In the span of time it would normally take a new member of Congress to figure out where their floor’s bathroom is, four freshmen House members have become the hottest political commodities in a generation.
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Ayanna Pressley — the Squad. From the covers of magazines to unprecedented solo town halls on cable television typically reserved for presidential candidates, the junior Jacobins of the Democratic caucus occupy the daily news cycle at a level that rivals one tweeter-in-chief Donald Trump.
But how long can this last?
The mythologizing of the Squad’s ascent as the ushering in of a new era in American politics doesn’t hold up to scrutiny when examined closely. Two of them, Tlaib and Omar were running for open seats, and the two that challenged incumbents, AOC and Pressley were running against fossilized, white politicians in majority-minority districts that hadn’t had a real election in almost a decade.
In reality, all four slipped under the radar due to a combination of media malpractice and their opponents’ hubris in not treating the races seriously. They won’t get away with that a second time, and all but one of them has an existentially threatening time-bomb on their political career that will be very hard to avoid.
Let’s start with the upstart challengers that weren’t, Tlaib and Omar. Rashida Tlaib has actually failed to win the very congressional seat she occupies before. After the resignation of long-time democratic congressman John Conyers over accusations of concealed sexual harassment, Michigan’s 13th congressional district, which includes portions of Detroit, the Governor of Michigan called a special election where Tlaib actually lost the democratic primary to President of the Detroit City Council, Brenda Jones 37.8 to 35.8. The winner of this election in a heavily Democratic district would serve out the remaining few months of Conyers’ term.
Here’s the catch though, on the very same night a Democratic primary election was held for the regular term, and Tlaib won by 900 votes, less than a point, with a bare plurality of 31.2% of the vote. Her support was largely from white progressives, and not the majority black population of the district who broke heavily in favor of other candidates. Challengers to Tlaib next cycle will no doubt consolidate behind one candidate and considering her tepid relationship with Democratic leadership and disconnect from Detroit machine politics, Tlaib is very likely to be a one-term-wonder.
Omar rode a wave of white progressives to victory much like Tlaib did, but in her district, they actually constitute a majority. The district was vacated by former Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison when he decided to run for Minnesota Attorney General. Omar won the Democratic primary with a large plurality, about 48%. But as allegations of immigration fraud mount, it is likely that Omar will face a choice in the coming months, risk prosecution and possible jail time, or step out of spotlight to deal with the heavy accusations she has faced, and that appear to have already dissolved her second marriage. (RELATED: Hidden Clue On Website Belonging To Ilhan Omar’s Sister Adds To Evidence About Marriage History)
Tlaib and Omar have only developed their challenger aura off the back of the queen of the progressive revolution in the democratic party, the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. AOC has her district on lockdown at this point. They love her, and no establishment candidate has a chance of unseating her, a Republican won’t get within sneezing distance either.
But what if her district ceases to exist?
While eyes have focused on states like California and Texas when it comes to the consequences of redistricting after the 2020 census, New York is poised to lose as many as two of its congressional seats. When those maps are redrawn, a decade worth of pent up favors and vengeances will be cashed in Albany as state lawmakers decide which congressman get to comfortably maintain the status quo of their districts, and which will have to fight for survival.
The premium on longtime incumbents puts AOC at a disadvantage from the get-go, but her simmering feud with the avatar of New York Democratic politics in the House, Hakeem Jeffries, and the residual bad blood of a multi-billion dollar Amazon deal that was nearly tanked by her activism will make AOC a target. Everything from being completely written out of her own district to being put in a district with a popular incumbent to even making her general election more competitive is possible. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Ocasio-Cortez Could Have An Amazon-Sized Problem In Her Home District)
Basically, come 2022, the queen of the squad may find her political revolution in the district next door.
Which leaves Pressley, who has always been a sort of odd duck within the group. When glowing magazine features are written about the squad, Pressley is the most likely to be left out of the narrative. She had a more traditional path to power than AOC, holding a Boston City Council seat before she challenged a weak incumbent in the increasingly progressive district. Pressley’s political support pulls equally from the white progressives and black Democrats that constitute the district.
Pressley has also shown a willingness to triangulate her politics in order to maintain broad support in her district. When a bill opposing the anti-Israel BDS movement came up in the House, Pressley broke with her progressive allies to vote for it, likely due to her close relationship with progressive, pro-Israel Jews in her district.
Pressley’s eyes are the prize, both of Massachusetts’ Senators may leave office in the coming years. Senator Elizabeth Warren may be the next President of the United States or a high-ranking cabinet official, and Senator Ed Markey is getting old. Both are progressive leaders, but both may not occupy those seats for much longer. This leaves an opening for Pressley, the most secure of the Squad, to build an ever-broader coalition in her home-state and win higher office as the other branches of the political movement she’s become most associated with wither away.