WASHINGTON (SBG) – The Justice Democrats, a progressive group committed to upending the current political establishment, funded many of the fresh faces in Congress. If this week’s events are any indicator, they’ve been largely successful.
Minnesota Democrat Rep. Ilhan Omar, who is supported by the group, caused a firestorm by repeatedly tweeting critiques of pro-Israel groups that were condemned by many in her own party, who began drafting a resolution against anti-Semitic speech earlier this week.
Fellow Justice Democrat New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was an early detractor, taking to Twitter to argue that Rep. Omar was being unfairly targeted for censure.
The effort to affirm the party line quickly collapsed and revealed disarray; with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi defending Rep. Omar by saying she didn’t understand the impact of her words, Bernie Sanders saying she started an important policy discussion and still others pointing fingers at the other side of the aisle.
Ultimately, the progressive wing of the party’s pushback on social media led the Democrats to scrap the original draft in favor of passing a more generic anti-hate resolution that did not mention Rep. Omar by name Thursday.
Hours before the vote, progressive activist group Democracy for America announced their endorsements for the re-election campaigns of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Omar - who have served in office for only a few months -along with several other Justice Democrats.
Democracy for America spokesperson Neil Sroka told Sinclair Broadcast Group that he believes that these freshmen lawmakers are “giving voice to opinions that have been long ignored in Washington,” including what he described as the outsized influence of pro-Israel lobbying groups like AIPAC.
“Through the discussion that happened last week, not only did you get a resolution that condemned anti-Semitism but you also got a resolution that actually responded to the many kinds of different hate that have been exacerbated over the past couple of years by the White House and Republican Party,” said Sroka.
Republican strategist an political commentator Ford O’Connell told Sinclair Broadcast Group that though he thinks the resolution of the resolution was a strategic victory for Rep. Omar and her supporters, he believes that the week’s events highlight divisions within the Democrat Party that may impact the ability for it to be politically effective.
“I would say this is a precursor of things to come, in terms of the disagreement between the newer members of the House caucus and the old guard,” said O’Connell. “What we’re seeing is the Democrat remaking itself in terms of its key issues and views.”
Elizabeth Cohen, associate professor of communications studies at West Virginia University, told Sinclair Broadcast Group that incidents like these show that social media has made it so “party leaders don’t have as much control over the messages the party communicates anymore," but added it can work to increase transparency.
“Just as social media has been able to act as sort of workaround for what we traditionally consider as gatekeepers,” said Cohen, pointing to the traditional press as an example, “I think it can also act as a workaround for their own party.”