EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
Last month, Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) unveiled sweeping legislation to provide Medicare for all. Although the Congressional Progressive Caucus, which Jayapal co-chairs with Representative Mark Pocan (D-WI), has backed universal health-care plans for years, the new bill is arguably the boldest proposal introduced to date. With more than 100 co-sponsors, the legislation is powerful evidence of the issue’s continued resonance among progressive lawmakers. It also bolsters Jayapal’s well-earned status as one of the leading moral voices in Washington.
The founder and former leader of Hate Free Zone, a civil-rights organization created in the wake of 9/11 and now known as OneAmerica, Jayapal is one of a growing number of organizers, activists, and others of similar backgrounds who are now working to change our political system from the inside. At every level of government, these leaders, including many women of color, are injecting new ideas, challenging outdated orthodoxies, and providing moral and fearless leadership. In the House alone, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has helped spark important new debates over climate change and a Green New Deal, while freshmen insurgents are already taking on prominent roles in discussions of foreign policy, immigration, and other key issues.
In Why I Run: 35 Progressive Candidates Who Are Changing Politics, a collection of essays edited by veteran Democratic speechwriter Kate Childs Graham, Jayapal explains the mind-set that is motivating many political outsiders and insurgents to make the leap from activism to electoral politics. “I realized that I was tired of trying to get other people to do the things I, and our communities, felt should be done,” she writes in the book, which also features contributions from Andrew Gillum, Stacey Abrams, Representative Deb Haaland (D-NM), and Minneapolis city councilwoman Andrea Jenkins, among others. “And I realized that we organizers were ceding important political space by not thinking about elected office as another platform for organizing.”
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.