The unexpected revival was marked by black candidates in New York, Virginia, and Kentucky, who lead their contests or run remarkably close on challenges that they were expected to lose evenly from the start.
“The future of the Democratic Party is much more like (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) and Jamaal than Joe Biden. The constituencies that are now leading the grassroots movements will only be more essential to the future of the Democratic Party,” said the communications director. Justice Democrats Waleed Shahid. a declaration. “The Squad is here to stay, and it is growing.”
Massachusetts Representative Ayanna Pressley, one of the founding members of “The Squad,” sees the progress made by black progressives as a sign that the Black Lives Matter movement, which has grown in popularity in the past month, is starting to expand its power.
“What (their success) means is that we are moving in the right direction. What it means is that when people offer the battle cry and use the hashtag and like and retweet ‘Black Lives Matter,’ they understand that leadership Black matters, that black representation is important, “she said, noting that, despite all the liberal leanings of her home state, she is the first, and only, black woman to represent her in Congress.
But Pressley also warned against simplistic readings of the recent elections, citing “broad, deep, diverse, multi-generational and multi-racial movements” lined up behind insurgent leaders. The events of the past month, he told CNN, were “encouraging,” but they should be viewed in a sobering historical context.
“The Birmingham movement was 37 days. The Freedom Rides were seven months. The sit-ins in Greensboro were six months and the boycott of the Montgomery buses was 382 days,” Pressley said. “So we are just getting started.”
Fighting for a new normal
At a time that mixed intense pain with outbreaks of optimism about race relations in the United States, those messages and their ability to convey them took on additional weight.
“You don’t need to translate to Jamaal Bowman what people are talking about when they talk about inexplicable police surveillance, when they talk about police brutality. You don’t need to translate for Mondaire Jones when you talk about housing segregation, educational segregation and underfunded public housing,” he said. Sochie Nnaemeka, State Director of the New York Working Families Party. “There is no need to translate Charles Booker when talking about the real needs of black workers in rural communities.”
Like Booker, who is tied up in a nearby Kentucky Senate primary with the establishment’s favorite giant and fundraiser, Amy McGrath, a former White Marine Corps fighter pilot, and Cameron Webb, a 37-year-old black medic. years competing for the position in the House of Representatives. Jones and Bowman, Virginia’s fifth congressional district, began to receive more national attention as protests against racism spread across the country in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
Kendra Brooks, a single black mother and member of the Working Families Party elected to the Philadelphia City Council last year, told CNN that the increased attention to racism and police brutality, along with the disproportionate impact of the pandemic of coronavirus in communities of color has increased the appetite of voters. for a more representative government at all levels.
“People are realizing that the authenticity we bring to these fights is very different because we come from lived experience,” said Brooks. “It’s not a thought, it’s not a theory, it’s our real-life experience. And at the end of the day, we’ll still be in the middle of that fight. We can’t get it going again. I can.” Take off your brown skin and be another thing. That is what I am”.
In 2018, Wisconsin elected Mandela Barnes to be its new lieutenant governor, making him the first black candidate in state history to hold office. Formerly a state assemblyman and board member of the Working Families Party, his campaign faced constant questions about whether its appeal would translate into the whiter rural regions of the state, problems, Barnes said, rooted in the trend of the political class of see black voters as a monolith. whose unique interests can be addressed on the fly, in any case.
“Obviously I know that all white voters in the state of Wisconsin are not the same,” Barnes told CNN, before discussing the disparate standards applied to black politicians. “If I had to mix a dairy cow and beef cattle, they’d get me out of here real quick. They’ll look at me like I’m not fit for the job. Well, we’re talking about real black people, the Latino community, Asian communities, and ( other candidates) come out and have these conversations, like, ‘Oh, I’m learning a lot.’ The campaign is not the time to learn. You must learn these things before you think it is appropriate for you to represent these people. “
Those frustrations, Barnes said, have generated resentment and a growing desire to replace the old guard with more grassroots candidates.
“The people who are closest to the challenges, the people who make all the decisions about them and don’t have the opportunity to make the decisions for themselves, are sick of it,” he said, “because we’ve been sick – served as a result of people who spend their entire political careers trying to solve ourselves. “
Shaping the narrative
The increased attention paid to the experiences of African Americans in the midst of an anti-racist uprising across the country has offered candidates of color a rare opportunity to address the issues affecting their communities in greater depth, more frequently and at a wider audience, founder and executive of the Collective PAC. Director Quentin James told CNN.
That exposure benefited black candidates on the ballot this week, he said, and helped accelerate evolution among progressives who are desperate to build winning coalitions on a larger scale.
“The new populism in this country is related to racial inclusion and racial authenticity. Some of the white candidates still struggle with racial analysis,” said James. “That was a major problem with the Sanders campaign. We could be with you on many different issues: healthcare, education, economics, but if you don’t understand race and the racial analysis that is necessary, and intersectionality, then you probably are not going to succeed “.
Jones told CNN he hoped to win his primary in New York before Floyd’s murder sparked protests across the country. And while he is pleased that the calculations that followed have prompted some Americans to examine issues of racial injustice that they had previously ignored, Jones expressed concern that his success, and that of other black candidates, would lessen the efforts of a campaign that started the year. past. .
“What worries me is this narrative, which I am sure my opponents believe, and that the reason we won is because everyone was distraught because there is racial inequality in this country,” he said. “And that hurts a lot the work we’ve been doing to emerge victorious.”
As for the potential that he, too, could face a major challenge in a couple of years, Jones had no problems, suggesting he would host another round with one of his 2020 rivals.
“Adam Schleifer can come back to me because he has infinite wealth. He could try running against me and he will lose again,” Jones said. “But even if I were a more compelling candidate, I still wouldn’t worry because I am confident that I would offer the best representation that anyone could provide to my constituents. And that is all you don’t feel entitled to a seat could hope for.”