As the original members of the Squad often remind, “the Squad is big”—and lucky for us it just got bigger.
On Sunday, Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush and New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman were sworn into the 117th Congress and welcomed into the young, progressive bloc of the party. Both unseated longtime incumbents during their primaries, in upsets much like the one Ocasio-Cortez pulled off more than two years ago: Bush defeated 10-term centrist incumbent William Lacy Clay; and Bowman, the 16-term incumbent Elliot Engel, another moderate Democrat.
Pundits (and the pathetic Governor of New York) rushed to label the progressive victories from the 2018 midterms a “fluke” after some uneven showings from leftist candidates in red states who made their own insurgent bids for Congress. But Bush and Bowman proved that their predecessors’ wins were not accidents, but rather the result of tireless grassroots organizing and the shifting of political winds toward the bold policies they support.
With two more members, the Squad now has more leverage to realize those policies, which include a federal $15 minimum wage, student loan forgiveness, defunding the police, and expanded protections for undocumented immigrants—some of which they have demanded of President-elect Joe Biden. The movements that elected them to office have only grown larger and gotten more organized, too.
But because its leaders lack political savvy, the Democratic Party will continue to think of its progressive members as a thorn in its side. Following the results of the 2020 election, centrist Democrats blamed their progressive colleagues for their losses and narrow wins, and continued to insist that the transformative change they called for were too “unrealistic” and “unpopular” to ever win the approval of the American electorate. (When in fact they are very popular, and would be realistic if more conservative Democrats cared to make them so.)
And the wretched Republicans who love to excoriate them will likely only grow more vociferous, especially with a handful of them having formed their own “Squad” known as the “Force.” The group of four new Republican members said they formed the alliance to “push back on anyone who tries to bring a socialist agenda to America,” one incoming congresswoman recently told Politico.
It remains the case that the Squad can neither be suppressed nor imitated. The Democratic Party’s cynicism is no match for the progressive members’ optimism, and will to realize their vision, and neither is the Republican Party’s utter moral bankruptcy.