The Corner

Elections

Ilhan Omar’s Got a Little Competition

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D., Minn.) speaks at the scene of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Minn., June 3, 2020. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Ilhan Omar, the Democratic U.S. congresswoman from Minnesota’s fifth congressional district, has been described as a “rising star” of the progressive movement and as President Donald Trump’s “worst nightmare.” So she surely did not expect to face much opposition during her reelection campaign. Certainly not in the Democratic primary, to be held on August 11. After all, in 2018, Omar won the fifth district’s primary by a comfortable 18 points en route to an easy general-election victory, and has only boosted her name recognition since then. But making herself famous at the expense of diligent policymaking now renders Omar susceptible to attacks by her rising primary opponent: Antone Melton-Meaux.

Antone Melton-Meaux is not an easily categorizable man. He was born and raised in the American Midwest. His father earned a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star in Vietnam, and his mother grew up picking cotton. While attending Washington University in St. Louis, he was a top student, star track-and-field athlete, and a student-government representative. Later in life, Melton-Meaux became a corporate lawyer, a mediation practitioner, and a Christian pastor with a specialty in Old Testament theology. He has also participated in public service, volunteering to help support children in foster care, inmates, and special causes such as education and theater. He is also black, which may shield him from Omar’s penchant to hurl the word “racist” at things she doesn’t like.

To be sure, Melton-Meaux is a staunch leftist — he describes himself as a “progressive Democrat” and does not discernibly depart from the progressive orthodoxy. Still, his professed approach to politics, “bringing people together” and finding “common ground,” should be far less intimidating to American conservatives than Ilhan Omar’s. Indeed, Omar denounces the United States — the one country among the two-hundred odd nations of the world in which her family consciously decided to seek refuge, knowing full well its unmatched hospitality, industry, and opportunity — as deeply bigoted and prejudiced. She has also promoted herself on Twitter as “Hijabi, Muslim, Black, Foreign born, Refugee, Somali,” neglecting to add “American” or even “Minnesotan.” Another difference between Omar and Melton-Meaux is that the latter shies away from demonizing groups conspiratorially. He has condemned Omar’s notorious anti-Semitic remarks and enjoys the support of the pro-Israel and Jewish communities over the incumbent. Finally, Melton-Meaux emphasizes his hope to actually serve his constituency in good faith, rather than engaging in dramatic Twitter wars with the president. For all this, Omar’s internal polling shows that she still leads Melton-Meaux by a very large margin, as of July 17. But then again, the poll is not independent; that Omar has begun to go on the attack against her opponent shows that she actually takes the threat he poses seriously.

No matter what happens this November, it would be a sweet victory against the politics of demonization, self-righteousness, division, and bigotry if Omar were not even on the ballot in Minnesota’s fifth, having been ousted by Melton-Meaux in a primary so soon after using her position to get fame at the expense of her constituents.

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