The Squad (United States Congress)
The Squad is a group of four women elected in the 2018 United States House of Representatives elections, made up of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All are women of color under 50, have been supported by the Justice Democrats political action committee, and are in the left wing of the Democratic Party.
The group has been said to represent the demographic diversity of a younger political generation and the advocacy of progressive policies such as the Green New Deal, which have sometimes clashed with their party's leadership. Ocasio-Cortez coined the "Squad" name in an Instagram post a week after Election Day, 2018.
The colloquial use of the word "squad" arose from East Coast hip hop culture and describes "a self-chosen group of people that you want to identify with". Its use by Ocasio-Cortez signaled familiarity with millennial slang as a playful reference to youth social cliques. Ocasio-Cortez's home borough of The Bronx was the origin of a hip hop group called Terror Squad, formed in 1998; musical acts with "Squad" in their name and lyrics started from the 1990s to the present day. The average age of the Squad was 38.3 years as of mid-2019, compared to the overall House age of 57.6 years. As it became adopted by "older and whiter" audiences, usage of the related hashtag "#SquadGoals" on Instagram began to decline.
The New York Times considers the "Squad" to be sui generis, fitting neatly into neither the usual Congressional groupings of a "gang" (a bipartisan group focused on particular legislation) nor a "caucus" (a pressure group based on special interests). It notes that the term, with a militaristic connotation, conveys values of self-defense, allegiance, and having "something important to protect". The moniker has been used not only pejoratively, but also self-referentially, with the Squad so-calling themselves to express solidarity among themselves and with supporters. For example, the Justice Democrats tweeted a quote from Pressley saying: "We are more than four people... Our squad includes any person committed to creating a more equitable and just world."
Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley defeated Democratic incumbents in primary elections, Omar won the seat previously held by Democrat Keith Ellison, who retired from the House to successfully run for Attorney General of Minnesota, and Tlaib won the seat once held by Dean of the House John Conyers, who resigned in December 2017 after nearly 53 years in Congress. At least three of the squad members provided fund-raising and volunteer assistance during the election campaigns of other members.
According to Pressley, she and Ocasio-Cortez had met before Freshman Orientation Week for the 116th United States Congress. During that event a week after Election Day, on November 12, 2018, all four members of the Squad participated in a livestreamed interview with Jodi Jacobson from Rewire.News, organized by VoteRunLead, and took a group picture. Ocasio-Cortez published the picture on Instagram, labeling it "Squad"; Pressley published the photo on her Instagram story the same day. The next day, they had already attracted negative attention in conservative media, as Laura Ingraham of Fox News called them "the four horsewomen of the apocalypse". The four women, known for their social media savvy, regularly publish selfies with captions like "sister love" and "album dropping", and defend each other's policies and remarks.
After publication, Ocasio-Cortez's Squad photo became a viral phenomenon, and public figures began using "The Squad" to refer collectively to the four women, with prominent examples of usage coming from New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway. Dowd had used the term in an interview with House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who criticized the four members of the Squad collectively, although without naming them. Tlaib has requested a meeting between Pelosi and the Squad, on behalf of the group. Another photo of the three members who served on the House Oversight Committee during Michael Cohen's testimony also got viral attention.
On July 14, 2019, President Donald Trump tweeted that the members of the Squad should "go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done". The insinuation that people of color are foreign was widely viewed as racist; three of the four are American-born and the fourth (Omar) became a naturalized citizen in her youth. On July 15, the four women responded in a press conference, saying "We are here to stay."
On July 16, the House of Representatives condemned Trump's remarks in H.Res. 489. Over the following days, Trump continued to attack the four congresswomen, saying at a July 17 campaign rally: "They never have anything good to say. That's why I say, 'Hey if you don't like it, let 'em leave, let 'em leave.' ... I think in some cases they hate our country." While Trump was criticizing Omar, the North Carolina crowd reacted by chanting, "Send her back, Send her back!" Trump also falsely claimed that the four congresswomen had used the term "evil Jews"; none of them have been reported to have used the term. Also on July 17 the Republican party launched a political advertisement against the Squad, titled "Squad Goals: Anarchy" and focusing on the Squad's role in the Abolish ICE movement.
A CBS News and YouGov poll of almost 2,100 American adults conducted from July 17 to 19 found that Republican respondents were more aware about the four Democratic congresswomen than Democratic respondents. The congresswomen have very unfavorable ratings among Republican respondents and favorable ratings among Democratic respondents. In a New York Times opinion piece the historian Barbara Ransby wrote, "The squad has tilled new ground in reanimating a fighting spirit within the Democratic Party and revived its left flank."
In late July 2019, the Illinois Republican County Chairmen's Association labelled the four congresswomen as the "Jihad Squad" in a Facebook post that was later deleted. Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider condemned "evoking race or religion as the basis for political disagreement".
In August 2019, Israel blocked Omar and Tlaib from visiting the country, a reversal from the July 2019 statement from Israeli Ambassador to the United States Ron Dermer that "any member of Congress" would be allowed in. A spokesman for Israeli Interior Minister Arye Deri attributed the ban to Omar and Tlaib's support for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions). A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cited that Omar and Tlaib only intended to visit Palestine and had not scheduled a meeting with any Israeli politicians. Less than two hours before the ban, American President Donald Trump had tweeted that Israel allowing the visit would "show great weakness" when Omar and Tlaib "hate Israel & all Jewish people". Omar responded that Netanyahu had caved to Trump's demand and that "Trump's Muslim ban is what Israel is implementing". Tlaib described the blockage as "weakness". American legislators from both the Democratic and Republican parties criticized the Israeli decision, and requested that Israel withdraw the ban. Trump applauded Israel's decision while continuing his criticism of Omar and Tlaib; he described them as "the face of the Democrat Party, and they HATE Israel". A day after the ban was imposed, Tlaib was granted permission to enter Israel to visit her family after she "committed to accept all the demands of Israel to respect the restrictions imposed on her in the visit" and "promised not to advance boycotts against Israel during the visit." In response, Tlaib said that she would not visit Israel, tweeting that doing so would "stand against everything [she] believe[s] in--fighting against racism, oppression, and injustice."
The four original members of the Squad had already been discussed as a group, even before the name was widely adopted. However, according to Mediaite, the news media currently uses "Squad" to refer to the group "almost exclusively". The Onion posted a satirical article claiming that 82-year-old representative Bill Pascrell had asked to join, which was jokingly confirmed by him and accepted by Omar. Following its publication, Pascrell retweeted The Onion article, tagging Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Pressley, and Tlaib to ask if he could join. Ocasio-Cortez replied to the tweet, accepting Pascrell as a member of the Squad.
|Member||Born||District||Party||Prior experience||Education||Assumed office|
|October 13, 1989
New York City, New York
|New York 14||Democratic||Organizer,
Bernie Sanders for President
|Boston University (BA)||2019|
|October 4, 1982
Minnesota House of Representatives
|North Dakota State University (BA)||2019|
|February 3, 1974
Boston City Council
|July 24, 1976
Michigan House of Representatives
|Wayne State University (BA)
Thomas M. Cooley Law School (JD)
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Ocasio-Cortez [...] has since become the face of the 'Squad,' freshman Democrats aiming to move the party farther left on issues such as healthcare and climate change.
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Their shared identity as young women from underrepresented communities and smart politicians pushing the Democratic party to the left has created an unbreakable bond.
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