Seattle shows the strength and limits of progressive Jayapal

Seattle shows the strength and limits of progressive Jayapal

Seattle When US Representative Pramila Jayapal returned to her home in Seattle, the head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus always went for a walk along Puget Sound.

“I sometimes feel like everything is closed in the capital, so when I get home, I just want to put myself in that spaciousness,” Jayapal said in a recent interview with The Associated Press during the trip back to the city she represents.

Jayapal’s ritual subsides at a time when her career has rapidly ascended to the upper echelons of American politics, displaying the progressive street credibility she collected in Seattle and the political sensibilities she exercised in the nation’s Capitol.

Asim Prakash, a political science professor at the University of Washington, said: “Some might say smart, some say reasonable. It has more legislative authority. Smart people understand the limits of power — you have to pay when you can but know when you can’t pay more.”

The 56-year-old’s path began as a teenage immigrant from India turned investment banker with an MBA, then a new career path from community organizing to state and congressional elected office. OneAmerica was founded and developed over a decade into the largest immigration advocacy group in the state of Washington.


I am not afraid of numbers. I know how to argue my points. “I used to work in rooms full of people who looked nothing like me,” Jayapal said. “I always tell people…Don’t forget that the experiences you don’t like are just as important as the experiences you like.”

As the first Indian-American woman in the US House of Representatives when she was elected in 2016, she said she is grateful to Representative Barbara Lee of California and feminist icon Gloria Steinem for her help in navigating her public office.

She also mentors other women of color in politics, from progressive, rising stars like Seattle City Councilwoman Teresa Mosqueda to prominent fellow congressmen in the so-called “squad” of six.

When asked about Masha’s dissatisfaction with Jayapal’s leadership among those six members of her progressive caucus who voted against the Biden administration’s trillion-dollar infrastructure bill in protest, Jayapal denied having bad feelings.


“People always want to try and divide. They always care a lot about who is fighting with whom,” Jayapal said. “The team has been a great part of the progressive pool, and there’s really no division there.”

While Jayapal leads the political agenda of the more liberal wing of the Democratic Party, recent election results and advocacy work for the Biden administration’s agenda highlight the challenges of pushing her caucus members and policies into the mainstream.

It was a show of force for the 95-member House of Representatives progressive caucus to block Biden’s infrastructure bill while demanding support for a now larger $1.85 trillion proposal to fund new climate and family support initiatives.

The caucus had initially insisted that the two motions be voted on together, or not at all, although Jayapal eventually softened that demand to help pass the infrastructure bill after a disappointing election night for Democrats and progressives across the country.


“You have to be aware of the changing conditions,” Jayapal said. “I felt like this was the right move because there are certain times when you feel like if you keep going, you might really lose your leverage.”

Jayapal said she agreed to the first vote once they had successfully negotiated the framework for the latest proposal.

Such political maneuvering leaves an open question about the sustainability of the progressives’ power, Prakash said, especially with the Republican takeover of the House widely expected in next year’s midterm elections.

“To what extent, when Republicans set the agenda, will showing influence be short-sighted? Because they have shown their influence, but they have undermined the president.” It was embarrassing.

Back in Seattle, progressives are also still reeling from the mayoral and city council races, particularly as the pro-mayor Jayapal candidate lost hard to a fellow liberal Democrat. It was a shocker that the progressive candidate for mayor, Lorena Gonzalez, lost in double digits to Bruce Harrell, who is sometimes described in nonpartisan municipal elections as the moderate, centrist or even “most conservative” candidate.


It was also the third consecutive municipal election in which voters rejected the more left-wing candidate, casting doubt on the pervasiveness of current progressive politics.

If they can’t make big gains in a famous liberal city like Seattle, where can they?

Chris Vance, a former Washington state Republican party chairman turned independent voter who has worked with Jayapal on local issues, said Jayapal is successful because it is skilled and hardworking at the same time, and that it is “very aggressive but not completely above the line” in terms of a progressive ideology.

“Even in Washington state, socialism is not an attractive political term,” Vance said. “The extreme left really – I don’t think this has a political future even in Seattle.”

Meanwhile, Jayapal said the outcome of the mayoral election depends largely on the campaign of the individual candidate, and that it is not unusual for voters to want balance at the local level because, for example, progressives still dominate Seattle’s other city council seats. .


And there is a view that in this left-leaning city, every inch counts in terms of how far you are left.

“Bruce Harrell will be progressive on most counts — less progressive than Lorena, but more progressive than most Democrats in the country,” Jayapal said.

Philadelphia city councilman Helen C., who co-chairs a national network of local progressives for the position called Local Progress, said candidates regardless of their ideology can enter or exit any given election cycle.

But the gym proclaims that overall, the progressive movement’s agenda has gained ground over the past two decades, citing the previously polarizing issues of same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana to a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave all becoming generally accepted. right Now. by much of the audience.

“There is no doubt that the issues are prevalent, and I think what is happening now is that the candidates who are very much the leaders and the determinants and drivers of these issues are working out how to make a bigger profit,” Jim said. “This is still an evolving movement.”

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