Amid repeated chants of “Lock him up!” and “Green New Deal,” Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., issued a full-throated endorsement of Bernie Sanders at a spirited rally in Minneapolis’ Williams Arena on Sunday night, saying a “mass movement of the working class” is needed to take down President Trump and end “Western imperialism,” as she put it.
“I am excited for President Bernie Sanders!” Omar thundered at the conclusion of her remarks, as rock music blared throughout the University of Minnesota venue.
At no point did either Omar or Sanders attempt to stop attendees from shouting “Lock him up” whenever Trump was invoked. Last year, CNBC’s John Harwood had predicted that “any serious Democratic candidate will make a point of shutting down” such chants directed at the president.
Omar’s endorsement was a break from the rest of the state’s delegation of Democrats, which endorsed Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s more moderate campaign. It also constituted a youthful shot in the arm for Sanders’ left-wing presidential bid, which has remained competitive with Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren’s campaigns.
“Here in Minnesota, we don’t just welcome refugees — we sent them to Congress,” Omar said to applause. “Right now, achieving that universal dream feels more out of reach than it ever has in my lifetime.”
Then, pointedly refusing to mention President Trump’s name, Omar continued: “The current occupant of the White House likes to talk about making America great. But, every action, and virtually every word out of his mouth, is an attack on the very values and ideals that make this country a beacon of hope for me and the people around the world.”
Later on, still without mentioning the president’s name, Omar incorrectly claimed that Trump called neo-Nazis “very fine people” — a suggestion that White House officials repeatedly stressed was taken out of context. And, in a nod to the “send her back” chant that erupted at a Trump rally earlier this year, Omar remarked, “None of us are going back. We’re here to stay.”
Even as she accused Trump of “coddling” white supremacy, Omar insisted that Sanders’ proposals — such as free college and government-sponsored health care for everyone, including illegal immigrants — were not “radical.”
“These are values that have been enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for decades,” Omar claimed, referring to the United Nations document. “But, here is the cold truth: We can’t achieve any of these goals if we don’t build a movement that is representative of all of our aspirations, all of our pain, and all of our shared trauma.”
Omar also appeared to defend her decision to vote “present” on a congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide, saying it was an effort to combat using genocides selectively as a “political” football.
And Omar, who has been criticized by members of her own party for her past anti-Semitic statements, emphasized Sanders’ Jewish faith in announcing her support.
“I am proud to stand with the son of a Jewish refugee who survived genocide,” Omar said, referring to Sanders. “The acknowledgment of pain and suffering is personal for both of us. The fight for human rights is undeniable. And when we recognize injustices of the past and present, whether it is genocide against Jewish people, Armenians or Rwandans or Bosnians or Native Americans or more.”
Sanders has been endorsed by other members of the so-called progressive “squad” of Democrats, including New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib. (The only member of the “squad” not to endorse Sanders is Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley.)
“I am proud to stand with the son of a Jewish refugee who survived genocide.”
Days before the endorsements were announced, the longtime Vermont senator suffered a heart attack on Oct. 1, prompting fears that his health issues could derail his presidential ambitions.
Sanders was introduced at the arena by a spirited University of Minnesota college student who complained that fellow students “are being put” into debt. The student acknowledged that he personally was not in much debt, but very much felt the pain of those who were.
Taking the microphone, Sanders praised Omar as an “extraordinary woman who 30 years ago was in a refugee camp in Kenya.”
“Thank you, Ilhan Omar,” Sanders said, his voice cracking.
Then, he unloaded a series of superlatives, punctuated by audible boos. “It gives me no pleasure to tell all of you what you already know: that today, tragically, we have a president of the United States who is a pathological liar — who is running the most corrupt administration in history, who has obstructed justice, who has used his office for personal gain, who has threatened to withhold national security funds from an ally in order to improve his political chances.”
Before calling Trump a racist, sexist, bigoted homophobe, Sanders remarked, “This is a president who deserves to be impeached, and will be impeached.”
As the crowd erupted in a “Lock him up” chant — in a reference to the “Lock her up” chants at Trump rallies, typically directed at Hillary Clinton — Sanders stood by the microphone and didn’t try to interrupt.
But, minutes later, Sanders appeared to call for an end to divisiveness while reading from his prepared remarks.
“We are going to do exactly the opposite of what Trump is doing,” he said. “He is trying to divide us up. We are going to bring our people together… around an agenda that works for all of us, not just the one percent.”
“People say that Ilhan and I make an odd political couple. But in fact, there is really nothing odd about it at all,” Sanders continued. “Ilhan and I share a common link as the descendants of families who fled violence and poverty, and who came to this country as immigrants. But that is not just my story, or Ilhan’s story — that is the story of America.”
He also said he and Omar both were working to eliminate “all student debt in America,” and make all public colleges “tuition-free.”