‘This is an army of socialists’: To retake House, GOP is hammering one message

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, speaks at the St. Regis Hotel on July 18, 2019 in Washington, DC.

The timing of the Monitor Breakfast with Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Minn. – chairman of the House Republican campaign committee – Thursday could not have been better. 

The night before, at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina, President Donald Trump had reprised his attacks on four freshman Democratic congresswomen of color, known as “the squad.” When he got to Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, who was born in Somalia and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, the crowd began to chant: “Send her back!” 

Congressman Emmer took issue with that language. 

Why We Wrote This

At the Monitor Breakfast, House Republican campaign chair Tom Emmer said there’s “no place” for language like the “Send her back!” chant aimed at Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar at Wednesday’s Trump rally.

“There’s no place for that kind of talk,” said Mr. Emmer, whose committee is tasked with trying to regain GOP control of the House. After a “blue wave” last November, Republicans need a net gain of at least 19 seats to achieve that goal. 

When asked if the “send her back” chant was racist, he demurred. “I didn’t think that was acceptable,” he said. 

Still, 16 months before the 2020 elections, pungent rhetoric is already a hallmark of the House Republican effort to retake the majority. Mr. Emmer says “the squad” is a misnomer. These four Democratic lawmakers – New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley – are “the Red Army,” he says. 

“This is an army of socialists,” says Mr. Emmer, whose committee is formally known as the National Republican Congressional Committee. “You have well over 100 hundred members who are signed on to socialized health care. You have well over 70 members that are signed on to the Green New Deal. And the list goes on and on.”

The C-SPAN video of the Monitor Breakfast with Mr. Emmer can be viewed here. Following are more highlights from the Monitor Breakfast.

On rhetoric from President Trump – starting with his Sunday tweets – that has been called racist: 

I think that’s manufactured. There’s not a racist bone in this president’s body.

What he was trying to say, he said wrong. What he was trying to say is, that if you don’t appreciate this country, you don’t have to be here. That goes for every one of us. It has nothing to do with your race, your gender, your family history. It has to do with respecting and loving the country that is giving you the opportunities that you have. 

On female Republican House membership declining from 23 to 13 in the 2018 midterms, versus the 89 Democratic women currently in the House: 

I don’t accept the narrative. First, nobody seems to want to write about the fact that there were a record number of women running as Republicans in the last election for the U.S. House of Representatives. There were a hundred women.

The real story from the last election is that [Democratic House leader] Nancy Pelosi and the DCCC [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] and a guy named [Michael] Bloomberg dropped millions of dollars specifically on our female candidates, whether they were incumbents or they were first-time candidates. 

On getting more GOP women to run for Congress: 

This rabid, radical, socialist agenda is doing it for us. They don’t want this for their kids and for the future of this country.

Since the beginning of the year, the NRCC has interviewed close to 450 candidates. Of those candidates that have come through our doors or that we have reached out to because somebody said, “This is a good candidate,” 187 of them I believe as of this week were women. 

On how he defines “socialism”:

Venezuela. It is a complete government takeover. Literally, it’s theft. Socialism is theft.  You name your issue. It’s restriction of free speech. It’s restriction of your right to choose your own health care options. It’s restriction of your education options. Take your pick. Socialism is, the government is going to make those decisions, not you. 

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