The far-left insurgency in the Democratic Party gained momentum this week with “Squad” member Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Black Lives Matter activist Cori Bush scoring wins in the latest round of primary elections.
It began in 2018 with an uptick in far-left victories, elevating the Congressional Progressive Caucus as one of the largest voting blocs in the House and putting on the national radar the Squad of four freshman congresswomen — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, and Ms. Tlaib of Michigan.
Ms. Tlaib’s victory not only secured the Squad’s political viability but also demonstrated her strength as an incumbent by getting nearly twice as many votes as did her challenger, Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones.
The last time the two women faced off — in 2018 for a full term in the seat Ms. Jones secured in a special election — Ms. Tlaib won by a razor-thin margin.
“Headlines said I was the most vulnerable member of the Squad,” Ms. Tlaib tweeted. “My community responded last night and said our Squad is big. It includes all who believe we must show up for each other and prioritize people over profits. It’s here to stay, and it’s only getting bigger.”
Ms. Tlaib is one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and has become a star among far-left activists who say Democrats need to do more for the working class and the party has become too beholden to corporate America.
Ms. Omar is also facing a primary challenge in Minnesota next week from Antone Melton-Meaux, a lawyer who claims the congresswoman is too divisive to lead. That strategy also was used against Ms. Ocasio-Cortez in her primary, which she won in a landslide. Ms. Pressley is running unopposed.
But the success of the new liberal vanguard goes beyond 2018’s breakout stars — Ms. Bush toppled Rep. William Lacy Clay, a longtime incumbent.
“They counted us out,” she said. “They called me — ‘I’m just the protester, I’m just the activist with no name, no title and no real money.’ That’s all they said that I was. But St. Louis showed up today.”
Ms. Bush is all but assured the House seat representing the heavily Democratic St. Louis district after toppling Mr. Clay, who held the seat for 20 years following his father’s 32 years of representing the district.
He’s the third long-time House Democratic incumbent to lose his seat to a younger, more liberal challenger this cycle.
In Illinois, Rep. Dan Lipsinksi, one of the few pro-life Democrats, lost his race to progressive challenger Marie Newman, and Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel was toppled by school principal Jaamal Bowman in New York.
Ms. Bush bested Mr. Clay 48% to 45%, according to unofficial results. It was her second run at Mr. Clay after coming up short in a 2018 primary challenge.
This time, her run benefited from the momentum of protests sparked by George Floyd’s death across the country. The advantage in the district, which has slightly more Black voters than White ones, came not because she is Black but because she is an activist, according to her campaign.
Both Ms. Bush and Mr. Clay are Black.
There is one more senior Democrat whom Justice Democrats are looking to defeat — Rep. Richie Neal of Massachusetts, head of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
They’re backing his challenger from Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, who claims the chairman is out of touch and uses his position to favor corporations.
“Now, with progressive momentum surging after victories by Marie Newman, Jamaal Bowman, and Cori Bush, Alex Morse looks poised to be the next progressive challenger to win in what has been a very bad cycle to be an out-of-touch incumbent,” his campaign said in a statement celebrating Ms. Bush’s victory.
• S.A. Miller contributed to this report.