants to add to our spending over the next 10 years. But she’s also irritated her colleagues by demanding more important committee assignments than her status as a newcomer would entitle her to, and by threatening to work for the defeat of more moderate Democratic members of Congress in the 2020 primaries. This weekend she made additional news when she decided to speak at the Women’s March in Washington, even though it was boycotted by major groups and officials affiliated with the Democratic Party over concerns about the anti-Semitism of several of its leaders, who are supporters of Louis Farrakhan, who’s said Jews are “Satanic” and “termites.”
So if Democratic leaders are smart they’ll do their best to encourage Congresswomen Tlaib, Omar, and AOC to tone down the obscenities, the calls for impeachment, the anti-Semitism, the socialism, and the threats to “primary” other members of Congress out of office—i. e., to “sit still for a minute and learn the job.” Those who develop records of achievement and reputations for sound judgment will have the greatest chance for developing career long in years and rich in accomplishments. Those who don’t run the greater risk of being defeated for renomination or re-election.
And what should the Republicans do? One thing they should not do is pull the dumb stunts of right wing radicals trying to destroy AOC. Recently some of the folks of the Looney Right tried to smear her with false charges that she had posed for nude pictures and participated in lewd and lascivious dances. The nude pictures proved to be fakes, her one known dance in a college music video had all the pornographic content of a recital of grade schoolers supervised by nuns, and she emerged—quite rightly, for once—as a sympathetic victim of political malice.
No—the only thing Republicans should do, and need do, is sit back and let AOC and her colleagues be themselves—and if and when they crash and burn, pick up the pieces. Republicans should do this fine as long as Democrats ignore Whoopi.
Malcolm L. Cross has lived in Stephenville and taught politics and government at Tarleton since 1987. His political and civic activities include service on the Stephenville City Council (2000-2014) and on the Erath County Republican Executive Committee (1990 to the present). He was Mayor Pro Tem of Stephenville from 2008 to 2014. He is a member of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Stephenville Rotary Club, and does volunteer work for the Boy Scouts of America. Views expressed in this column are his and do not reflect those of The Flash as a whole.