Progressive Spotlight: The Squad.

Official House portraits of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Greg Casar, and Summer Lee Image Description: Official House portraits of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman, Cori Bush, Greg Casar, and Summer Lee

Summary: The Squad is used to constant attacks from Democrats, Republicans, the media, and moneyed interests. This election cycle could be its biggest test yet.

Anyone who has listened to this podcast, read its newsletter, or is remotely familiar with anything UNFTR-related understands how we feel about The Squad.

Of course, this diverse collection of progressives needs little introduction, and we’re not breaking any ground by highlighting their progressive bonafides.

Consisting of a few Congressional lawmakers elected between 2018 and 2023 (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Summer Lee and Greg Casar), The Squad serves as a useful benchmark for understanding irrational Boomer frustrations and establishment irritability, and, more seriously, assessing the temperature of the left.

Unfortunately, The Squad, and the progressive movement by extension, is on such a tenuous footing that, well, we’re in a lot of trouble.

The warning signs are blaring all around us as we head into yet another hugely consequential election year.

We should say the eight-member group, and a few Squad-adjacent folks, are no strangers to indiscriminate attacks from all sides, be it Republicans, Democrats, the derelict corporate media, and the organizations that bribe our elected officials every day.

The first signs of an internal power struggle came three years ago, when the Democratic establishment, smarting from humiliating primary losses, most notably AOC’s seismic victory over Congressional Dem big-wig and Queens-Rep-In-Name-Only Joseph Crowley, sought to dismantle progressive operations. The party’s House campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), blacklisted progressive-allied consultants and political organizations. Among those prohibited from working with the DCCC was Justice Democrats, the emerging campaign apparatus fueling progressive efforts, which has since fallen on tough times.

The ban effectively served as an act of war against the left. It alienated a significant portion of the Democratic base—something the party establishment strangely sees as beneficial. Partly because such defamatory behavior pacifies its donor base. Money is speech, after all.

The blacklist officially lasted about two years, but that hasn’t stopped the scorched earth anti-left campaign. Moneyed interests have mobilized to crush anti-establishment candidates. Most notable is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which reportedly plans to commit $100 million to take out The Squad this election cycle.

As Alexander Sammon reported in Slate: “In the 2022 midterms, the Israel lobby became the largest single-issue outside spender in Democratic primaries, pouring in nearly $30 million via the super PAC the United Democracy Project [created by AIPAC], and millions more via the Democratic Majority for Israel PAC (DMFI). It was an astronomical amount of money, mostly directed at knocking progressives out of the primaries, largely in open and redrawn seats. Despite there being fewer vacancies in 2024, that money figure is expected to at least triple.”

These groups have already spent lavishly on ad buys targeting Bowman, Lee, and Tlaib, Sammon reported. Lee’s first run-in with AIPAC came during her 2022 campaign, when its offshoot, United Democracy Project, reportedly spent more than $2.3 million on her race.

Before that, progressive legend Nina Turner faced an onslaught of attack ads from DMFI, which spent more than $2 million to ensure her defeat to Shontel Brown.

But such spending is a drop in the bucket compared to what's coming. And with The Squad under constant assault, which has only intensified with Israel’s brutal war in Gaza, the possibility exists that the already small coalition will lose key members—and with them, the progressive cause on Capitol Hill.

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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.