Is Ilhan Omar a Communist?
Paul Kengor
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YouTube (Screenshot)

Now there’s a headline to make progressives light their hair on fire. Few things set off liberals quite like anti-communism. Pro-communism doesn’t bother them much, at least not enough to openly complain. But anti-communism? One whiff of it sends them hyperventilating into howls of McCarthyism. The same seems true nowadays for socialism, as evident when Donald Trump devoted a mere line or two to it in his State of the Union. Judging from liberal hysteria, one would think Trump had announced a resurrection of the House Committee on Un-American Activities. What a shameless Red-baiter!

That brings me to Ilhan Omar, stalwart member of the Democratic Socialists of America, which describes itself as “the largest socialist organization in the United States.” Read: “socialist,” even as self-described “democratic socialists” insist that they eschew the label “socialist.”

Speaking of which, what is Ilhan Omar? How far left is she?

The short answer is we genuinely don’t know — yet. The more we learn, however, the more we beg the question. It would be valuable if a liberal reporter, in a friendly interview, sat down for a deep dive into what she believes. My sense over only the last few months is that Ilhan Omar may be the most extreme-left member of Congress, as judging from positions on everything from taxes to Israel, from wealth distribution to Venezuela. She soared further left than anyone on the Democrat radar — blowing by Bernie, AOC, and Elizabeth Warren — by calling for literally a 90% tax rate. That was 20% more than what even Miss Democratic Socialist USA, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, had proposed a week earlier.

“There are a few things that we can do,” Omar said shortly after she was sworn in. “One of them, is that we can increase the taxes that people are paying who are the extremely wealthy in our communities. So, 70 percent, 80 percent, we’ve had it as high as 90 percent. So, that’s a place we can start.”

“A 90% tax rate!” one person emailed me. “Is the woman a bleeping communist?”

I explained to the emailer that FDR supported 90% tax rates. Worse, according to Burt Folsom in his excellent FDR Goes to War, Roosevelt advocated a 99.5% rate on incomes over $100,000. That said, FDR was not a communist, though few Democrats were as badly duped, whether by Earl Browder and spies and saboteurs and fellow travelers inside his own administration to his chummy pal “Uncle Joe” Stalin. No, wanting 90% tax rates doesn’t necessarily make you a communist. It makes you menace, but not a communist.

So, Ilhan Omar’s embrace of 90% rates is not a tell-tale sign of a hidden bust of Karl Marx in her closet.

What does raise — er — red flags were Omar’s virtually unpublicized remarks last week about Angela Davis. I was made aware of them when a friend sent a post from a conservative website. It supplied video of a tearful Omar standing in front of comrade Angela. Omar said this:

I’m a little emotional. Everyone knows that I refuse to cry. I talk about this all the time. I always say that nobody really deserves my tears or any of my sisters’ tears. Um, but you all have moved me to tears with your love, and um, and I am just grateful to all of you. To one of my idols, Angela Davis, I just… [Omar cries, crowd cheers] yeah, I just, I, I can’t tell you how enormously inspiring you have been to me throughout my life. And the work that you have done in making us realize that we have to be internally liberated to fight for external liberation has been lifesaving for people like me who had to navigate what it feels like to grow up black in this country. So, thank you.

That’s a remarkable statement, and needs to be watched to be fully appreciated. Omar called Angela Davis not only an inspiration but an “idol.” Davis wasn’t merely inspirational but “enormously inspiring… throughout my life.”

The whole episode is shocking and instructive about Ilhan Omar. Angela Davis is, of course, the matron of Marxism in the United States. If you had to pick America’s most widely known female communist for a half-century standing, you’d pick Angela Davis.

Davis supported the Soviet invasions of Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan and twice ran for vice president of the United States on the Communist Party ticket, where she ran alongside longtime CPUSA general secretary Gus Hall (a ticket supported by Barack Obama’s CIA director, John Brennan). The Soviets adored her, and the feeling was mutual. Click here to watch Angela in Moscow in 1979 accepting her Lenin Peace Prize in front of a bust of Lenin. Before an audience of Russian white folks, Davis exchanged kisses with her Kremlin host and thanked her “comrades” as she glowingly accepted the award “bearing the glorious name of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin on the very soil where he led the great October Revolution.”

Davis was likewise received and feted by the East German leadership that built the Berlin Wall. Imagine anyone in America today hailing for “liberation” the very woman hailed by those who erected history’s most notorious wall to hold captive their own citizens — as well as depriving them of freedom of speech, assembly, press, property, religion, and the widest swath of civil liberties.

Everyone knows this about Angela Davis. A tearful Ilhan Omar cites her as an idol and lifelong inspiration?

That being the case, a reasonable question to ask is to what extent Omar identifies with the ideology that everyone identifies Angela Davis with. That provocative question that forms the title of this column was posed to me several times in the last few days, including by a reporter who genuinely wanted a serious examination of the question.

Yes, yes. I can hear the wailing protests and predictable pabulum from liberals: Oh, please, Kengor! Omar was identifying with Davis because of civil rights!

Yeah? You can discern that with certainty? If you were to invoke a female civil-rights hero, why not point to Rosa Parks, Daisy Bates, Coretta Scott King, Ella Baker, Harriet Tubman, or even Michelle Obama or Oprah Winfrey? Angela Davis seems a curiously odd choice.

Still, for the left, such will be a convenient scapegoat for Omar’s homage to Davis. And to be fair, it might be that Omar likes Davis because of some unique identification with racial discrimination. But given how far left Omar is, we shouldn’t be so certain. It’s utterly reasonable to simply ask this congresswoman, who we learn disturbingly more about every day, about her ideological underpinnings. Turn your head and something new and disturbing comes from Omar’s mouth or Twitter account. Many of these instances end up with deeper meaning upon closer inspection.

For instance, all were taken aback by Omar’s rude treatment of Elliott Abrams. Abrams was the top person in the Reagan administration in articulating anti-communist policy in Latin America in the 1980s. Shortly after her confrontation with Abrams, the Washington Free Beacon and Daily Caller did a little digging and learned of Omar’s affiliation with Witness for Peace, a pro-Cuba, pro-Ortega group formed precisely in response to Ronald Reagan’s efforts to arm the Contras. If you go to the group’s website, you’ll see that the lead looks like something from a 1980s newsletter. As the Free Beaconshowed, Omar actually traveled with this group, which the Daily Caller described in a headline as “pro-communist” (and “anti-American”). The Free Beacon went beyond the group’s Latin America work, finding other examples of its extreme foreign policy.

These things are notable. They are being unearthed by sources prompted by Omar’s eyebrow-raising sentiments. That’s a natural reaction. Her words and actions are inciting others to look.

And what they are finding? Omar might well be to the left of Bernie Sanders.

Speaking of which, Bernie is being asked hard questions about his radical past. Even the Washington Postlast week published a serious article examining Bernie’s 1988 Soviet honeymoon. Others have looked at Bernie’s statements on Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been asked respectfully about her views on socialism, including in probing interviews by the likes of Margaret Hoover. Given what we’ve been hearing almost weekly from Omar, and now seeing her stunning self-identification with Angela Davis, it behooves some of our “journalists” to have a heart-to-heart with her.

Alas, if liberals are certain that such concerns expressed here are nothing but hot air, then they have nothing to fear. Omar can calmly explain why the ideas of Marx and Engels and Lenin and Brezhnev and Honecker and Angela Davis’s mentor, Herbert Marcuse, are toxic and destructive. Should be easy, eh? A softball to hit right out of the park. That would be reassuring for voters in Minnesota and for all of us.

What do you say, congresswoman?

Paul Kengor
Paul Kengor
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Paul Kengor is professor of political science at Grove City College in Grove City, Pa., and senior academic fellow at the Center for Vision & Values. Dr. Kengor is author of over a dozen books, including A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism, and Dupes: How America’s Adversaries Have Manipulated Progressives for a Century.
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