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The Big Debate On The Left: Forcing Pelosi's Hand

I first saw that Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush-- two freshmen who will be recording their first votes-- may not vote for Pelosi as speaker, on Twitter. NRCC press secretary Michael McAdams was happy to retweet Amy Walter's comment about the CNN interview this morning, during which both Bush and Bowman said that they haven't decided yet.

The two strong progressives who beat slimy Pelosi allies in primaries this year, had been interviewed by Dana Bash for State of the Union. When Bash asked, at the very end, if she would vote for Pelosi, Cori said, "I am going to make sure that voices of the people of St. Louis are heard and we have what we need. And so you will find out then." Jamaal gave a similar answer: "You will find out when my vote is tallied and, again, organizing with our community to figure out what's best." He said issues like Medicare-for-All, a federal jobs guarantee and HR 40 (reparations) will be key to his decision.

As young Mr. McCauley, paraphrasing Frederick Douglass in the video up top, said, "power concedes nothing without demands." The Squad is not an official organization or caucus the way the New Dems, Blue Dogs and Progressive Caucus are. There are no dues, no election for officers, no membership list, no secret handshake. And yet, everyone knows-- and Wikipedia confirms-- that AOC (NY), Rashida Tlaib (MI), Ilhan Omar (MN) and Ayanna Pressley (MA) have been "The Squad." There has been chatter that new "members" will be Jamaal and Cori, as well as Marie Newman and Mondaire Jones. It will be very interesting to see if Jamaal and Cori have a strategy, along with others in the Squad, to force Pelosi's hand. Unlike the Tea Party or Freedom Caucus, which do not believe in government and are primarily destructive, The Congressional Progressive Caucus (including the members of The Squad), do believe in the ability of government to do good and are, therefor constructive.

Unfortunately, Eva Putzova didn't win her primary this year and won't be in Congress. I asked her about Jamaal's and Cori's appearance on CNN today and she told me that "Two years ago, Blue Dog Democrats-- among them my primary opponent Rep. O'Halleran-- had publicly vowed to withhold support for Speaker Pelosi unless she agreed to overhaul the House rules, giving the conservative faction effectively more power. She did what she was asked and received Blue Dogs' support in exchange. As the new Congress is seated, the expanded Squad should use the same leverage, forcing Speaker Pelosi to agree to our (peoples') demands, among them a floor vote on Medicare for All. This is what we expect from progressive representatives and why a new progressive organization Catch Fire has been created-- to support the courage of working progressive people to lead. Progressive policies like Medicare For All are incredibly popular and those in Congress not supporting a single-payer universal healthcare system are not only out of touch with the real world but they also are corrupt and need to be replaced. While still small in numbers in Congress, the new Squad is powerful in its influence on voters and the progressive movement. Catch Fire is joining progressive institutions that understand the urgent need for people-centered policies and early and meaningful assistance for courageous working people who made the difficult decision to step up their leadership."

And on the actual FAR Left, a little bitter fuel on the fire from Danny Haiphong of the Black Agenda Report: "In March, Bernie Sanders and 'the Squad' were calling for a $2000 monthly check to be included in the first governmental response to the pandemic. That didn’t happen. Instead, the Democratic Party majority in the House silently voted for the CARES Act. The CARES Act pumped more than four trillion dollars to the richest corporations while providing just a one-time $1200 payment to workers and the poor. So-called 'progressive Democrats' such as Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voiced opposition to the bill but did not organize against it. Ten months later, the chickens of austerity are roosting on a global pandemic that the U.S. ruling class has used to beef up its profits at the expense of the rest of us."

The theory of change that inserts the likes of Bernie Sanders and AOC as the leaders of the class struggle has failed to materialize in reality. In recent weeks, AOC and Sanders have blamed Republicans for the latest stimulus package which is half of what was formulated by Donald Trump before Biden became president-elect and excludes the singular $1200 payment to every American. They have been silent about the fact that House leader Nancy Pelosi signed off on the latest stimulus proposal coming out of Congress. When asked about the change of heart toward a bipartisan stimulus, Pelosi answered , “That's okay now because we have a new president. A president who recognizes that we need to depend on science.”
In other words, the masses will get science but no rental assistance, a vaccine but no universal healthcare, and a new president but not a new politics that will fulfill their basic needs. Sanders and his surrogates have opposed the latest Pelosi-backed bill but have only called for the inclusion of another one-time $1200 dollar payment . It is clear that the chickens of austerity are roosting on the Sanders-wing of the Democratic Party. Austerity is politically defined by the complete absence of any demands on power which disrupt the status quo and the endless downward pressure placed on the lives of the downtrodden. Sanders’ willingness to reduce his demand for a $2000 universal basic income to a $1200 one-time payment after nine months of economic crisis follows the logic of austerity to a T.
Bernie Sanders and “the Squad” have always been unprepared to challenge austerity because their struggle does not fundamentally confront the character of the U.S. state. The U.S. state is the enforcement mechanism of capitalism. Black America has historically been the most organized, vocal, and effective force in exposing the true character of the U.S. state so that the masses of people can get to the business of transforming it. The development of diverse faces in high places within the state has temporarily disarmed the Black consensus on peace and social justice. This has in turn created a huge weakness in the U.S. left as a whole. There are but a few voices calling for Bernie Sanders, AOC, and the rest of the “progressive” Democrats to move beyond demands for a $1200 one-time paycheck and even fewer challenging their silence on the nomination of Black war hawk Llyod Austin to Secretary of Defense or the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) worth $740 billion.
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