How Republicans divide & denigrate using identity

Author’s note: Rep. Kyle Koehler was one of only five Republican officeholders in Ohio (out of a lot) to vote against the party’s obscene, nightmare gerrymandering of Congressional districts. While I don’t even know his reasons for doing so, and it doesn’t nullify objectionable statements or acts, I feel like honor demands some expression of gratitude. I left his office a message of thanks, and while I’m leaving this post online, I’m moving the whole thing “below the fold” fwiw.

Today, Ohio state Representative Kyle Koehler decided to share a nonsubstantive meme mocking US Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. The thread which followed illustrates two very important lessons.

  • Over and over in his replies, Koehler refers to the “silly ideas” of Ocasio-Cortez. Yet he argued at length without citing a single one. Even after being explicitly called out on that. The word “ideas,” here, is just a fig leaf intended to disguise an ad hominem attack as a policy critique.
  • After pointing out that his nonsubstantive swipe targets a female person of color, rather than any of the other people who share her ideas—and that this is part of a pattern from the GOP—he protests that “you’re the one bringing up race and gender.”
art by Keith Knight

The playground-level comebacks and strawman arguments which Koehler also throws around are essentially minor in relevance, beside these 2 combined tactics: Republicans go after “the other,” then claim that it’s about “ideas,” then when you point out that there is a clear pattern to who they go after and who they don’t, they say “hah, you brought up identity, gotcha!”

There is no reason to let this circular logic obscure the obvious evidence of what’s happening, and every reason to name it explicitly & condemn it. We should absolutely stand with Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, & everyone targeted by these bad-faith, divisive, derogatory tactics.

n.b. This is the same week in which, among other pieces of the same pattern, Ohio College Republicans sent an e-mail with the subject line “AOC is a Domestic Terrorist,” and Republican President Trump amped up the smear campaign targeting Rep. Ilhan Omar.

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