by Keaton Weiss
So there was a debate last night; the fourth Democratic primary debate of the 2020 cycle, this time featuring a dozen contenders on one stage. I’ll admit at the outset, I didn’t catch the whole thing. First, the Yankee game ended right at 8pm. Then I had to rock Sawyer, my six-month old baby boy, to sleep, which can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two-and-a-half hours. I tried watching on my phone while lulling him to sleep, but he wasn’t having it. Warren’s evasiveness on the tax question must’ve been giving him anxiety. So I turned it off. By the time I got him down, it was 9pm, which means my wife needed the TV to watch This Is Us. I caught bits of it on my phone for the next hour, but CNN’s stream kept getting interrupted, and every time I restarted it I had to sit through the same 30-second Goliath trailer. Then, at 10, when I got the TV back, my dog needed to go out, so by the time I got to actually sit down and watch it, it was almost over.
Turns out, however, that I made it just in time for the line of the night, when Bernie Sanders teased that a “special guest” would be joining him at his “Bernie’s Back” rally in Queens this Saturday. I immediately thought this had to be AOC, and I was right.
Sure enough, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar will endorse Bernie Sanders for president in the 2020 race. At this writing, it’s been reported, but not confirmed, that Rep. Rashida Tlaib will do the same.
It’s been widely reported throughout the election cycle that AOC’s endorsement was the most critical of them all, and so having her on board is obviously a huge boon to the Sanders campaign. And it comes at a time when he needed it most; just after he was hospitalized for a heart attack that had many questioning whether he’d even stay in the race. Omar and Tlaib’s endorsements will also be hugely important in boosting his campaign’s vitality, diversifying its coalition, and strengthening its messaging.
But there’s another reason why these “Squad” members’ endorsement of Bernie is such a monumental occasion, and it transcends Sanders’ electoral prospects.
Before these endorsements came in, we progressives felt that Bernie, a 78-year old man fresh off a heart attack, was the only one in our federal government who we could count on to walk the walk when it comes to pushing for real transformational change. We felt that almost everyone else was ultimately just in it for themselves, and we feared that even our heroes like AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, would be absorbed by the Democratic establishment and be made to act out of political expediency rather than demonstrate real political courage, for fear of alienating themselves from party leadership at the beginning of their young careers in Congress.
We felt this way, in large part, because many of us were at one time steadfast supporters of Elizabeth Warren, who we expected, in 2016, would demonstrate the political courage we had come to expect from her, and endorse Bernie Sanders for president. She let us down, and we couldn’t imagine why. We later found out that she had been on Hillary Clinton’s VP shortlist, and that she’d have accepted the position had it been offered. Recently, the Working Families Party, which describes itself as a multiracial, working class movement, endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president, weeks after endorsing AOC, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib for Congress. We had come to believe that beyond Bernie, again, 78, there was no one in power who we could truly consider part of our movement.
All of that changed with news of the Squad’s endorsements. By endorsing Bernie Sanders, these freshmen congresswomen have assured those of us ordinary people fighting for Bernie Sanders’ multi-racial working class progressive revolution that we have real representation in government.
Their endorsement of Bernie Sanders demonstrates not just that that they prefer Bernie Sanders to the rest of the Democratic field, but that they believe that we, the movement that Bernie has nurtured, are more worthy of their loyalty than the Democratic Party machine. In other words, they’re not just going all-in on Bernie, they’re going all-in on us. They’re joining our coalition, our movement, our political revolution. And they will be our partners in this political project for generations to come, regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election. And that’s what makes this news so sweet. It’s not just that Bernie’s chances of victory in 2020 have gotten a boost, it’s that win or lose in 2020, we in the progressive movement can finally feel confident that the revolution has arrived.