A Squad divided: Ayanna Pressley endorses Elizabeth Warren, breaking with AOC and Ilhan Omar

She also broke with the fourth member of the group, Rashida Tlaib, who joined AOC and Omar by backing Bernie Sanders.

But Tlaib’s not worthy of being included in the headline. She’s the Ringo of the group.


Pressley, the George of the group, has at last embarked on her solo career. Finally she can escape the communist shadow cast by Sanders, Omar, and Ocasio-Cortez and bask in the … marginally less communist shadow cast by Elizabeth Warren.

Why would Pressley go her own way on this? There’s a practical reason and a “branding” reason, I think. In terms of branding, she’s always seemed a bit less ideologically extreme than the other three member of the Squad. I’m thinking back to that vote a few months ago when the House passed a resolution condemning the anti-Israel BDS movement. Just 17 members voted no. Omar was among them. So was Tlaib. AOC too. But not Pressley, who went her own way and voted yes on a subject which she had to know would be viewed by both sides as an ideological marker. She broke with the Squad on another big vote even before becoming a member: In 2016 she was a Hillary Clinton supporter, not a Bernie backer. If in fact she’s more centrist than the mini-caucus with which she’s most often associated in the House, you can imagine why she’d look for opportunities to make that clear. Given AOC’s mammoth media profile, it’d be all too easy for Pressley to have her own politics mistakenly characterized as synonymous in every respect with Ocasio-Cortez’s otherwise.

The practical reason is that she’s from Massachusetts. Like a thousand other successful and ambitious young Democratic pols in that state, she doubtless has her eyes on impending vacancies in statewide offices. As chance would have it, there’s a person who occupies a statewide office in Massachusetts who’s running for president this year. If that person were to win, her Senate seat would become vacant and a slew of those successful and ambitious young Democratic pols will rush forward into the primary to do battle, possibly including the formidable Joe Kennedy (if he loses his primary challenge to Ed Markey). The endorsement of President-elect Warren might be decisive in who emerges from the race.


Conveniently for Pressley, she has something right now that candidate Warren needs, the progressive cred that comes with being a member of the Squad. They’re the leftist vanguard in the House and the exemplars of a new generation of Democratic politicians — young, female, minorities, left-wing. Until today the Squad had been unanimous in signaling that Bernie Sanders is the choice of next-gen progressives. And now here comes Pressley to say no, there’s room for disagreement. Being a leftist in good standing does not, in fact, depend on being a Berniebro — that’s the takeaway from her endorsement. The fact that she’s a prominent black member of Congress, not just a Squad member, is icing on the cake since Warren’s obviously looking for ways to cut into Biden’s support among black Democrats. She’s made inroads over the past few months but he’s still secure in South Carolina. Pressley’s endorsement and potential presence on the trail as a Warren surrogate might change that.

All of that is worth something to Warren, so now she owes Pressley a favor. And we can guess what that favor will be if there’s a special election coming in Massachusetts after November 2020.

Elsewhere in today’s Democratic primary news, I wonder who this surprisingly punchy Joe Biden campaign blog post is aimed at:

The other day I was accused by one of my opponents of running in the wrong primary. Pretty amazing. On one level, it is kind of funny…

But at another level these kinds of attacks are a serious problem. They reflect an angry unyielding viewpoint that has crept into our politics. If someone doesn’t agree with you — it’s not just that you disagree — that person must be a coward or corrupt or a small thinker.

Some call it the “my way or the highway” approach to politics. But it’s worse than that. It’s condescending to the millions of Democrats who have a different view.

It’s representative of an elitism that working and middle class people do not share: “We know best; you know nothing”. “If you were only as smart as I am you would agree with me.”


That’s an interesting, even Trumpy line of attack by Grandpa Joe on Warren’s farcical Medicare for All plan. He probably figures, with reason, that it’s pointless or even counterproductive in a Democratic contest to accuse the opposition of wanting to spend too much money on pie-in-the-sky social programs. There’s simply no way to spend “too much”; if your price tag is unrealistic, it only proves that you care. The numbers can be straightened out later. Instead Biden’s trying to counter the health-care populism of Sanders and Warren by encouraging his fans to view them as barely concealed elitists in disguise, which is fair enough in her case. There’s no other explanation for Warren handwaving away a multitrillion-dollar gap in her plan to fund Medicare for All apart from her thinking that voters are stupid and should simply trust her to make the books balance — all without taxing the middle class somehow.

Will a pitch like that work in a Democratic primary, though? It can work for Trump against Warren because there are a million right-wing cultural grievances that would support tagging her and her party with the “elitist” label. Biden’s center-left cohort isn’t as susceptible. They may find some progressive cultural quirks excessive, like the modern attention to pronouns, but if Warren’s promising them a golden age of government health care with not a dime of extra financial burden for the middle class then “elitist” may be a hard sell. I mean, this is what the Democratic Party exists for, no? She’s gonna steal from the rich and give to the poor (and middle-class). If, in order to make that happen, Democratic voters need to accept the conceit that she’s smarter than them in squaring the numbers, they might not hold it against her.


Besides, Warren’s pitch on M4A isn’t really “you’re not smart enough to understand my magic math.” That’s the *subtext*, but her stated critique of Biden is that he’s had a failure of nerve, not a failure of intellect. Her health-care pitch is the same as Beto’s gun-confiscation pitch: It’s our lack of will, not any insuperable logistical problem, that keeps us from realizing our fondest policy dreams. It’s pure horsesh*t but an effective retail argument. I’m not sure Biden’s counter that she’s being elitist is going to convince people that continuing to wimp out is the way to go.

Anyway, he’s not going to be the nominee. I leave you with this new data out of Iowa from Quinnipiac:

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Jazz Shaw 10:00 PM | June 12, 2024