What scares the establishment is not that a single Black or Latinx or Arab-American or indigenous woman is allowed “inside” the corridors of power, but that she gives voice to the communities that elected her.
By Barbara Ransby
In These Times (2/27/19)
The elections of Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) were victories for social movements, and two progressive “outsiders” are now on the inside. But what can the Left expect from these insurgent Democrats? The lives of Shirley Chisholm and Ella Jo Baker, two 20th century political figures who challenged the establishment of their day while maintaining strong movement ties, offer us insight.
When outsiders are allowed into the inner sanctums of power, the first condition is that they assimilate. Shirley Chisholm, a tough-talking former school teacher from Brooklyn with Caribbean roots who became the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968, recalled how her colleagues, believing she didn’t “understand politics,” tried to “educate” her about Washington’s horse-trading ways.
Transformational leadership is a two-way street: We on the Left will have to buoy the new progressive insiders as they buck the status quo, reminding them that we are their people, and they are ours.
Democrats have already tried to instruct Ocasio-Cortez on how to behave. “She doesn’t understand how the place works yet,” Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) told the press. When Ocasio-Cortez lobbied for a place on the House Ways and Means Committee, an anonymous “senior House lawmaker” told Politico, “It totally pissed off everyone. … You don’t get picked for committees by who your grassroots [supporters] are.”
Insider status is a privilege. New members of the club are expected to play by the rules. As James Baldwin observed, that is “the price of the ticket.”
The people? Are you kidding?
The second condition for outsiders is that, once admitted, they distance themselves from the movements that got them elected. “When I first came to Washington, I would sometimes confide to other members how I wanted to help the people of my community,” Chisholm writes in her memoir, Unbought and Unbossed. “It became embarrassing. I was talking a foreign language to some of my colleagues when I said ‘community’ and ‘people.’ ”
What scares the establishment is not that a single Black or Latinx or Arab-American or indigenous woman is allowed “inside” the corridors of power, but that she gives voice to the communities that elected her. …
Ocasio-Cortez Slams Fellow Dems Who Backed ‘Gotcha Amendment’ In Gun Bill
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Saturday rebuked what she termed a “splinter group” of fellow House Democrats for voting to tack on a divisive amendment to a historic gun control bill that passed the Democratic-controlled House last week.
The bill, described as the most significant piece of U.S. gun control legislation in over two decades, would require background checks on all gun sales in the U.S. It cleared the House on a 240-190 vote on Wednesday — but the road to its approval was not without bumps.
One such hurdle was a controversial amendment to the bill, introduced at the last minute by Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), that would require the FBI to alert Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when undocumented immigrants attempt to purchase a gun. Twenty-six Democrats supported the provision, which was added to the bill. Twenty-two of those Democrats represent districts held by Republicans before the 2018 elections, ThinkProgress noted.
Ocasio-Cortez backed the final bill, but the freshman lawmaker from New York said on Twitter she was “upset” at the “splinter group of Dems” who’d voted to include the ICE provision, which she referred to as a “gotcha amendment.”