Insurrection as Personal Power

I bet yesterday was a good day for Lauren Boebert, the gun toting first-term Republican member of the House from Colorado. Over the Thanksgiving recess, Boebert entertained an audience with her account of an interaction with Rep. Ilhan Omar that never took place.

Over the Thanksgiving break, Lauren Boebert said she was recently in a Capitol elevator with Ilhan Omar when a fretful Capitol police officer ran up. Lauren Boebert said: “Well, she doesn’t have a backpack. We should be fine.” Boebert then called Ilhan Omar, “jihad squad.”

The story was a big hit with her bigoted audience, but was leaked which Boebert then took as an opportunity to launch a baiting campaign against Rep. Omar with a tweet apologizing “to anyone in the Muslim community I offended with my comment about Rep. Omar.” Boebert was called into the principal’s office by McCarthy but he seemed to be placated by the apology and Boebert indicating that she wanted to meet with Omar in what McCarthy thought was an effort to put the issue to rest. But Boebert was all about personally baiting Omar at this point. She called Omar and responded to Omar’s demand for an apology with her own demand that Omar apologize for her “anti-American, antisemitic, anti-police rhetoric. ” In other words, Boebert wanted Omar to apologize for Boebert’s own smears of Omar’s policy positions.

At this point everything was good for Boebert. She got in her Islamophobic digs, she wasn’t in trouble with Kevin McCarthy, and she’d offended a prominent member of The Squad enough that Omar hung up on her. For a right-wing extremist who lives for publicity, that’s all winning.

From Boebert’s perspective, it then got better.

Yesterday, Rep. Ilhan Omar held a press conference in which she played a video of a voicemail threat that she received in the course of her dispute with Boebert. The text is below the picture.

“We see you, Muslim sand n***** bitch,” the message began. “We know what you’re up to. You’re all about taking over our country. Don’t worry, there’s plenty that will love the opportunity to take you off the face of this fucking earth. Come get it, you fucking Muslim piece of shit. You jihadist. We know what you are. You’re a fucking traitor. You will not live much longer, bitch, I can almost guarantee you that. We the people are rising up, and you will be tried before a military tribunal, and you will be found guilty.”

I have both a lot of sympathy for Rep. Ilhan Omar and much respect for the courage it took to play this. But I also think her response is inadequate to the challenge posed by Boebert and the threatening caller. Rep. Omar’s argument is that Lauren Boebert needs to be held accountable for her bigoted statements against Omar because such statements have “real consequences” in the shape of threats of violence against her and other American Muslims.

When a sitting member of Congress calls a colleague a member of the ‘jihad squad’ and falsifies a story to suggest I will blow up the Capitol, it is not just an attack on me but on millions of American Muslims across the country… We cannot pretend this hate speech from leading politicians doesn’t have real consequences. It is time for the Republican Party to actually do something to confront anti-Muslim hatred in its ranks and hold those who perpetuate it accountable…

At the same time, the threatening call works as a demonstration of power on the part of Boebert. Her hate speech was not only a way to entertain conservative audiences, it’s a mechanism for stimulating terrorist threats and possibly terrorist actions against Ilhan, other Muslims, and Democrats more generally. Because the caller is responding to Boebert’s hate speech, his call also serves as an exercise of power by Lauren Boebert herself against Ilhan Omar. With the reference to trying Omar before a “military tribunal,” the caller also put Boebert and Omar into the larger context of insurrectionary politics as well as violent anti-Muslim bigotry. Given that Lauren Boebert has been promoting insurrection ever since she disclosed Nancy Pelosi’s location on Jan. 6, that would be a another plus

Lauren Boebert is bringing the insurrection to bear on Ilhan Omar and I bet she was glad to see the threat played over the media. In this context, I don’t think it was best for Rep. Omar and the Democratic leadership to campaign for holding Boebert accountable for her hate speech. Truth and politics are both best served if Omar and other Democrats use the death threat as an opportunity to tie Boebert, McCarthy, and other Republicans to the on-going insurrection.

Peter Wade, Rolling Stone, https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-news/ilhan-omar-voicemail-death-threat-boebert-1265226/

Summer Concepcion, Talking Points Memo, https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/omar-death-threat-voicemail-boebert

Felicia Sonmez and Mariana Alfaro, Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/rep-lauren-boebert-renews-islamophobic-attack-on-rep-ilhan-omar-rebuffs-call-for-public-apology/2021/11/29/d9b56d5c-514e-11ec-8769-2f4ecdf7a2ad_story.html

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