In the Greek fable of Icarus and Daedalus, the former ignores his father’s warnings about hubris and, in particular, flying too close to the sun. The rest, as they say, is mythology: Icarus flew too high, had his wings melted and fell to his demise. To put it another way: what goes up must come down.
So it may be this year with The Squad, a small knot of U.S. representatives who, since the first four of their number were elected in 2018, have been the darling of the Democratic Socialists of America and, more recently, the Hands-Off-The-Houthis set. The original four — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — have since been joined in the House of Representatives by Cori Bush, Jamaal Bowman, Greg Casar and Summer Lee.
Squad members have established formidable social media star power and a knack for drawing attention. They have not necessarily been the humblest, the most deeply thoughtful or the most effectual members of the Democratic caucus, however, and are regarded warily by many of their Democratic colleagues. When it comes to the Mideast, for example, not one of them can confidently be said to know Hamas from a harmonica, the Gaza Strip from the Louisiana Purchase, and it shows. They have been nothing if not reliable: there hasn’t been a murderous attack on Israeli civilians that they haven’t ignored, whitewashed or defended.
There is reason to think that their ranks may be in for a thinning, and it has a lot to do with hubris.
Over the last 10 days, Bush, a two-term congresswoman from Missouri, confirmed that she’s under investigation by the Justice Department after the House Sergeant at Arms announced that he had been served with a subpoena for records of her expenditures. It seems that she has funneled tens of thousands of dollars of campaign funds to her romantic partner, now her husband. Bush claims that the payments were for “security.”
In the meantime, no doubt helped by concerns about Bush’s sometimes bizarre conduct, her primary challenger, St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell, matched Bush’s fundraising in the last quarter of 2023 and had twice as much cash on hand as she did at the beginning of 2024.
Bowman was censured by the House for falsely pulling a fire alarm in a Capitol Hill office building a few months ago, causing the building to be evacuated just when Democrats were trying to delay a floor vote. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge and was placed on probation. This may have been a move he learned from students when he was a middle school principal in New York, but it is hardly the only eye-rolling feature of his career.
Turns out Bowman once posted a poem he wrote promoting nutcase theories about Sept. 11. A building destroyed by al-Qaida, he wrote, was actually a “controlled demolition.”
About the planes used to attack America, he posted “Minimal damage done / minimal debris found / Hmm,” embracing a wacko conspiracy theory that the U.S. faked the whole thing advanced by, well, wackos, suggesting that Osama bin Laden had been falsely “blamed” for 9/11 so that we could satisfy a craving to go war. “I was debating diving into a doctoral degree,” Bowman recently explained.
As of Dec. 31, Bowman’s primary opponent, Westchester County Executive George Latimer, had twice as much cash on hand as Bowman, and outraised him in the last quarter by 2-1.
Omar has had a propensity for antisemitism (“It’s all about the Benjamins, baby!”) and other forms of self-inflicted controversy, but she has taken it to the bank, raising $1.6 million last quarter. She is going to need it; she is facing a rematch with a primary opponent, former Minneapolis City Councilor Don Samuels, whom she just barely defeated two years ago.
The Squad members have prided themselves on not being shrinking violets. For a few of them, however, the bloom may be off the rose. November will determine whether, come the new Congress, it’s the Squad’s size that has shrunk a bit.