Why 2020 Democrats Want Endorsements From 'The Squad' Four progressive first-term members of Congress, all women of color, have become sought-after endorsers and candidate surrogates in the Democratic presidential primary.
NPR logo

Why 2020 Democrats Want Endorsements From 'The Squad'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/788056605/788056606" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Why 2020 Democrats Want Endorsements From 'The Squad'

Why 2020 Democrats Want Endorsements From 'The Squad'

Why 2020 Democrats Want Endorsements From 'The Squad'

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/788056605/788056606" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Four progressive first-term members of Congress, all women of color, have become sought-after endorsers and candidate surrogates in the Democratic presidential primary.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar hit the campaign trail in Manchester, N.H. yesterday and said she was there for one reason.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ILHAN OMAR: ...To welcome a champion of justice, a fighter and a man I trust, Senator Bernie Sanders.

SIMON: The Representative and three other progressive congresswomen in their first terms have become known as The Squad. As NPR's Scott Detrow reports from Manchester, they are the highest profile endorsers and surrogates in the Democratic presidential primary.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Usually, endorsements from longtime powerbrokers are the ones that matter most. But a newer face made the biggest impact in this race - New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. When she endorsed Bernie Sanders in October, the two drew more than 25,000 people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD MEMBERS: (Cheering).

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Holy cow.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD MEMBERS: (Cheering).

OCASIO-CORTEZ: What's up, New York City?

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD MEMBERS: (Cheering).

DETROW: She came in at a critical moment for Sanders. He had just suffered a heart attack and was facing a lot of questions about the future of his campaign. Suddenly, Ocasio-Cortez was stumping with Sanders in Iowa.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OCASIO-CORTEZ: He fought for me when I didn't have health care as a waitress. He fought for me when I graduated with $20,000 - over $20,000 in student debt. He fought for me when I wasn't making a living wage.

DETROW: When they first arrived in Washington, Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of The Squad quickly became the face of a new House Democratic majority. They became even more visible after President Trump repeatedly attacked them using racist language.

Ilhan Omar and Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan are also backing Sanders. Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley went a different direction, co-chairing Elizabeth Warren's campaign. Pressley had a high-profile moment last month, stepping in when protesters repeatedly interrupted Warren who was trying to give a speech about the history of black woman activists.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

AYANNA PRESSLEY: I want to say something. No one is here to quiet you - least not this black woman...

DETROW: Speaking respectfully and directly in a way that Warren, as a white woman, probably couldn't, Pressley urged the protesters to stand down.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESSLEY: We are grateful for you activism and your voice. And you are welcome here. And we would love to convene after this about the issue that you are here to stoke our consciousness about. But when these women have been ignored this long, this is their moment. And we are going to hear the story.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD MEMBERS: (Cheering).

DETROW: Pressley was campaigning for Warren in New Hampshire Friday. Omar was there, too, alongside Bernie Sanders.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OMAR: Well, hello, New Hampshire.

DETROW: She told the Manchester crowd that both she and Sanders are often portrayed as radical.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OMAR: If believing that mental health, vision health, dental health should be guaranteed to all Americans is something that they consider radical, then we should all be proud to be radicals.

DETROW: University of Denver political scientist Seth Masket says Sanders' Squad support demonstrates what's changed for the candidate since 2016. On one hand, his base is about the same size.

SETH MASKET: But those people who were with him four years ago, a lot of them are in more prominent positions than they were four years ago. Some of them are DNC members. Some of them are in Congress.

DETROW: With Elizabeth Warren vying for progressive support this time, too, the women can serve as validators.

ROBBY ST LAURENT: I feel like she speaks to me. And she speaks to my friends, speaks to, like, us, who are just like fed up and tired of the system as it is now.

DETROW: Robby St. Laurent backs Sanders but came to the rally to see Omar.

ST LAURENT: I know a lot of people who are big Warren supporters but also are, you know, huge AOC fans, huge Rashida Tlaib fans, huge Ilhan Omar fans. And I think this does help in swinging their vote.

DETROW: Sanders' campaign says one of Friday's events with Omar was the largest New Hampshire crowd they've gotten this year. And next weekend, Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez will campaign again together in two other critical early states - California and Nevada. Scott Detrow, NPR News, Manchester, N.H.

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.