AOC's Squad Just Got a Whole Lot Bigger

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, and Ilhan Omar easily won their House races, and will be joined by at least three other left representatives. But major climate legalization looks unlikely if the GOP manages to keep the Senate.
November 4, 2020, 3:51pm
Squad members Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar all got easily re-elected into Congress
Squad members Ayanna Pressley, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar all got easily re-elected into Congress. File photo by Tom Williams/Getty Images 

The four women of color representatives known as the Squad easily won re-election to the House, and they’ll be joined by at least three others who share their commitment to Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and other unabashedly progressive positions. 

“The Empire struck back, but it’s time for a new era,” tweeted Jamaal Bowman, the newly elected representative from New York who was backed by the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats. “Some call it the Squad, some call it Jedi.”

Bowman will be headed to the House in January along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota. 

“Our sisterhood is resilient,” Omar tweeted following the news that all four women had won in their solidly blue districts

The Squad will also add to its membership Cori Bush, a Black Lives Matter organizer and the first Black woman elected to Congress from Missouri. “I shouldn’t be the first, but I am honored to carry this responsibility,” she tweeted. “Working-class people need representatives who look like them and who have experienced their struggles. I am that champion.”

The Squad may also welcome to its ranks Marie Newman, who won election in Illinois despite opposition from the Democratic establishment. In her victory speech, she said her priority in Congress will be to “lower healthcare costs, fight climate change, create new good-paying jobs.”  

Mondaire Jones, an openly gay Black candidate in New York who supports aggressive climate action “which would create 20 million good-paying jobs,” is also looking likely to win over the Republican candidate, retired firefighter Maureen McArdle-Schulman.

As VICE News reported last week, original Squad members have had a huge impact on the Democratic Party despite their small numbers, particularly on the climate emergency; Ocasio-Cortez co-authored Green New Deal legislation and has become a major voice for massive green stimulus directed towards disadvantaged communities. 

But there will be limits to what an enlarged Squad can achieve—especially if key Senate races end up being won by GOP candidates. 

“With a Republican majority in the Senate, major climate legislation is unlikely and a distinctive progressive imprint on it a near-impossibility,” Daniel Schlozman, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University, wrote in an email to VICE News.  

The lesson from new and future Squad members winning their races is that progressive politicians are much more powerful and electorally viable when they work with social movements such as Black Lives Matter and activists fighting for transformative climate action, argues the Justice Democrats. 

That’s the message that new members are also sending. 

“Hold me accountable,” Bowman said of all the voters and supporters who helped elect him. “Push me and my colleagues. I’m going to need you in Congress with me. There’s so much work to do.”

Follow Geoff Dembicki on Twitter.