Progressive Spotlight: Alexandra Rojas.

Political Revolutions are Hard Work.

Alexandra Rojas' headshot alongside the Justice Democrats Logo Image Description: Alexandra Rojas' headshot alongside the Justice Democrats Logo

Summary: The Justice Democrats executive director and Sanders 2016 alumnus remains on the offensive. But she now finds herself also defending the progressive incumbents she helped propel from an onslaught of attacks.

The line of questioning became so routine that Sen. Bernie Sanders, campaigning for president in 2016, likely came off as a broken record to many casual observers of U.S. politics: How, the media would often inquire, would he pay for all these darn social programs to support working people?

Likely annoying to an endearingly ornery politician, the incessant scrutiny provided Sanders the opportunity to broadcast—yes, like a broken record—his desire for a political revolution that would break racial, ethnic and class barriers.

While dismissed by the corporate class as unrealistic and the media as evasive, his message had deep resonance among his followers. Raised during an era defined by the war on terror and U.S. colonial misadventures, economic collapse and subsequent Wall Street bailout, and the climate crisis, Millennials found Sanders’ radicalizing message particularly appealing. Thus, millions heeded his call.

Among the willing revolutionaries was Alexandra Rojas. Then a college student, Rojas volunteered for Sanders’ 2016 campaign and climbed the ranks. After Hillary Clinton secured the Democratic nomination (with some help from her friends at the DNC), Rojas and others decided the political revolution that served as the foundation for Sanders’ campaign was still worth fighting for.

Rojas used the experience from 2016 to springboard her into national politics, helping co-found Justice Democrats, a progressive political action committee supporting grassroots candidates capable of unseating powerful incumbents. Just one year into its audacious mission, Justice Democrats hit gold with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the bartender-turned-grassroots dynamo who unseated the third-ranking Democrat in Congress, Joseph Crowley, in 2018.

For Rojas, the candidate’s Justice Dems supports are cut from the same cloth that Sanders’ political revolution was based on: a multi-racial coalition campaigning on transformational policies that would make a tangible difference in people’s lives, such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, free public college, the cancellation of student debt, greater voting rights and much more.

Of course, Justice Dem candidates must also eschew corporate PAC dollars and instead operate campaigns funded by the very people progressive hopefuls seek to represent.

“We have a Congress that is majority male, majority white, majority wealthy, and is deeply out of touch with what our country looks like and what our country needs in terms of the solutions and struggles that everyday Americans face,” Rojas told Elle in a wide-ranging interview about her rise and Justice Dems ambitions.

“The EMILY’s Lists or the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) or the Democratic establishment, when they go to look for candidates, they usually go in and look for someone that is going to be able to afford to run for Congress, that is usually a self-funder or someone who has access to a lot of really high-dollar donors, and what we’re doing is quite the opposite,” she continued. “We’re launching basically a 50-state campaign to collect nominations from everyday people around the country to nominate people in their community to actually run for office.”

The group has had varying degrees of success, with AOC, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley perhaps the most well-known candidates to win Congressional seats with Justice Dems’ backing.

These progressives not only have become fixtures in D.C., but they’re seen as such a threat to the neoliberal order that right-wing groups are funneling money into powerful political groups, such as AIPAC, in a bid to unseat them.

So Rojas now finds herself in a position to not only help fund primary challengers to corporate Democrats but to protect the few progressive incumbents in Congress. In effect, Justice Dems continue to look for corporate-bought Democrats to defeat while simultaneously looking over their shoulder.

And it’s something Rojas herself acknowledged in a recent piece in The Nation that served as a rallying cry for the pivotal election season ahead.

“We understand that our fight is a long-term fight, and are actively working to expand and strengthen an organized congressional bloc on the left that can come together to take courageous votes, stand up for marginalized people at home and abroad, and actually have the power to dictate legislation for our party,” Rojas wrote. “Expanding our ranks to 20 or 30 members of unwavering progressives in Congress is possible if we protect the infrastructure we have already built.”

No one said political revolutions are easy.

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Rashed Mian is the managing editor of News Beat. Mian previously covered civil liberties and the Muslim American community for Long Island Press. Mian graduated with a degree in journalism from Hofstra University. Mian is interested in under-reported stories that impact disenfranchised communities as well as issues related to civil liberties.