On Saturday morning, Pressley, Tlaib, Omar and their fellow freshman congresswoman Deb Haaland spoke on a panel at Netroots Nation, an annual conference for progressives, which this year was held in Philadelphia and drew around 4,000 people. Aimee Allison, the founder of She the People, an organization devoted to mobilizing women of color, moderated.
“For millions of us, these women of color in Congress represent generations of blood, sweat and tears, of struggle for us to have representation,” Allison said in her introduction, to cheers from the audience. “They represent the best of American democracy, and yet if you’ve read the news, they’ve faced attacks all year from the right wing and from Democratic Party leadership.” At this, there were scattered boos and hisses.
When I spoke to Allison later, she argued that by slamming the squad, Democratic leaders were dampening the enthusiasm of the women of color who were working their hearts out organizing in swing states. “The way that Nancy Pelosi’s words have landed, it’s caused anger, frustration, hurt, and I believe it is damaging to the coalition we have to build in order to win the White House,” she said.
Of course, there are plenty of people who believe it’s the squad itself that threatens Democratic hopes. The rift over the foursome is part of a bigger battle over how to take on Trump. Some on the left think that Democrats can imitate Trump’s base-first strategy, winning by inspiring new and infrequent voters with an uncompromising message. Others, usually farther to the right, point out that there are simply fewer self-described liberals than self-described conservatives in this country, particularly in the states that, however unfairly, decide Electoral College victory. That means Democrats need to appeal to a putative center, even at the cost of marginalizing the left.
Pelosi appears to endorse the centrist approach, and when it comes to vote-counting in the House, it makes sense. Ocasio-Cortez’s district will be Democratic no matter what; victories in purple districts gave Democrats their majority. Nevertheless, it’s a mistake to act as if only moderate swing voters hold the key to defeating Trump. [Continue reading…]