I was recently extremely critical of reports that Rep. Iihan Omar (D., Minn.) Donated up to $ 1 million in campaign funds to her own husband's company, one of the long-standing gaps in corruption in Washington. Omar was very controversial about her positions and statements, but this should be a matter that unites people across the political spectrum. However, her colleagues' attention was not focused on closing this gap, but rather on her recent call to dismantle the entire system of oppression in the United States from its economic to political structures. A resolution introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs (R., Ariz) would condemn Omar for "having a documented history of expressing anti-American sentiments." The resolution is a mistake that undermines both freedom of expression and democratic values. It should be withdrawn.
Omar recently said:
“We are not only fighting to tear down the suppression systems in the criminal justice system. We are struggling to dismantle the oppression systems that exist in housing, education, healthcare, employment and the air we breathe. As long as our economy and political system prioritize profit without considering who benefits, who is excluded, we will maintain this inequality, ”she said. "We cannot stop at the criminal justice system, we have to start dismantling the entire system of suppression wherever we find it."
Many commentators and colleagues immediately denounced Omar's positions. It was an example of how freedom of speech should work. Omar's speech was accepted with a counter-speech.
However, members now want formal criticism or condemnation of the entire house. It will obviously not happen to the democratically controlled house. However, the resolution itself is a concern for what it says about the right of Members to express their views on the inherent shortcomings or abuses of our system. I disagree with Omar, but I find the solution far more worrying than her hyperbolic comments.
The resolution denounced Omar "to advocate a Marxist form of government that is inconsistent with the principles set out in the United States' founding documents."
As a democratic nation, members have the right to demand extensive reforms and even to change the focus or structure of our economic and political system. Omar has become a member of Congress to legally and constitutionally seek to make such changes. To her honor, she has overcome a lot in her life to reach her position in Congress and has become a global figure of influence. I disagree with her and will reject many of her suggestions. However, we all work within a constitutional structure that allows and protects different visions for this country.
It is not enough to say that such a resolution is only an exercise in freedom of speech for other members. These members try to use the imprimatur of their house to denounce political opponents. I have long spoken out against the use of such institutional statements, including recent efforts by my own faculty to denounce Attorney General Bill Attorney as a legal entity. Individual members, like faculty members, can participate in such declarations as individuals. It is an abuse of Congress to use a resolution to denounce those with conflicting political or economic views.
It is also a practice that leads to poor legislative cultures. The House Democrats could endlessly pass resolutions condemning their opponents as racists or fascists. As these resolutions do not take concrete action, the courts are likely to consider the matter outside the scope of the judicial review or there is no apparent breach of the judicial relief. The result is a promotion of suffocating intolerance to conflicting views that we see across the country, particularly on our campus. This becomes an insatiable appetite to use our institutions to silence or marginalize those with conflicting views. The way to defend our system is not to use Congress to denounce political opponents. We have been through ugly times like Red Fear, when such sentences have been commented on and members have used their institutional powers to intimidate or force those with divergent views.
The greatest "anti-American" threat to our freedoms is the desire to refuse or cool the exercise of freedom of expression, particularly by a political leader. The debate started by Omar is the ultimate example of our core values. We cannot agree and at the same time reaffirm our right to request and seek changes in our system. The use of institutional resolutions of blame or condemnation undermines these values. Members need space like freedom of speech. In the New York Times against Sullivan, Justice William Brennan noted that "freedom of expression" requires "breathing space … to survive."
I do not doubt the genuine anger of these sponsors, but they should withdraw this resolution in the interest of the American values they cite.