U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) speaks

U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) speaks during an event outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. to call for a Gaza cease-fire in on November 13, 2023.

(Photo: Celal Gunes/Anadolu via Getty Images)

Youth Organizers Launch 'Protect Our Power' Campaign to Reelect the Squad

House progressives "have shifted the political narrative to center young people's leadership on the most pressing issues of our generation—from climate justice, labor rights, and abortion access, to anti-war foreign policy."

A coalition of youth organizers this week launched the "Protect Our Power" campaign to help reelect progressives in Congress who are under attack from pro-Israel lobbyists for their criticism of the U.S.-backed Israeli assault of the Gaza Strip.

"We are among the leaders of the most diverse and progressive generation in U.S. history," says a fact sheet from organizers. "We've met each other on Zoom calls, college campuses, campaigns, rallies, and parties. Spanning across a range of organizations and movements, we're united by our generation's common fight for peace, justice, a livable world, and a multiracial democracy."

"Over the past few years, we've experimented with a diverse set of tactics to grow our power—our involvement in elections being one of them," the organizers noted. "Today, we not only occupy the streets but Congress itself. With just a handful of insurgent electeds known as 'The Squad,' we have forced our generation's priorities to the forefront of American politics and reinspired young people to be involved in the political process."

"We're united by our generation's common fight for peace, justice, a livable world, and a multiracial democracy."

The Squad began with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—younger progressive women of color all elected in 2018. The informal group has since expanded to include Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and Summer Lee (D-Pa.).

Young progressives in the U.S. House of Representatives recently dubbed "Squad-adjacent" by Slate's Alexander Sammon include Reps. Greg Casar (D-Texas), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), and Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.).

Tlaib—the only Palestinian American in Congress—and Bush led the first Gaza cease-fire resolution effort in Congress, just days after the October 7 Hamas-led attack on Israel, which has retaliated over the past six months by killing more than 33,000 Palestinians, injuring another 75,000, displacing most people in Gaza, and devastating civilian infrastructure.

While global condemnation of Israel grows—a genocide case against the country at the International Court of Justice continues to garner support—the dark money affiliate of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) plans to spend $100 million trying to unseat congressional critics of the Israeli government this election cycle.

Reporting on those plans led to the recent creation of Reject AIPAC, a coalition of progressive organizations working to take on the group and its affiliated super political action committees (PACs). Members include Justice Democrats, Jewish Voice for Peace Action, IfNotNow, Working Families Party, Sunrise Movement, Democratic Socialists of America, and Gen-Z for Change.

Youth organizers from some of those same organizations are involved with the new Protect Our Power effort.

"The only thing that beats organized money is organized people," the young organizers argued. "Fortunately, that's what we know how to do best. Over the next few months, we'll build out a cohort of committed young leaders across the country and equip them with the training and tools to bring their own networks into this work."

"We'll work with these leaders to mobilize their networks to engage in a variety of tactics to defend the Squad," the organizers said. "For some groups, that might mean making texts, calls, and knocking on doors. For others, that could mean birddogging, targeted and disruptive demonstrations, oppo research, and much more. Then, once we win, we'll frame our victories as a governing mandate to shape the Democratic platform and agenda in the 2024 general election."

Before November, progressives targeted by pro-Israel groups are working to win their primaries. In Pennsylvania, voters are set to head to the polls on April 23. Lee's primary challenger is Bhavini Patel, who is taking money from rich right-wingers; a previous challenger, Laurie MacDonald, is now running a write-in campaign as a Republican.

The New York primary elections are on June 25. Bowman faces an AIPAC-backed Westchester County Executive George Latimer—who last week was accused of "straight-up genocide denial" for his comments on the mass slaughter in Gaza.

Bush and Omar are both set to face locally prominent primary challengers in August.

Those four incumbents "and the rest of the Squad have shifted the political narrative to center young people's leadership on the most pressing issues of our generation—from climate justice, labor rights, and abortion access, to anti-war foreign policy," the Protect Our Power coalition said on social media Thursday.

"Help us reelect the Squad and guarantee that our allies in Congress can continue to represent young people across this country," the group added. "Join us this Sunday for our kickoff."

The coalition is made up of "over 100 youth organizers across issues, including students from 30+ universities," according to spokesperson John Paul Mejia. "We're defending the Squad and our generation's political power from right-wing, billionaire-funded organizations that want to silence us."

Among the campaign's supporters is climate activist Magnolia Mead, who warned this week that "our movements can't afford to lose their critical voices in Congress. Now and in the coming months we have a chance to throw down and protect them."

Kavi Shrestha, an Oregon-based leader with College Democrats of America, similarly stressed that "our generation cannot stand by as right-wing billionaires and PACs attack the representatives who stand up for our interests—Medicare for All, a habitable planet, and an immediate cease-fire."

"While they have money," said Shrestha, "we have numbers."

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