I think “The Squad” is kind of a corny nickname but I understand that I am not necessarily the target audience for that catchy moniker. I have recently been informed that the ultra-glam pop-music mega-star Taylor Swift goes around with a group of friends who are all young, gorgeous, empowered women that she affectionately refers to as her “Squad.”
So the self-slapped-on label is a clever inside joke for Congresswomen Ayana Pressley, Rashida Talib, Ilyan Omar and Alexandria Ocassio-Cortez. It is pure tongue in cheek humor for these ultra serious and ultra prepared young legislators. But if a joke has legs like this (or like Taylor Swift’s) it is certainly because the humor springs from a seed of truth.
And the truth about “The Squad” is that they are the first ever group of mega-star members of Congress in the history of the institution. Everybody who follows politics or the news even in passing knows who they are and has passionate feelings about them. Fox News is obsessed with them and MSNBC generally adores them (except Morning Joe of course). Trump wants to make them the face of the Democratic Party and if the Democratic Party leadership had any street smarts they would go right along with that plan.
Cameras flash wherever they go while the vast majority of Freshmen Congressmen are largely anonymous even in the districts that elected them. But these legislators are fundamentally different by measure of both identity and temperament. To wit: They are all young women of color and they are entirely certain of the fact that they belong where they are. They are not begging for anything or apologizing to anybody for being there. They respect the institution they are a part of but hold no reverence for anybody just for holding an office there. They are all self-made and owe their ascent to the annals of power to no one but the voters that sent them there. They all know who they are and what they think- and they can explain their positions without priming or prompting to anybody who has the guts and guile to engage them directly. So they deserve the stardom they have because they are truly distinct from the vast majority of Congress which has been mostly male, pale and stale from inception.
But that’s the lightening that flashes across our i-phone and TV screens. The thunder that shakes the ground is that they are even heavier in substance than they are captivating in image. The greatest fear that Republicans have is that their constituents will be exposed to these young legislators anywhere other than on Fox News. And God forbid any of them should actually stand in front of their voters and hold court on issues that concern their lives like healthcare costs, the real threat of climate change, or economic justice for everyday Americans. That would be a total nightmare for Republicans.
But do not take my word for it. Flip back through your Twitter feed and find a little item out of Kentucky from mid-April. Representative Andy Barr decided to get mouthy with AOC and invited her down to a coal mine in his district to speak directly to coal miners about her Green New Deal. I suppose he thought she would be afraid to face the folks in his hardscrabble Kentucky district. Evidently he though she was an empty suit and a chicken hawk like he is and most GOP reps are. But he misjudged this young sister from the Bronx. Much to his surprise, AOC jumped on the invitation and agreed to go. Then at the urging of the senior members of his caucus, Barr rescinded the invitation. He offered some b.s. excuse for why. But AOC, ever quick on the Twitter finger, laid him down with one clean shot: “GOP is getting scared that up close, their constituents will realize I’m fighting harder for their healthcare than their own Reps.”
And for the Republicans therein lies the rub. If The Squad and a few similarly talented Democratic figures would take their case directly to the people the GOP would spend all of their time alternating between panicking, back-tracking and collapsing.
Their entire messaging platform depends on their voters and constituents never consuming information that does not come from Fox News or Rush Limbaugh. They have become a captive audience and jerk-offs like Andy Barr know that. But what Andy didn’t know was that when you achieve the type of success that the women of The Squad have you are not a person who is afraid to play tough games on the road. They are not afraid of a hostile or skeptical crowd. If they were, they would not be where they are. Each of them has a Barack-ness to them: They are entirely confident but are not obnoxious about it. They are humble because they are there to serve the people, not to serve themselves.
So because The Squad is reviled by the looney-tune right-wing for exactly the same reasons that Barack Obama was, I will close with a brief reading from one of my favorite chapters from the Book of Barack:
On January 29, 2010 Republicans held their annual retreat at a swanky downtown Baltimore hotel. They were there to discuss strategy for how to completely destroy the legacy of President Obama even before a legacy could be built. In fact, they wanted the whole world to see it so they made a big show of inviting him there for a discussion about his healthcare reform bill- the same one they had no intention of supporting. The media had been invited to the spectacle as the Republicans planned to hector the hell out of the President and erase any advantage he still had with the public. Barack Obama strode to the stage and stood at the lectern in a room packed with GOP hatchet-men for an hour and a half- and whipped their asses mercilessly in full view of the national news media. It was so bad that Fox News cut away for commentary well before the Q&A was complete. Two months later, “Obama-care” became the law of the land. It has survived every viscous attack just as the president who signed it has. Of course not a single Republican voted to support the PPACA when it hit the floor. But that show of raw strength, guts and intellect certainly steeled the nerves of any shaky Democrats who might have been looking for a way out. That face-to-face confrontation defined Barack Obama as much as the men he dominated that day.
The ladies of The Squad have the will and the skill to do likewise and for the sake of the nation I hope they do. Nancy Pelosi cannot pull that off. Steny Hoyer cannot pull that off. James Clyburn cannot pull that off. But these ladies can move crowds ANYWHERE and change the game EVERYWHERE. It is time to stop wasting energy negotiating with Republicans like Moscow Mitch McConnell when his voters may be thirsty for some truth that might actually serve their own interests rather than his. He certainly hasn’t done anything for them. It may only turn a few votes in that room but it will turn out the national vote and the folks back home in a huge way. That is the road show I am dying to see. If we’re lucky, maybe Taylor Swift can open for them.