From Phyllis to Ilhan

Phyllis Kahn is the den grandmother of the Minnesota left. During her long, long time in office she has proposed lowering the voting age to 12 and removing the ban on first-cousin marriage. Rep. Kahn has represented her university-area district in the state legislature for 44 years. Her tenure in office is the longest in Minnesota history.

While her career seemed to be dedicated to finding new frontiers in political mania, she actually supported the adoption of one important law other than the Clean Indoor Air Act for which she may be best known. In 1994, 22 years after her initial election to the legislature, she helped enact a law prohibiting clitoridectomy in Minnesota.

Female genital mutilation had not been much of a problem in Minnesota before the first wave of Somali immigration to Minneapolis in the early 1990’s. Addressing this particular Somali custom, Rep. Kahn found her feminism (and perhaps her support for juvenile rights) trumping her multiculturalism. I’m not sure how that priority would come out today.

This past Tuesday, Rep. Kahn lost the DFL (Democratic) nomination for the state legislature to political newcomer Ilhan Omar. Omar’s nomination all but guarantees her election to the Minnesota legislature in November; she will be the first Somali Minnesotan to serve there. The Star Tribune celebrated Omar’s win in a page-one story with a big Dewey Defeats Truman sort of headline yesterday.

Omar is a Somali Muslim. Her victory in the primary represents the notable demographic changes to Kahn’s district, which includes part of the Cedar-Riverside area now known as Little Mogadishu. Omar supports Democratic orthodoxy on gay rights and abortion and so on. “[T]here is still a great deal of work to do in the struggle for LGBT inclusion,” Omar asserts. Omar advertises herself as current vice president of the DFL Feminist Caucus.

I’m not sure how she squares all that with her Islamic faith. Maybe she does so in the same fashion that Catholic Democrats like Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi and Tim Kaine and all the rest “personally oppose” abortion while resisting its infringement and supporting its expansion. Perhaps it represents assimilation to Democratic orthodoxy; perhaps she is a member of the Keith Ellison branch of Islam. We shall see.