Milbank: On cue, Democrats slide into self-defeat mode

Having won the House on issues voters care about, they now risk splitting along ideological lines.

By Dana Milbank

The Washington Post

President Trump has done his level best to tank his presidency.

The trade and budget deficits are soaring, his legal woes are mushrooming, his North Korea policy collapsed, Democrats beat him on the border wall and the Republican Senate is poised to rebuke him.

There is only one thing that can save him now: Democrats.

And, on cue, here they come. Democrats, after winning last year with vows to lower health-care costs, rebuild infrastructure and clean up corruption, are now being pulled toward costly and divisive plans for government-run health care, a Green New Deal and reparations for African Americans. Some are agitating for impeachment even before special counsel Robert Mueller releases his report. And House Democrats just engaged in an ugly internal squabble over anti-Semitism.

The instigator, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, said that Americans who support policies of the Jewish state are pushing “allegiance” to a foreign country. Previously, she apologized for suggesting that pro-Israel interests were buying off lawmakers.

But this time the far left rallied against House Democratic leaders’ plans to rebuke Omar, arguing: that others have said worse with impunity (true, but they are Republicans, who follow a lesser standard), and that American Muslims are the victims of far worse (also true, but not justification for challenging another minority’s patriotism). The result: an anodyne resolution condemning religious bigotry generally.

This won’t end the matter, both because there is nascent anti-Semitism on the left and because Republicans, with rank hypocrisy, will exploit it. “It is shameful that House Democrats won’t take a stronger stand against Anti-Semitism,” tweeted Trump, who has singled out Jewish “globalists” as the enemy and said there were “very fine people” marching among neo-Nazis in Charlottesville.

Even a “symbolic resolution condemning anti-Semitism seems to be a bridge too far” for Democrats, taunted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, who expressed no such alarm when Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, hailed white supremacy and Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Flordia, invited a Holocaust denier to the State of the Union.

Perhaps a refresher on such bigotry is needed. Call it Anti-Semitism for Dummies:


Opposing Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. (Most American Jews do it!)

Criticizing Israeli policy, including the occupation.

Questioning U.S. support for Israel.


Suggesting the Israel lobby has too much influence, if ignoring the NRA and other groups that also have outsized influence.

Denouncing individual Jews as unscrupulous (“Little Shifty Schiff”), if non-Jews (“Crooked Hillary”) aren’t similarly labeled.


Suggesting people who support policies of Israel are disloyal to America.

Falsely suggesting Jewish or pro-Israel interests bribe politicians.

You should be ashamed:

Telling Jews “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money” (as Trump did) or suggesting they are conspiring toward global domination (as Trump also did).

Denying the Holocaust or belittling it (as Donald Trump Jr. did) with loose talk of gas chambers.

Chanting “Jews will not replace us” or speaking favorably (as Trump did) of people who do.

Therefore, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-South Carolina, was wrong to declare Omar’s grief “more personal” than that involving the long-ago Holocaust. (Was October’s Pittsburgh synagogue massacre recent enough?) Conversely, Rep. Juan Vargas, D-California, erred in declaring off-limits any questioning of the U.S.-Israel relationship.

Rather than attempting to bury divisions with a feel-good resolution, I suggest Democrats resolve the following; not on the floor, but in their hearts:

Whereas Trump tweeted an anti-Semitic image of a Jewish star atop a pile of cash, and hesitated to condemn a KKK leader and those threatening Jews and vandalizing Jewish property;

Whereas Trump told slanders about Muslims cheering the World Trade Center attack and Muslims being shot by bullets dipped in pigs’ blood, said “Islam hates us,” retweeted anti-Muslim propaganda and called for a “total and complete” Muslim travel ban;

Whereas Republicans have been mostly silent about Trump’s bigotry and sometimes echoed it;

Whereas the only way to defeat Trump is for Democrats to unify behind an agenda embraced by voters;

And whereas pursuing impeachment without Republican support would not only fail but also would strengthen Trump;

Now, therefore, be it resolved:

That we denounce the bigotry unleashed by Trump and often ignored by Republicans.

That we vow to hold ourselves to a higher standard.

That we will cut the crap and stop questioning each others’ motives and loyalty to country.

That we will not insist on litmus tests and House votes on issues that split Democrats and have no chance of enactment under Trump.

That we will keep our powder dry on impeachment unless and until Republicans join us.

And that we will never again divert Trump from his steady march to self-destruction.

Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.

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