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U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff sucker punched U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids of Kansas with an indefensible tweet saying she casts votes that “enable a racist system.”
Saikat Chakrabarti’s Twitter attack rightly has prompted a storm of criticism from other Democrats. Many stated the obvious: Even hinting that Davids is racist, or enables racism, is offensive and shockingly misguided.
Ocasio-Cortez, a fellow Democrat who is from New York, should publicly apologize for her staffer’s tweet, and Chakrabarti should consider another line of work.
The controversy began in late June, after Davids voted for a bill designed to provide emergency relief on the southern border. While the measure drew bipartisan support, several dozen liberal House Democrats thought it lacked needed additional protections for immigrant children.
One of those liberals was Ocasio-Cortez. In a tweet after the vote, her chief of staff compared the moderates who voted for the bill to “old southern Democrats of the 40s,” a clear reference to segregationists.
Did that include Davids? “I don’t believe Sharice is a racist person,” Chakrabarti tweeted in response later that evening. “But her votes are showing her to enable a racist system.”
What? Had the bill failed, $2.9 billion in additional refugee assistance would have been lost. Needed safeguards for immigrant children would have gone by the wayside. While it’s true more could have been done, it’s ridiculous to claim a vote for the bill was racist.
The perfect should never be the enemy of the good.
The bill passed 84-8 in the Senate. A majority of the House Democratic caucus supported the bill — including U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, who must bristle at the implication that he, too, enables racism. The measure passed by a 3-to-1 margin in the House. Those are hardly signs of entrenched congressional bigotry.
And who is Saikat Chakrabarti anyway? He’s a congressional staffer working for a freshman member of Congress. For a first-term staff member to question the vote of any member of the House, voting his or her conscience and district, is inappropriate.
“Why is he singling out a Native American woman of color?” asked a tweet from the House Democrats’ account. “She is a phenomenal new member who flipped a red seat blue. Keep her name out of your mouth.”
For her part, Davids, who is one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, has taken a higher road. “Representative Davids’ complete focus is on serving the people of Kansas’ 3rd District, and that is where it will remain,” spokeswoman Johanna Warshaw said in a statement. That’s the best possible approach.
Even Chakrabarti seems to have backtracked. “I’ve known Rep. Davids for a long time, consider her a friend, and encouraged her to run for Congress back in the fall of 2016. I’m glad she did,” he tweeted Friday. It’s good to hear, but it isn’t enough.
A simple “we’re sorry, and it won’t happen again” from Ocasio-Cortez is essential.
Her apology became more necessary than ever after President Donald Trump tweeted that Ocasio-Cortez and three other members should “go back” to “places from which they came.“
The clear bigotry of that statement was stunning. And no one should conflate the president’s inarguably racist statement with Chakrabarti’s groundless claim. When someone sees faux racism around every corner, the conversation gets muddied.
The people of Kansas’ 3rd Congressional District deserve as much respect as voters in Queens, or any other district. Davids’ freshman colleague, Ocasio-Cortez, should show leadership and grace by apologizing for her staffer’s statement.