Ayanna Pressley Launches New Policy Pledge to Move the Needle on Progressive Goals

Illustration for article titled Ayanna Pressley Launches New Policy Pledge to Move the Needle on Progressive Goals
Photo: Jacquelyn Martin-Pool (Getty Images)

Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley has launched a policy pledge to get her colleagues as well as candidates running for office to agree to a slate of progressive goals.

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According to CNN, the pledge so far requires to elected officials and would-be lawmakers to commit to five major policy platforms: student debt cancellation, criminal justice reform, a federal jobs guarantee, ending the discriminatory treatment of girls of color in schools, and investing in public transit.

Pressley has introduced or co-introduced legislation attempting to tackle each of these issues throughout her tenure: Most recently she reintroduced a bill known as the Ending PUSHOUT Act, addressing the “racist dress code policies, hair policies [and] law enforcement” presence in schools that results in Black and girls being disciplined more harshly than their white peers and suspended more often. But most have stalled in Congress and none have passed into law.

“As the adage goes, it’s always impossible until it is done,” Pressley told CNN. “It’s my hope that this pledge is going to create momentum. That it’s going to do that at every level.”

A policy pledge isn’t the sexiest political maneuver, but I think Pressley is right that it can get results. Pressley’s pledge takes a page from the Justice Democrats, a political action committee that recruits and supports progressive candidates’ runs for office if they share a set of values. Candidates who run with the Justice Democrats—like Pressley, along with Congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar, did in 2018—must support the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, taxing the rich, and raising the federal minimum wage, for example. (The platform also includes cancelling student debt and a federal jobs guarantee, like Pressley’s newly launched pledge.)

Getting a group of people to commit to advancing policies some would still consider too pie-in-the-sky begins to make them look feasible, and puts pressure on other lawmakers to discuss them as well. It’s how Medicare for All came to be one of the central issues of the 2020 Democratic primaries, and why Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is now pressuring Joe Biden to forgive $50,000 of student loan debt.

“The fact that these policies are now again a part of our regular discourse as lawmakers is a testament to the power of organizing,” Pressley said. And since Democratic voters expanded the progressive wing of the party in the 2020 elections, she said: “It’s incumbent upon us to advance these bold transformative policies that meet the moment.”

Night blogger at Jezebel with writing at The Baffler, The Nation, The New Republic, Vice, and more.

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