In 2018, a “blue wave” hit congress that allowed the democratic party to take back the House of Representatives with a string of new face rising-star politicians. The four fresh-faced politicians that received more visibility because their perceived progressive politics automatically received push-back from the party’s gatekeepers were Rashida Talib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar, and Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez. These four women of colonized backgrounds ultimately became known as “The Squad” and proceeded to ride that wave of support to inevitably make no waves within the party. Not only does The Squad pose no legitimate threat within the neoliberal party, but they expose the fallacy in the belief that the party can be changed.
Before we can understand the contradictions that exist within members of the Squad, we need to understand their controlled opposition, Nancy Pelosi.
Nancy Pelosi is a careerist neoliberal politician. Having served in congress since 1987 and now four consecutive terms as House Speaker, Pelosi has continuously favored imperialist policies. Cementing her ideological position in a townhall in 2017, Pelosi informed the crowd that the Democratic Party was a capitalist party “through and through.” As it stands, Pelosi has fought for the militarization of immigration policies, recognized illegitimate leaders through attempted coups, continuously fattened the Department of Defense budget, favored austerity policies under the guise of increasing the income of a non-existent middle-class, rejected any consideration for progressive ideas, and has been adamant in her rejection of Medicare For All.
However, Pelosi should not be individualized but should represent the right-wing ideological politics of the democratic party. Politicians masking as “progressives” should be viewed with more scrutiny. Admitted admirers of Pelosi, each member of The Squad, while standing some ground, has ultimately bent, buckled and folded to the whims of the Democratic party’s ideological line. The Squad, who are branding themselves online as so-called insurgent forces of the democratic party, have done nothing more than sheep-dogs for Pelosi and the like.
While Rashida Talib works closely with grassroots progressive organizations in Detroit to address policing and surveillance programs, her wholesale alignment with the party stands in direct opposition to the work she is attempting. No contradiction is more evident than her stated dedication to her people, the Palestinian people, while serving as a member of a party that is extremely hostile towards the question of Palestinian sovereignty. Members of congress understand clearly (or are made to understand) that the settler-colonial state of Israel is a bipartisan alliance. Talib was recently demonized for retweeting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and immediately removed it. Talib expressing solidarity with her mother country was labeled anti-Semitic. And while that has not deterred her work with organizations like Jewish Voices For Peace in highlighting the effects of Zionism in colonized Palestine, Talib serves as no actual threat in that party in forcing the issue of Palestinian sovereignty. Talib plays ball.
Ayanna Pressley, like Talib, is one of the less controversial of The Squad, but that does not mean that her particular brand of politics doesn’t deserve scrutiny. Pressley has quietly ridden the social justice wave, allowing her to focus on more pressing issues like the decriminalization of sex work, alongside the BYP100 DC chapter, introducing The People’s Justice Guarantee. In 2018, Dorchester op-ed noted, “She represents the promise of change, but she is also a seasoned and pragmatic political operator who not only knows how to use her bully pulpit, but who also can play an inside game.” Pressley is often referred to as the more politically talented of The Squad, ultimately holds a position to maintain the status quo through the optics of reform. While setting a lane for herself under social justice, Pressley is also backing the criminalization of Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions. Also, Pressley’s campaign donors, New Boston Ventures, partnered with Boston Planning and Development Agency in 2019 to tear down Tubman House for affordable housing. Despite the year’s long fight, ultimately, the Tubman House has been demolished.
Ilhan Omar gained mass support following her 2018 win because of her flippant honesty addressing US interventions and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) stronghold. Her honesty landed her on the receiving end of abuse from careerists Democrats who hitched themselves onto calling for interventions and an unshakable and strategic alliance with Israel. After two years, however, Omar’s once refreshing politics that veered further left of The Squad only seemed to match up rhetorically as she eventually fell in-line with the party. The first Somalian congresswoman has even found herself supporting AFRICOM. Tunde Osazua has reported for the Black Agenda Report that the Minnesota Representative sent a letter to AFRICOM General Stephen Townsend. In the article, Osazua asserts that Omar’s letter legitimized the “dehumanizing European concept of collateral damage” by commending AFRICOM for what she called a “step to provide increased transparency and public accounting of U.S. military operations and as part of our national commitment to minimizing civilian casualties.” Omar’s blindspot on domestic issues, and her Margaret Thatcher influence, came to light when she showed the extent of her progressive powers by falling with the party line in convincing citizens that $600 was sufficient after not having received a stimulus since June.
Alexandria Oscario-Cortez, the more visible member of The Squad, is the embodiment of grifting. Having garnered support piggy-backing the newfound left wave that pushed Sanders, Oscario-Cortez rose to fame, challenging Pelosi’s friend, Joseph Crawley, for New York’s 14th congressional district seat. Running a campaign that loudly called out to “Abolish I.C.E” and “Free Palestine,” over two years later, she is a far distance from both. To date, Oscario-Cortez has advocated reinstating the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) as a solvent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.), co-opted and bastardized the Green New Deal, supported the coups in Venezuela and Bolivia, disparaged political education as classist, and much more. Despite all of the examples mentioned above on the issue she poses as a self-described socialist, the most critical is that although she is very passionately and vocally in opposition to Pelosi online, her voting record does not say the same.
Although The Squad is most known for their “tough-talk,” they all fall in line. Assata Shakur once said that “liberal is the most useless term in the dictionary“— and so they’ve all become “progressives.” Yet and still, progressive democrats are beholden to the neoliberal ideology of the democratic party, which should be understood as a right-wing ideology. The term “progressive” only serves to get the masses to comfortably accept no real material change but instead reforms that keep systematic oppression in this country going.
This farce was made most evident with the #ForceTheVote campaign platformed by comedian Jimmy Dore. Dore’s opportunism created the perfect opportunity for progressive democrats, specifically The Squad, to be exposed. When having the numbers to pose a real challenge to Pelosi by threatening to withhold their votes for her speakership, they all chose to lash out at Dore and those getting behind the campaign. Constituents were told that’s just not how it works. Osario-Cortex explained that as a committee member, she would have more power to influence Medicare For All.
The Squad unanimously voted for Pelosi, who once trashed them saying, “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.” On Tuesday, it was announced Pelosi placed Oscario-Cortez, Talib and newcomer Cori Bush on the Oversight and Reform Committee as she moves forward with the Biden Administratrations’ plans for austerity, intending to use the republican party as cover.
Every day the masses of colonized people are walked into narratives they are uncritical of—- like the false dichotomy of democrat/good vs republican/bad. The polarization of Mitch McConnell’s particular ‘good ole boys’ brand of right-wing politics will now serve as cover for the democratic party’s ineptness since Donald Trump is on his way out. It is a strategic mistake for the colonized masses to single McConnell out, like they have with Trump, the sole bad-guy when last year’s response to COVID-19 served as a prime example of the bipartisan failures of two parties under one ruling-class system.
One should not be fooled into believing democrats securing a majority in congress will be a good thing for colonized communities in America. Nor should the unhealthy obsession with democrats AS changemakers be allowed to continue uncontested. As the days of the new year bring us closer to the inauguration of Joe Biden, heightening the contradictions and the limitations of the democratic party is essential. Those on the left must comprehend the role of the Democratic Party as a deterrent to anything progressive, let alone liberating.
The masses of our people are invested in the Democratic Party. If those on the left can understand that, then they should know why it is essential to highlight the contradictions that exist within the democratic party consistently—- especially when people insist socialism can be voted on and not built.
Advance The Struggle.