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Pelosi Versus The Squad: Which Way is the Democratic Party Going?

(Photos: Nancy Pelosi by Gage Skidmore, AOC by NRKBeta, Rashida Tlaib by U.S. Congress, Ayanna Pressley by ElizabethForMA, Ilhan Omar by Lorie Shaull)
(Photos: Nancy Pelosi by Gage Skidmore, AOC by NRKBeta, Rashida Tlaib by U.S. Congress, Ayanna Pressley by ElizabethForMA, Ilhan Omar by Lorie Shaull)

“They’re missing the fact that we have a very thin margin of a majority that we’re operating under and apparently it doesn’t matter to Justice Democrats, they just want to get skins.”

The gulf between the establishment wing of the Democratic party represented by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the “Squad” of progressive freshman lawmakers including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley appeared to widen over the week, as the insurgent quartet’s dissent over a watered-down border funding bill expanded into deeper criticisms of the House leadership’s passivity in the face of an emboldened President Trump.

After the Squad rejected a $4.6 billion bill funding border security that contained none of the oversight requirements originally negotiated, including basic sanitation and medical standards for migrant children, the four freshmen took a trip to the border to draw attention to the brewing humanitarian crisis.

During a New York Times interview last week, Pelosi downplayed criticisms of the border funding bill and dismissed the authority of the four progressives: “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.”

The group and their staunch Twitter followings proceeded to vent on the platform. Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti, sent out a controversial tweet comparing centrist Democrats to “new Southern Democrats” that “certainly seem hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s,” prompting backlash from Pelosi and members of her caucus.

The speaker scolded the group in a private meeting: “You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just okay.”

Ocasio-Cortez then expressed her frustration to the Washington Post: “The persistent singling out … it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”

Missouri Democrat Rep. Lacy Clay then criticized Ocasio-Cortez for using the “race card,” and called Chakrabarti and the Justice Democrats, a progressive group endorsing a primary challenge to the centrist lawmaker, “juvenile” and “ignorant.”

“It shows you how ignorant and little history [Chakrabarti] knows, how ignorant he is to American history. How dare he,” said Clay. “They’re missing the fact that we have a very thin margin of a majority that we’re operating under and apparently it doesn’t matter to Justice Democrats, they just want to get skins. They want to score points for whatever reason.”

The argument that Trump benefitted from the Democrats’ recent spat is supported by Fox News‘ enthusiastic coverage, including a segment where Sean Hannity and Sen. Linsey Graham spoke of the dispute as evidence of eroding resistance to Trump’s agenda.

“But if you’re one of these 31 Democrats, Sean, you’ve got to pick between the energy of the Fab Four and the practicality of Nancy Pelosi. You’re in a no-win situation,” Graham said.

“Why am I thinking that if I’m Donald Trump, I’m a happy guy tonight?” Hannity asked Graham.

Alternatively, the Atlantic’s David A. Graham contends that media spin on the feud was overblown, pointing to the Squad only having broken with Pelosi on two votes so far, according to ProPublica’s tracker. Graham also notes that AOC and centrist Democrat Rep. Josh Gottheimer have only split on 13 percent of votes, and Ilhan Omar has only broken with Rep. Max Rose on 7 percent.

While the significance of this episode is yet to be understood, it is likely the progressive freshmen will continue to clash against the Speaker on issues like climate change, impeachment, and confronting the president on immigration.

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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1 Comment

  1. Larry Stout July 13, 2019

    Apparently “multiculturalism” doesn’t work even within the bounds of a political party.

    Reply

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