Freshmen Democrats, the “Squad”, After Being Slapped Down, Are Still Fighting
Just days after tensions with the leadership of the House Democrats boiled over into a public spat, several freshmen Democrats sent a message to their leaders: We’re not backing down.
Three members of the “squad” – the cadre of liberal freshmen lawmakers who are progressive socialist, who are struggling with their party, and their paying more attention to the large block of centrist members then the few within the socialist party, and their demands for impeachment, immigration and other issues, such as the New Green Deal – defended their approach on Saturday while appearing on a panel at the yearly Netroots conference.
All three are women of color, something they are accusing Pelosi and others as the reason they are ignoring, or “disrespecting” them, a fact that supporters are also voicing whenever any criticism is thrown their way.
“We never need to ask for permission or wait for an invitation to lead,” Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota said when asked what she would say to women of color who are frustrated or hurt by comments that seek to minimize their impact or vilify them. She said later that there’s a “constant struggle oftentimes with people who have power about sharing that power.”
Omar added: “We are not really in the business of asking for the share of that power. We’re in the business of trying to grab that power and return it to the people.”
While Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Omar, along with Ayanna Pressley were part of the Netroots panel, the “squad” member with the highest profile, AOC did not attend.
“I think you have to be unapologetically you,” Tlaib said. “Sometimes that means — I know for me and a number of my sisters, we represent our districts and we focus on the things that matter in our districts and to bring them into this space. And that does sometimes — that does mean I have to vote no on detaining children at the border.”
Pelosi has cast the sniping among House Democrats as a threat to achieving common goals, one of them to defeat Trump’s bid for reelection. Ocasio-Cortez has complained about the consolidation of power in Congress and wants Democrats to be bold about their priorities.
Infighting between liberal and centrist House Democrats reached the point of open warfare with Pelosi’s dismissive words aimed at the freshmen women who are part of the “squad,” telling the New York Times that “they’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.” This remark brought criticism by these members, with AOC saying Pelosi was marginalizing women of color.
“The women of color who have entered Congress, they’re more than four votes,” said Aimee Allison, the founder of She the People and the panel’s moderator. “For millions of us, these women of color in Congress represent generations of blood, sweat and tears and struggle.”
Pressley quoted the late Rep. Shirley Chisholm’s feminist mantra in saying that rather than bringing her own chair to the proverbial table, “this is the time to shake the table, this is the time to redefine that table.” Chisholm was a pioneering African American who sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972.
“Moving forward, I’m just appealing to all of you to recognize that our destinies and our freedoms are tied. Please do not feed any scarcity mindset,” Pressley said. “Now is not the time to be territorial about oppression and trauma. Because this is a coordinated systemic attack and we are all losing.”
Asked whether she still believes Trump must be impeached, Tlaib reprised her controversial statement — minus the overt profanity — made just hours after she was sworn into office last January.
“We’re going to impeach the MF-er,” she said. “Don’t worry.”
Adding to the infighting was a tweet Friday from House Democratic Caucus criticizing AOC’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, after he tweeted criticism of Rep. Sharice Davids, who himself is a Native American, “Who is this guy, and why is he explicitly singling out a Native American woman of color?” the House Democrats’ tweet read in part.
A group of progressive organizations issued a statement Saturday saying they were concerned that senior Democratic Party leaders and their aides “have been escalating attacks on new leaders in the party who have been rightfully advocating a stronger approach to holding the Trump administration accountable to human rights abuses being committed on the border and against immigrants.”
“With ICE raids occurring this weekend, deaths of children at the border camps, and a continued blank check for the administration’s racist deportation machine, we will be focusing on the real crisis at hand and we urge Democratic leadership to do so as well,” the statement said. “Democratic leaders must fight to close the camps and hold ICE and CBP accountable.”