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Ilhan Omar in a Context of a Changing Washington

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Dayen has some interesting conclusions about the meaning of the left’s victory in rejecting the House leadership’s desire to rebuke Ilhan Omar:

It is no more a trope that wealthy interests want to protect the pre-eminence of Israel in Middle East policy than it is to say that large corporations have an interest in protecting the source of their fortune. How these interests are advanced in Washington is pretty elemental. Through carrots and sticks, members of Congress are persuaded to support the preferred policies of various groups: They’re handed a check at a fundraiser, or implicitly threatened with support for a political opponent, or just overwhelmed with scores of lobbyists making persistent arguments.

The new contingent in Congress from the Democratic left, an astounding number of whom pledged not to accept corporate PAC money, presents a problem for powerful lobbyists. That’s why the Omar resolution has run into difficulty. These members are not as susceptible to the usual pressures, and they don’t see what’s wrong with criticizing influence-peddling when the party’s signature legislation this session—H.R. 1—is a full-throated denunciation of money in politics.

The Democratic leadership seems to believe that one major lobby in particular is beyond reproach, but making such an exception undermines the entire message. Either big-money lobbying puts powerful interests ahead of the public interest, or it doesn’t. Omar has made clear where she stands on the matter. It’s Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer who have some explaining to do.

For obvious reasons, the ability of congresspeople to avoid lobbying money depends on the district. In a far left district such as those Omar, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Pressley, and others represent, this can be done, though well-funded primary challenges from the right could happen. If you are in a swing district in the Philly suburbs, that’s a lot harder. But it does have a real impact. If you are these left-leaning members of Congress and you have learned, rightfully, from the Tea Party that you can have an outsized influence over your party by saying what you actually think and not worrying about it, you actually do undermine lobbyists’ influence over Democrats. That’s a very good thing. Given that AIPAC has the same moral compass as the NRA, in this case, that’s a positive development.

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