Republicans took a beating in the 2018 midterms and are running out of strategies for success. This is why they’ve decided to leapfrog from targeting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to targeting the newest members of Congress—specifically three very visible women of color: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). As Politico notes, these women represent “a new trio of Democratic villains” for a very desperate GOP.
The GOP is right to be nervous. The last two election cycles resulted in people of color and women handing Democrats victories in some of the most unlikely of places and upending Republican strongholds in a number of districts. Though Donald Trump is their president, and they retain control of the Senate, Trump is wildly unpopular outside of his base. He continues to wreak havoc on the country, and women like Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, and Omar are unafraid to say so. Thus, they are hoping that fearmongering and obsessive coverage might encourage their base to cough up some dough to defeat Democrats in 2019 and 2020. That’s why the National Republican Congressional Committee has been sending out thousands of emails linking vulnerable Democrats to these new lawmakers. It is an overall lazy and racist strategy, but is unsurprising, especially to its targets.
Tlaib told POLITICO she’s become a lightning rod for conservatives because her profile isn’t one that has historically been seen in the halls of Congress.
“The fact that somebody like myself, who’s a woman of color, is now an equal to many of them — people are very fearful of that,” said the Michigan Democrat.
It’s also impossible to ignore how this strategy also revolves around stoking fears about the two new Muslim women in Congress, portraying them as wildly unpredictable. Earlier this week, Omar apologized after being slammed by Democrats for a tweet suggesting that “GOP support for Israel is driven by campaign donations from a prominent pro-Israel group [AIPAC].” This evoked reactions in many who believed it to be a reference to pervasive and ugly stereotypes about Jewish donors. The GOP pounced on this immediately as a possible fundraising opportunity.
NRCC officials spent the day blasting out emails attacking Omar, saying Pelosi and Democratic leaders had “put an anti-Semite” on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “Ilhan Omar is the anti-Semite we thought she was,” read another post on the NRCC website.
And just last month, Tlaib was all over conservative media when she was seen on video, just after being sworn in, saying, “We’re gonna impeach the motherfucker!” in reference to Donald Trump. This comment received nonstop coverage on Fox News, becoming more important to them than the government shutdown and the migrant children locked up in cages and separated from their families, both thanks to this administration.
Both women acknowledge that their statements were mistakes. Omar apologized, saying that she desired to learn from the criticism and do better, while Tlaib said she wished not to say or do anything that was distracting for Democrats. They will both have to learn how to balance being their authentic selves with what their new jobs require. But no matter what, they’ll be targets for an increasingly old, male, and white party that fears the changing demographics that they represent.
Meanwhile, Fox just can’t get enough of Ocasio-Cortez. Everything about her is an object of attack for Republicans, including her policies, her looks, and her wardrobe. While the GOP is busy laughing at her desire to tackle climate change and calling her a socialist, Ocasio-Cortez is learning the ropes and developing relationships on Capitol Hill that are enabling her to get things done. According to Politico, “her plan to combat climate change has already been endorsed by roughly 70 House Democrats and a dozen Democratic senators, including four 2020 hopefuls.”
All of this is just further evidence that Republicans have little to nothing to offer anyone beyond a tiny homogenous group of people seeking to maintain gender and racial hegemony. They may raise some money from this attack strategy. But in the long term, attacking women of color isn’t going to be a tactic that gets them more votes. If we know one thing, though, it’s that they’ll keep it up, no matter what. America is changing, and sadly, they refuse to change with it.