I have written several articles on postings related to politics. A list of links have been provided at bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address different aspects on these political events.
The Squad is a group of six Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives. It was initially composed of four women elected in the 2018 United States House of Representatives elections: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. They have since been joined by Jamaal Bowman of New York and Cori Bush of Missouri following the 2020 United States House of Representatives elections. The Squad is well known for being among the most progressive and left-wing members of the United States Congress.
All are under the age of 50, have been supported by the Justice Democrats political action committee, and are on the left wing of the Democratic Party. All except Omar and Tlaib were initially elected to Congress after unseating incumbents in primary challenges. All represent safe seats with Cook Partisan Voting Index scores of at least D+20.
The Squad has been said to represent the demographic diversity of a younger political generation and the advocacy of progressive policies such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal, which have sometimes clashed with their party’s leadership. Ocasio-Cortez coined the “Squad” name in an Instagram post a week after the 2018 election. The photo, taken at a VoteRunLead event where the four founding members spoke, subsequently went viral.
The colloquial use of the word “squad” arose from East Coast hip hop culture and describes “a self-chosen group of people that you want to identify with”. Its use by Ocasio-Cortez signaled familiarity with millennial slang as a playful reference to youth social cliques. Ocasio-Cortez’s home borough of The Bronx was the origin of hip hop. Musical acts with “Squad” in their name and lyrics existed from the 1990s to the present.
The New York Times considers the Squad to be sui generis, not fitting neatly into the usual types of congressional groups: the gang (a bipartisan group focused on particular legislation) or the caucus (a pressure group based on special interests). It notes that the term, with a militaristic connotation, conveys values of self-defense, allegiance, and having “something important to protect”. The moniker has been used pejoratively by some Republicans, but the four original women use the term self-referentially to express solidarity among themselves and with supporters. For example, the Justice Democrats tweeted a quote from Pressley saying: “We are more than four people… Our squad includes any person committed to creating a more equitable and just world.”
The average age of the Squad was 38.3 years as of mid-2019, nearly two decades younger than the overall House average age of 57.6 years.
Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley defeated Joe Crowley and Mike Capuano, respectively, in primary elections. Omar won the seat previously held by Democrat Keith Ellison, who retired from the House to successfully run for Attorney General of Minnesota, and Tlaib won the seat once held by Dean of the House John Conyers, who resigned in December 2017 after nearly 53 years in Congress. At least three of the squad members provided fund-raising and volunteer assistance during the election campaigns of other members.
According to Pressley, she and Ocasio-Cortez had met before Freshman Orientation Week for the 116th United States Congress. During that event a week after Election Day, on November 12, 2018, all four members of the Squad participated in a livestreamed interview with Jodi Jacobson from Rewire. News, organized by VoteRunLead, and took a group picture. Ocasio-Cortez published the picture on Instagram, labeling it “Squad”; Pressley published the photo on her Instagram story the same day. The next day, they had already attracted negative attention in conservative media, as Laura Ingraham of Fox News called them “the four horsewomen of the apocalypse“. The four women, known for their social media savvy, regularly defend each other’s policies and remarks.
After publication, Ocasio-Cortez’s Squad photo became a viral phenomenon, and public figures began using “The Squad” to refer collectively to the four women, with prominent examples of usage coming from New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. Dowd had used the term in an interview with House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who criticized the four members of the Squad collectively, although without naming them. Another photo of the three members who served on the House Oversight Committee during Michael Cohen’s testimony also got viral attention.
On July 14, 2019, President Donald Trump tweeted that the members of the Squad should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done”. The insinuation that people of color are foreign was widely viewed as racist; three of the four are American-born and the fourth (Omar) became a naturalized citizen in her youth. On July 15, the four women responded in a press conference, saying “We are here to stay.”
On July 16, the House of Representatives condemned Trump’s remarks in H.Res. 489. Over the following days, Trump continued to attack the four congresswomen, saying at a July 17 campaign rally: “They never have anything good to say. That’s why I say, ‘Hey if you don’t like it, let ’em leave, let ’em leave.’ … I think in some cases they hate our country.” While Trump was criticizing Omar, the North Carolina crowd reacted by chanting, “Send her back, Send her back!” Trump also falsely claimed that the four congresswomen had used the term “evil Jews”; none of them have been reported to have used the term. The same day, the Republican party launched a political advertisement against the Squad, titled “Squad Goals: Anarchy” and focusing on the Squad’s role in the Abolish ICE movement.
A CBS News and YouGov poll of almost 2,100 American adults conducted from July 17 to 19 found that Republican respondents were more aware about the four Democratic congresswomen than Democratic respondents. The congresswomen have very unfavorable ratings among Republican respondents and favorable ratings among Democratic respondents. In a New York Times opinion piece the historian Barbara Ransby wrote, “The squad has tilled new ground in reanimating a fighting spirit within the Democratic Party and revived its left flank.”
In late July 2019, the Illinois Republican County Chairmen’s Association labelled the four congresswomen as the “Jihad Squad” in a Facebook post that was later deleted. Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider condemned “evoking race or religion as the basis for political disagreement”.
In August 2019, Israel blocked Omar and Tlaib from visiting the country, a reversal from the July 2019 statement from Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer that “any member of Congress” would be allowed in. A spokesman for Israeli Interior Minister Arye Deri attributed the ban to Omar and Tlaib’s support for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited that Omar and Tlaib only intended to visit the Palestinian Territories and had not scheduled a meeting with any Israeli politicians. Less than two hours before the ban, American President Donald Trump had tweeted that Israel allowing the visit would “show great weakness” when Omar and Tlaib “hate Israel & all Jewish people”. Omar responded that Netanyahu had caved to Trump’s demand and that “Trump’s Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing”. Tlaib described the blockage as “weakness”. American legislators from both the Democratic and Republican parties criticized the Israeli decision, and requested that Israel withdraw the ban. Trump applauded Israel’s decision while continuing his criticism of Omar and Tlaib; he described them as “the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel”. A day after the ban was imposed, Tlaib was granted permission to enter Israel to visit her family after she “committed to accept all the demands of Israel to respect the restrictions imposed on her in the visit” and “promised not to advance boycotts against Israel during the visit.” In response, Tlaib said that she would not visit Israel, tweeting that doing so would “stand against everything she believes in – fighting against racism, oppression, and injustice.”
‘The Squad Victory Fund’, a joint action committee, was set up by the Squad to raise money for their individual campaigns and other progressive campaigns in July 2020.
All four members once again won the Democratic nomination for their districts in 2020. Pressley was unchallenged in her primary, while Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib and Omar defeated their respective challengers, including Tlaib’s House predecessor (Brenda Jones) by large margins.
On January 3, 2021, Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman joined the Squad at the start of the 117th United States Congress. Both successfully challenged incumbent Democrats in their primaries–Lacy Clay and Eliot Engel, respectively. Bush posted a photo on Twitter of herself, Bowman, and the four original Squad members with the caption “Squad up.”
Infrastructure Bill and Build Back Better Act
On November 5, 2021, all six members of the Squad voted against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act because they believed that moderate Democrats in the House and Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema would not vote for the Build Back Better Act. Nine Democrats in the House had previously refused to vote for the Build Back Better Act until the infrastructure bill was signed, and both Manchin and Sinema had expressed opposition to key aspects of the Build Back Better Act. After resolving certain disagreements, the infrastructure bill passed in the House with the votes of every Democrat except the members of The Squad.
The four original members of the Squad had already been discussed as a group, even before the name was widely adopted. However, according to Mediaite, the news media currently uses “Squad” to refer to the group “almost exclusively”.
You Can Disagree With His Language, but Trump Is Right About ‘The Squad’ | Opinion
The last few days of the American “news cycle” have been consumed by the heated back and forth between President Donald Trump and the Marxist-leaning “Gang of Four” Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. I use quotes because we really don’t have news cycles in America anymore. We have rounds of orchestrated Trump-bashing by media and activists.
This latest “cycle” involves the president confronting the four freshman congresswomen, none of whom appear to embrace any love of the American Constitution, free markets or individual liberty. He then completely redirected the entirety of the mainstream news media by way of the following three-part tweet:
So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly…
…and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run. Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how….
….it is done. These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!
The outcry from all of the usual suspects was swift and deafening. While there is no such thing as a political seismic meter, if there were, it might well have registered among the highest readings of the Trump presidential run since it began in 2015. To borrow a word from President Barack Obama—who was responding to then–Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s actually racist comments about the then–presidential candidate’s skin tone and dialect—regardless of how “inartful” Trump’s phraseology may have been, his point was clearly made, and he was right on target as usual.
Since these women have taken office, they have effectively used their intersectional identities as shelter from very deserved criticism. Trump is not criticizing these congresswomen because they are women of color; he’s criticizing the ideas they espouse. They express the most outrageous statements of hatred against America, Israel and the president, all while raising the shield of racism against refutations of their destructive ideas.
Ocasio-Cortez is an openly declared socialist. I won’t mince words here: All those who say that they are socialists, while they may or may not be decent people and well-intentioned, are expressing an open hatred and hostility toward the United States of America.
The United States was founded and built on the ideas of Aristotle and John Locke while directly repudiating the ideas of Plato and Rousseau. The first thinkers gave birth to the Scottish and American Enlightenments, the latter to the bloody French Revolution and Karl Marx.
We are a federal republic centered on representative government, the ownership of private property, the building of a middle class and limited centralized power. To say you love America and embrace socialism is like saying you are a die-hard Yankees fan but always cheer for the Red Sox when the two face off.
Omar has repeatedly made anti-Semitic statements. While they do get reported by conservative media platforms, the mainstream media either ignores them or mitigates their severity. They cover for her. And yet, it seems the freshman congresswoman from Minnesota can barely control her open hostility against Jewish people.
Tlaib, another congresswomen who has made frequent anti-Semitic statements, has likened the State of Israel to slave-owning America. Her regular incendiary remarks get the same sort of MSM treatment as do Omar’s: downplayed, explained away and then justified, usually by some talking-head professor on cable news willing to use some pseudo-intellectualism as cover for scapegoating the Jewish people.
Just recently, Pressley referred to border security agents of color as being simply “a cog” in a machine of oppression. This statement is transparently racist and condescending, and it’s just another version of the “Uncle Tom” labeling that has been leveled against Clarence Thomas, Thomas Sowell, Dr. Ben Carson and other non-white people who do not fit ideologically into their racial bullying.
“The Squad,” as they have nicknamed themselves, is deliberately attempting to replace 250 years of successful Americanism with the utter failure of Marxism. They know exactly what they are doing, and judging by the recent Trump-bashing-cycle impact, they are taking ground.
The president followed up his initial volley on Monday, tweeting in part:
We all know that AOC and this crowd are a bunch of Communists, they hate Israel, they hate our own Country, they’re calling the guards along our Border (the Border Patrol Agents) Concentration Camp Guards, they accuse people who support Israel as doing it for the Benjamin’s,…
…they are Anti-Semitic, they are Anti-America, we don’t need to know anything about them personally, talk about their policies. I think they are American citizens who are duly elected that are running on an agenda that is disgusting, that the American people will reject…
Again, you can disagree with his language and rail against his use of Twitter, but all of his points are correct —except maybe for the last part. There are countless men and women, just like these four congresswomen, who are too committed to channeling their inner Saul Alinsky. If my experience on college campuses is any gauge, they stand a very good chance of convincing many more people that their hate is the answer.
While they are called the Squad, I think calling them the Gang of Four might be more appropriate because of the historical communist flavoring the label evokes. No matter what they are called, the president’s point is this: They certainly need to take their Marxist ideas and their collectivist ideology back to where they came from.
The most destructive imports ever to enter into the United States were socialism and communism. The battle between Trump and four congresswomen leading a party that increasingly champions these ideas, is helping to force Americans to confront the stark reality of the moment we are in as a nation. Say whatever you will about the president’s tactics, there can be no question as to his love of our country.
Likewise, there can be no question as to where the Gang of Four stands either. Their cover has been torn away, and the lines have been drawn. Heading into 2020, the choice for the future direction of America has never been clearer.
President Donald Trump accused “progressive” non-white Democrats “who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” of “viciously” telling “the people of the United States” what our government should do. Instead, he said, they could go back: “These places need your help very badly, you can’t leave fast enough.”
Many then called him a white nationalist. He’s far from it.
On Monday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilham Omar held a press conference to condemn the president. A CBS news story started out like this: “Standing side by side, the four Democratic congresswomen of color who were targeted in a racist tirade by President Trump that elicited widespread condemnation mounted a vigorous defense of their progressive agendas and tried to downplay the commander-in-chief’s controversial comments, which they said were just the latest episode of a pattern of bigoted and divisive rhetoric.” The author is Camilo Montoya-Galvez, whose Twitter bio reads “Immigrante” and features the Colombian flag. Like the congresswomen, Mr. Montoya-Galvez clearly has a racial consciousness.
President Trump hadn’t named any of these women. Only Ilham Omar was born outside the United States — though Miss Ocasio-Cortez’s parents are from Porto Rico and Miss Tlaib’s are from Palestine. All have criticized America’s history and heritage. Their joint press conference confirmed the truth of the president’s charge: They don’t consider themselves part of the historic American nation.
“The first note [sic] that I want to tell children across the country is that no matter what the President says, this country belongs to you,” said Rep. Ocasio-Cortez at the press conference. “And it belongs to everyone.”
Of course, if it belongs to “everyone,” it belongs to no one, and won’t be a country at all. What’s more, in February, Miss Ocasio-Cortez argued immigration laws should be abolished because America is “native land” and “Latino people are descendants of native people.”
Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley recently said blacks are “treated like second class citizens” — affirmative action counts for nothing. At the press conference, she said she would never use President Trump’s title; she calls him “the occupant of the White House.” Two weeks ago, she tweeted an article from Salon declaring the Declaration of Independence “sexist, racist, and prejudiced.” She argued that the “prejudices, biases, & contradictions codified by our founding fathers are still felt today.” This was “liked” by Rashida Tlaib.
Congresswoman Tlaib wore a thawb during her swearing-in to “celebrate my Palestinian roots.” “Like any immigrant parent,” she said of her mother, “she wants all of her children to succeed, but without giving up on our roots or culture.” She defends reparations, calling them a “reckoning of a crime against humanity.” She also called the president a “mother***er.”
Finally, there’s Ilhan Omar. In 2017, she argued the United States was founded via “genocide.” In April, she complained that Muslims were “second-class” citizens. She also said of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, “Some people did something.” She said to criticize her was “dangerous incitement,” and thinks presidential assistant like Stephen Miller is a “white nationalist.” “This is not going to be the country of the xenophobics [sic],” she said in May. “This is not going to be the country of white people.”
Whose country will it be? Everyone’s, of course. Congresswoman Omar says President Trump’s immigration policies are “the agenda of white nationalists” and therefore have to be stopped.
Permit a white nationalist to disagree. President Trump believes there should be border controls, but he has not delivered on his campaign promises on immigration. Furthermore, his criticism of “the squad” was ideological, not racial. “We will never be a Socialist or Communist Country,” he tweeted. “IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE, YOU CAN LEAVE!” He said Democrats encourage “hate of Israel.”
Many Beltway Right figures (including, of course, David French) are criticizing the President for his tweets. But the President and most of his conservative critics basically agree that American patriotism means certain “values,” including capitalism and love of Israel. President Trump’s initial complaint was that his foes didn’t appreciate America’s government compared to the “catastrophe” in other countries.
A nation is not its government. A nation is its people. A nation exists whether its government is free or tyrannical, good or bad. This is what Enoch Powell was trying to tell Margaret Thatcher when he said he would fight for England even under Communism. Defining a nation by ideology is building on sand, especially because the Founding Fathers wouldn’t recognize most “values” American conservatives defend today.
Chief among these values is anti-racism. All the Founding Fathers assumed America was a white country, created “for ourselves and our posterity.” Modern conservatives defend our country because it offers a good life to non-whites. So it does. They say America is more egalitarian than most other countries. So it is. Is that why we are supposed to love America? People do not lay down their lives for such bloodless stuff. They lay down their lives for their people, and it is clear that for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Alexander Hamilton, the American people were white.
Modern progressives accuse America of being racist, imperialist, and xenophobic in the past. To the extent that they mean racially conscious, expansionist, and insular, they’re right too. Conservatives who deny this look foolish, as when they claim Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican in spirit. Many non-whites will always resent early American history and traditional American symbols such as the Betsy Ross flag and the national anthem.
The solution is not to condemn the Founders, but to destroy contemporary racial dogmas. Unless we dispose of these modern “values,” we must constantly justify our national existence to non-whites and immigrants. No self-respecting people does this.
Whatever President Trump’s intellectual shortcomings, he was fundamentally right that these non-white congresswomen, especially Ilhan Omar, hate our country. If you were in a relationship with someone who said she loved you but hated your appearance, beliefs, and character, you’d leave. Rep. Omar says she and her colleagues speak from “extreme love for every single person in this country.” Really? Does that include President Trump? His supporters? Those who respect the “genocidal” Founders? White nationalists?
Consider Congolese immigrant Therese Patricia Okoumou, who scaled the Statue of Liberty on the Fourth of July to protest American immigration laws. She showed up in court with a shirt saying, “No human is illegal on stolen land.” This isn’t “love;” it’s naked hostility. It’s an open declaration that our country is illegitimate. If whites showed up in other countries demanding they change their customs, heroes, and traditions, the natives wouldn’t stand for it.
Ilhan Omar and her ilk are foreigners whatever their passports say. President Trump recognizes this in some vague way; so do many of his supporters. Yet he can’t really define the problem. He enthusiastically accuses Congresswoman Omar of being anti-Semitic, but lacks the courage to call her anti-white or say that she is not really American.
She and others don’t hate only our government or our economic system. They hate the founding population — white people. And they will replace us if they can. Our political leaders must stop the invasion. If they don’t, whites must replace them.
Democrats Are Quietly Admitting That Going ‘Woke’ Was a Very Bad Idea
This experiment has derailed. It’s not similar in any way since Republicans aren’t this crazy concerning political correctness, but there was a dominant wing of the party that simply had to be told to get to the back of the bus around 2016. The neoconservative project derailed post-Iraq War. Americans were not going to keep a GOP majority in Congress over national security fears. They were tired of endless wars. They were not patient over this nation-building nonsense. They saw the bill we paid, what we got, and we’re not pleased.
With Democrats, their ascendant ‘woke’ wing is more of an issue on the domestic front. With political correctness, speech codes, proper pronoun nonsense, and critical race theory being jammed down our throats, Democrats are quietly admitting this lurch to the Left on anything cultural is going to cost them a ton of votes. It could be potentially catastrophic for the 2022 midterms. To put it bluntly, there are some on the Left who know that if the party continues to go ‘woke’ and it’ll go broke in every sense of the word concerning political capital.
The silver lining is that there are sensible liberals that still exist and know how they come off to most voters: condescending, self-righteous, and insufferable. As a progressive, you can make yourself miserable nonstop. This is America, but don’t think for a second that makes for a popular agenda. Political correctness-induced misery is the drug of choice for normal people (via Axios):
A growing number of Democrats are ringing the alarm that their party sounds — and acts — too judgmental, too sensitive, too “woke” to large swaths of America.
Why it matters: These Democrats warn that by jamming politically correct terms or new norms down the throats of voters, they risk exacerbating the cultural wars — and inadvertently helping Trumpian candidates.
Top Democrats confide that they’re very aware of the danger. Already, we’ve seen a widespread pullback in the “defund the police” rhetoric.
Democratic strategist James Carville has been warning his party about this for months, telling Vox in an April interview:
“You ever get the sense that people in faculty lounges in fancy colleges use a different language than ordinary people? … This is not how voters talk.”
What we’re hearing: Moderate and swing-district lawmakers and aides tell Axios’ Margaret Talev and Alayna Treene that the party could suffer massive losses in next year’s midterms if Democrats run like Sen. Elizabeth Warren is president.
One former Senate aide said it’s “bye-bye majority” if Democrats run on “extreme wokeness.”
Yes, indeed. In fact, ‘defund the police’ is what spurred scores of black and Hispanic voters to vote Republican in 2020. Most voters aren’t liberal and don’t view every issue along the lines of an academic exercise like college-educated whites who have the luxury. These are some of the most ideological people in the country, whereas most nonwhite voters do not view everything through this prism. Yet, white liberals are the ones who are swelling the ranks of the Democratic Party and are starting to control more of the messaging and agenda-setting. David Shor, a liberal data scientist, has noted that white liberals want a liberal vs conservative dichotomy in elections. Bad idea since Shor knows liberals would lose—big. Also, white liberals are known to put feelings in front of facts when it comes to voter narratives. Hispanics are not all that liberal on the issue of immigration, but white liberals think so, hence their incessant push for open borders policy. Kevin Drum, a liberal blogger, noted that for years it was the hypothesis that GOP could do well with Latino voters if they just moderated a bit. Instead, Democrats got so nuts, it’s pushing them into the GOP by default. Electoral disaster could be on the horizon for the Left. I hope so.
The Democrats who want to destroy the Biden presidency
President Biden’s domestic policy legacy looks likely to be determined largely by two bills that are before Congress. The pandemic rescue package passed back in March was significant, but most of that has already expired or will do so soon. Meanwhile, a $566 billion bipartisan infrastructure bill has passed the Senate and is before the House, and more importantly, a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill is working its way through the Senate. If passed, these two bills would give Biden the most significant record of domestic accomplishment since Lyndon Johnson.
Yet a small handful of conservative Democrats (who have been dubbed the “Suicide Squad”) appear bound and determined to blow up Biden’s presidency. They threaten that if the House does not immediately pass the bipartisan bill, they will vote against the reconciliation bill — with the clear intention of radically scaling it back, if not tanking it altogether. It’s a wildly irresponsible betrayal of their own party and president.
Remember, the reason Biden, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and the rest of the party leadership have settled on a “two-track” strategy of getting both the infrastructure bill and reconciliation through the Senate before passing either through the House is the party’s tiny margin of control — just three seats in the House and none in the Senate — and distrust between the party’s left and right wings.
In particular, progressives understandably fear that if conservative Democrats get what they want in the bipartisan infrastructure bill, they will refuse to pass the best parts of the reconciliation proposal (which includes sizable health-care reforms, welfare state expansions, climate policy, and other goodies). Hence it is best to iron out all the compromises between the various factions in one big pot of legislation, and then pass it all at the same time, so as to minimize the risk of defections.
Led by Rep. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey, the Suicide Squad presented an argument for their position in a short op-ed at The Washington Post, which bears close examination. They say the reason the infrastructure bill must pass immediately is because America simply can’t wait a single moment longer to start repairs, and that it’s illegitimate to hold the bill hostage:
Across this country, far too many communities are struggling with crumbling roads and structurally unsound bridges, outrageous congestion, lead-coated pipes and no broadband access. You don’t hold up a major priority of the country, and millions of jobs, as some form of leverage. The infrastructure bill is not a political football. [The Washington Post]
The point about time is completely preposterous. State and local governments are already in decent shape in terms of funding for urgent infrastructure repairs and upgrades, thanks to the American Rescue Plan in March which allocated $350 billion to them in part for this purpose. Even if there was a dire need to spend, infrastructure notoriously takes forever to get going — you’ve got to pick projects, draw up plans, do environmental impact studies, and on and on. As Jeff Stein and Michael Laris write at the Post, just $20 billion of the $566 billion in the plan is estimated to be allocated before the end of the 2022 fiscal year, and fully three-quarters after the 2024 election. There is absolutely no reason why this can’t wait a couple more months, and even making this argument is evidence of bad faith motives.
The squalling about holding infrastructure “hostage,” meanwhile, is truly Trumpian hypocrisy. The Suicide Squad are explicitly doing exactly that in the opposite direction. They are taking reconciliation hostage as a form of leverage. They are using Biden’s most ambitious proposals — which are far more important than the bipartisan bill — as a political football.
Russell Berman at The Atlantic actually pointed this out to Gottheimer in a recent interview: “Aren’t you doing the same thing? Aren’t you holding a hostage yourself in return by holding up the budget resolution and saying you’re not going to vote for that until the infrastructure bill passes?” Gottheimer could muster nothing but inept dissembling in response. “No, not at all, because they’ve announced for months that they’re not going to bring infrastructure to the floor. For months, many of my colleagues have said they won’t vote for the infrastructure package if they don’t get what they want in the reconciliation package,” Gottheimer replied. “I’ve literally said to my colleagues, ‘Let’s vote on the infrastructure bill, and then, like, 15 minutes later we can start debate on the budget resolution and vote on it the next day.'”
So the progressives are despicable hostage-takers because they won’t vote on infrastructure before they get what they want, but Gottheimer is not because he’ll vote on reconciliation after he gets what he wants. Makes perfect sense: If they just ransom the hostage, he will no longer have a hostage.
Moreover, as Jonathan Chait points out at New York, Gottheimer and company are simultaneously complaining about the large size of the reconciliation bill while demanding large tax cuts for the rich, like a restoration of the deduction for state and local taxes, and forestalling increases in the capital gains tax. We should expect nothing less from politicians so heavily funded by oil, pharmaceutical, and private equity companies.
So it’s not hard to see what’s going on here. The Suicide Squad is using high-stakes tactics to try to extract maximum possible concessions for their big money donors. Not content with whatever they might be able to negotiate out of the unified process (which would certainly be considerable), they are taking Biden’s baby hostage to destroy progressives’ leverage, in all probability so they can kill the baby without progressives being able to retaliate.
But Gottheimer and company have scooted themselves far out on a thin political branch. They are not just confronting the party’s tiny socialist wing, but a solid majority of the entire caucus, plus the president and the party leadership in Congress. Many moderates are not on board with these kind of extreme tactics used against their own party. As Ryan Grim and Sara Sirota report at The Intercept, Gottheimer is deeply unpopular among congressional Democrats, and Pelosi seems to think she can count votes better than he can. The party’s left flank should keep staring down the Suicide Squad and force them to be team players.
What Do the Democrats Stand For? Inside a Fight Over America’s Future
They are both Democrats: Joe Biden, the 76-year-old former Vice President, and Ilhan Omar, the 36-year-old freshman Congresswoman. An old white man, with blind spots on race and gender and a penchant for bipartisanship; a young Somali-American Muslim who sees compromise as complicity. To Biden, Donald Trump is an aberration; to Omar, he is a symptom of a deeper rot. One argues for a return to normality, while the other insists: Your normal has always been my oppression.
How to fit those two visions into one party is the question tying the Democrats in knots. What policies will the party champion? Which voters will it court? How will it speak to an angry and divided nation? While intraparty tussles are perennial in politics, this one comes against a unique backdrop: an unpopular, mendacious, norm-trampling President. As Democrats grilled Robert Mueller, the former special counsel, on July 24, their sense of urgency was evident.
The one thing Democrats agree on is that Trump needs to go, but even on the question of how to oust him, they are split. Ninety-five of the party’s 235 House Representatives recently voted to begin impeachment proceedings, a measure nearly a dozen of the major Democratic presidential candidates support. The party’s leadership continues to insist that defeating the President in 2020 is the better path. Half the party seems furious at Speaker Nancy Pelosi for not attacking Trump more forcefully, while the other is petrified they’re losing the American mainstream, validating Trump’s “witch hunt” accusations with investigations into Russian election interference that most voters see as irrelevant to their daily lives.
These divisions have come into focus in recent weeks. Two parallel conflicts–the fight among congressional Democrats, and debates among the 2020 candidates–have played out along similar lines, revealing deep fissures on policy, tactics and identity. A consistent majority of voters disapprove of the President’s performance, do not want him re-elected and dislike his policies and character. Even Trump’s allies admit his re-election hopes rest on his ability to make the alternative even more distasteful.
But for an opposition party, it’s never as simple as pointing out the failures of those in power. As desperate as Democrats are to defeat Trump, voters demand an alternative vision. “You will not win an election telling everybody how bad Donald Trump is,” former Senate majority leader Harry Reid tells TIME. “They have to run on what they’re going to do.”
The Democrats’ crossroads is also America’s. As Trump leans into themes of division, with racist appeals, detention camps for migrants and an exclusionary vision of national identity, the 2020 election is shaping up as a referendum on what the country’s citizens want it to become. This is not who we are as a nation, Trump’s opponents are fond of saying. But if not, what should we be instead?
“That little girl was me.” With this five-word statement at the Democrats’ June 27 debate in Miami, Senator Kamala Harris did not just strike a blow against Biden. She showed where the party’s most sensitive sore spots lie.
Harris explained that she had been bused to her Berkeley, Calif., public school as part of an integration plan; Biden, as a Delaware Senator, had worked to stop the federal government from forcing busing on school districts that resisted integration. On the campaign trail this year, Biden had boasted about being able to work with political opponents, citing his chumminess with Senators who were racists and segregationists. “It was hurtful,” Harris said, “to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States Senators who built their reputations and career on the segregation of race in this country.”
It was a powerful appeal, drawn from the personal experience of a woman of color whose life’s course was altered by the public-policy choices made in the halls of power. What was exposed wasn’t so much a real policy difference–after the debate, Harris took essentially the same position as Biden against mandatory busing in today’s still segregated schools–but a dispute about perspective. Biden, clearly ruffled, became defensive and eventually gave up, cutting himself off midsentence: “My time is up.” Biden remains the front runner, but the line had the ring of a campaign epitaph.
Presidential primaries are always the battleground for political parties’ competing factions, and some of the debates Democrats are enmeshed in now are ones they’ve been having for decades. Swing to the left, or tack to the middle? Galvanize the base, or cultivate the center? Tear down the system, or work to improve it? These familiar questions are now shadowed by the specter of Trump and his movement. If Americans are to reject Trumpist nationalism and white identity politics, what’s their alternative?
With two dozen presidential candidates and the race only just begun, the majority of Democratic voters say they are undecided. But a top tier of five candidates has emerged as the focus of voters’ attention: Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Harris and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg. At the moment, it is Warren and Harris who appear on an upward trajectory, while the three male candidates trend downward.
Biden’s pitch to voters is moderation, electability and a callback to the halcyon days of the Obama Administration. Sanders seeks to expand the fiery leftist movement he built in 2016. Warren has staked her campaign on wonkishness and economic populism, while Harris paints herself as a crusader for justice. Buttigieg offers a combination of generational change and executive experience. To imagine each of them in the White House is to conjure five very different hypothetical presidencies come January 2021.
On Capitol Hill, the party has been spread along a similar axis of race, power, perspective and privilege. To address the humanitarian crisis on the southern border, Pelosi pushed a compromise bill this summer that sought to fund migrant detention while protecting the rights of asylum seekers. She was opposed by members of the so-called Squad–a quartet of outspoken freshman Representatives who have become champions of the party’s rising left wing: Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All women of color, all 45 or under, all adept with a Twitter zinger and prone to inflammatory statements, they seek to build a movement and shake up the party–a markedly different theory of change from Pelosi’s dogged insistence on vote counting and the art of the possible.
The inevitable squabble ensued, complete with Twitter clapbacks and accusations of racism. Naturally, Trump–not content to let Democrats tear one another apart on their own–waded into the fray. He singled out the four women, implied that their American citizenship was not equal to that of others and declared that the Squad should “go back” to the countries of their ancestors rather than criticize.
The ugly sight of a President luxuriating in “send her back” chants laid down a marker for 2020. As much as traditional Republicans might like the President to campaign on a healthy economy, a tax cut that put more money in the pocket of two-thirds of Americans and a slate of new conservative federal judges, Trump plans instead to plunge even further into fear and division. And as much as Democrats might like to talk about health care, climate change and the minimum wage, their candidate will inevitably be dragged into his sucking morass of conspiracy mongering and tribalism.
For a moment, the controversy unified the bickering House Democrats, who passed a resolution condemning Trump’s comments. But behind the scenes, Democrats’ reactions to the spectacle were a test for the electoral theories of their feuding factions. Progressives (and many Republicans) argued that Trump was only making himself more toxic to swing voters. But some in the Democratic establishment fretted that Trump’s repellent statements were a political masterstroke, elevating four fringe figures as the face of the party.
There’s a reason for these fears: the Squad represents neither the Democratic majority in the House nor the Democratic mainstream. The party’s rank and file is older, more moderate and more numerous than its online-activist faction. But it’s the latter that has driven the conversation during the first phase of the primary. Candidates have voiced support for eliminating private health insurance, decriminalizing unauthorized border crossing, and providing health care for undocumented immigrants and reparations for slavery, none of which is popular with the general electorate. “The vast majority of presidential candidates are hopping on the bandwagon being presented by these four people,” says a senior Democratic congressional aide. “It just doesn’t make logical sense.”
Democrats’ success in the 2018 midterms was powered largely by moderate candidates in reddish suburban districts, where college-educated white women, in particular, swung against Trump’s brand of politics. But liberals say playing Trump’s game is the real electoral poison. “Why not be bold and brave? People want change,” says Karine Jean-Pierre of MoveOn, a left-wing group that endorsed Sanders in 2016. “Trump is not a genius. He’s just a racist. In 2018, he doubled down on immigration and the caravan, and suburban moms said, ‘No, we don’t like seeing babies in cages, we don’t like the Twitter wars, stop it.’ He was doubling down on hate, and the Democrats were talking about who we are as a country. We have got to make this election a referendum on Donald Trump.”
Trump has other plans. “He knows something that a lot of people in his universe know: if he makes this election about a choice, that bad guy … vs. Donald Trump, that he can win,” says former Democratic Senator Heidi Heitkamp, who is now running a group aimed at making inroads among rural voters to deny Trump a second term.
Only a big, diverse party could contain pols as divergent as Biden and Omar. And so the Democrats’ challenges are also an opportunity. This nasty, brutish chapter of American politics has voters hungering for stable leadership, a unifying vision, a path out of the darkness. From the ashes of Trumpism, the Democrats have a chance to build a new American creed–if only they can figure out what it is.
This is what today’s America looks like. The squad is us
In a moving press conference in Washington, DC, the four progressive congresswomen now known the world over as “the squad” – Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashid Tlaib – proclaimed their profound support for each other after enduring blatantly racist abuse by Donald Trump. And they did more. They redoubled their commitments to improving the lives of all the people in this country.
It was a remarkable moment, an urgently needed example of what leadership – real leadership, leadership that is principled, intelligent, courageous, and resolute – looks like. I hope Nancy Pelosi was watching.
What I saw at this press conference was an inspiring tableau of today’s America, four women of color offering moral and political guidance to a nation that is being goaded by its commander-in-chief to embrace the schoolyard taunts of a wanton bigot.
Not that much prodding has ever been needed to activate racism in this country. If your skin is any darker than the peel of a honeydew melon, if your eyes have ever been compared to the shape of almonds, if your name has been called unpronounceable and changed without your consent, if you’re constantly asked “but where are you from from,” if you’ve been complimented for being different than the rest of them, if your faith elicits unsolicited political commentary, if people always seem to want to touch your hair, then chances are you’ve also been told, at many times in your life, that you should go back to where you came from.
I, for one, have been frequently told this all my life, and it happens most often now in hate mail and missives that regularly land in my inbox. In my case, the insult routinely borders on the comical. Never quite sure where they should be sending me back to, my detractors will dutifully resort to some internet research, only to discover that I was born in Switzerland. Somehow, “Go back to Switzerland!” just doesn’t carry the menace that they seem to think it has.
We can laugh at the racism of fools, but every person of color in this country will also recognize the simmering violence behind these (and similar) statements. To be told to “go back to where you came from” is to be told not only that you don’t belong, but that you have no say in what the standards of belonging should be in the first place.
To be told to “go back to where you came from” is a form of being told to shut up, an obvious attempt to silence dissent and political participation. And being told to “go back to where you came from” is to deny the history of slavery and the colonization of indigenous lands in this country, since it also assumes that we call came to this territory voluntarily.
Lurking behind the statement “go back to where you come from” is the clenched fist of a privileged but frightened group, one that is dreadfully afraid of listening to “those ignored, left out, and left behind,” as Ayanna Pressley put it on Monday. Merely listening, they believe, will weaken their traditional hold on power. All around them they see a fabled version of the old America slipping inexorably away.
But the old America that they dream of never was and never will be. All the attempts by this administration to turn back the clock of change – from adding a citizenship question to the census, to distorting the rules on asylum, to wrenching families apart with Dickensian cruelty, to barring Muslims from entering the country – will ultimately fail to produce the America they desperately desire.
On the contrary, the future belongs to a multicultural, multiracial, and multifaith America, and watching the four congresswomen of “the squad” on Monday only confirms this fact. “Our squad is big,” Pressley stated. “Our squad includes any person committed to building a more equitable and just world. And that is the work we want to get back to. Given the size of this squad and this great nation, we cannot, we will not be silenced.”
She’s right. I have seen the squad. The squad is us.
en.wikipedia.com, “The Squad (United States Congress).” By Wikipedia Editors; newsweek.com, “You Can Disagree With His Language, but Trump Is Right About ‘The Squad’ | Opinion.” By CHARLIE KIRK; amre.com, “‘The Squad’ Hates Our Country.” By Gregory Hood; townhall.com, “Democrats Are Quietly Admitting That Going ‘Woke’ Was a Very Bad Idea.” By Matt Vespa; news.yahoo.com, “The Democrats who want to destroy the Biden presidency.” By Ryan Cooper; time.com, “What Do the Democrats Stand For? Inside a Fight Over America’s Future.” By Molly Ball; theguardian.com, “This is what today’s America looks like. The squad is us.” By Moustafa Bayoumi;
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