Cori Bush is just one of the newly-elected progressives heading to Congress.
Cori Bush is just one of the newly-elected progressives heading to Congress. Courtesy of Cori Bush/RICHARD RILEY

While we wait to find out the exact timing and nature of the next phase of our electoral hell, here are two pieces of good news that you might like to focus on: First, the neighborhood chickadees have noticed that I scattered steel cut oats in my planters and they are having a feast right now. And second, not only did all four members of The Squad win their re-elections, but they’ll soon be joined in Congress by several new Justice Democrats-endorsed progressives.


There are plenty of theories about why the election turned out the way it did, and even more spotty and misleading data. (As Michael Hobbes correctly points out, there will likely be a fantastic post-mortem on the election sometime around January that nobody will read.) For the time being, the victory of the Justice Dems is being taken as confirmation for whatever ideological axe one has to grind: This is proof that the Democrats need to shift left; this is proof that the Democrats will be destroyed from within by Marxists; this is proof that Presidential Candidate X would have lost/won.

But what’s not arguable is that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, and Rashida Tlaib will keep their seats, along with fellow progressives Raúl Grijalva, Ro Khanna, and Pramila Jayapal. And we’ll soon hear a lot more about Jamaal Bowman (New York), Cori Bush (Missouri), and Marie Newman (Illinois). So who are these people?

If you haven’t voraciously gobbled down news for the last few months like a chickadee in my delphiniums, their names might not have risen to your attention. But you’ll be happy to hear that they are excellent—smart, charismatic, and ever so much more qualified to actually, you know, lead than the establishment seat-warmers they’re replacing.

For example, feast your eyes on Jamaal Bowman, a school principal and former crisis counselor from the Bronx who's all-in on the Green New Deal. He’ll be a phenomenal advocate for education in Congress, having led the charge against broken standardized testing. He also supports Medicare for All, legalizing pot, and background checks for guns; he’s also a huge Wu-Tang fan. He’ll replace Eliot Engel, who voted for war in Iraq.

Over in Illinois, Marie Newman is an advocate for a $15/hour federal minimum wage; health care for all; pathways to citizenship; and re-joining the Paris Climate Accord. We don’t know anything about her feelings on the Wu-Tang Clan, but we do know that she will replace longtime anti-abortion Rep Dan Lipinski. Whew.

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And then there’s Cori Bush, who will absolutely be One To Watch (TM) as she gets comfortable in her new job. Cori is a nurse, pastor, and community leader who raised two kids while experiencing homelessness; her opponent Lacy Clay had the endorsement of Pelosi and the entire Democratic machine (as well as payday lenders). Politically, Bush is right where you want her to be: She’s called for a ban on “ex-gay” abuse; she’s all in on Medicare for All; and she’s called explicitly for defunding the police. Crucially, she has a magnetic crowd-leading gift that makes her instantly spellbinding the moment she speaks. So, once the new House is sworn in, she’ll be able to create the kind of viral videos that keep otherwise-apathetic voters eager to engage.

Come what may, we’ve got some good eggs headed to Washington in a few weeks to jostle things up in the House. Depending on who you want to believe, this either means that the path to Democratic victory requires shifting even further to the left; or that the entire progressive movement is about to collapse.

So, will this force establishment Democrats to stand aside and let a new leftier wing take over? Ehhh probably not; just today Rep Clyburn was on MSNBC saying he intends to hang onto his position as House Majority Whip with Pelosi as House Speaker. As political commentator Macho Man Randy Savage once observed, nothing means nothing.