Ayanna Pressley posed a question before her party’s top donors: With a “mandate for hope” from voters in hand, will Democrats put forth a platform for lasting change?
“I know, given the new people that we engaged in democracy, that we have restored hope for many,” the 7th District’s U.S. Rep.-elect told donors at a Democratic National Committee fundraising meeting Tuesday in Washington, D.C., BuzzFeed News reports. “We have given hope to many and we must do everything we can to keep that hope.”
Already making herself well-known in Congress, Pressley offered a rebuke to her party — one laced with tough questions about the party’s identity and values, but also with an underlaying vision for change — in her 10-minute remarks at the closed-door meeting.
She touched on the need for Democrats to support women candidates of color, to build diversity among party staffers, and to ask themselves: “Are we really who we say we are?”
“We must push ourselves to ask the tough questions about whether or not we provided (women elected this year) with the institutional support so we can break through more glass and concrete ceilings as rapidly as possible,” said Pressley, a Boston city councilor who beat out longtime incumbent Rep. Michael Capuano in the September primary election.
According to BuzzFeed News, which reported the remarks based on an audio recording it obtained, Pressley said Democrats must put their focus on the needs of marginalized communities.
It’s a message echoing the sentiment she reflected on heavily in her farewell speech to her fellow Boston city councilors last week, when she spoke about her desire to make sure that the city’s most vulnerable residents had a seat at the decision-making table when she first ran for her council seat in 2009.
On Tuesday, she again drew on her city council experience with Boston constituents. She cited a listening session on violence she held Monday at City Hall and recalled the remarks of a young person there: “Do black lives only matter in election years when our votes are at stake?”
She told donors that this year’s elections “altered the course of history,” but added that the party must ask itself, “if we are simply content with making history, or if want to commit ourselves to working together to make a lasting, transformative change,” BuzzFeed News reports.
Those conversations must happen in order for Democrats to win again in 2020, according to Pressley.
Sarah Groh, Pressley’s incoming chief of staff, told Boston.com in a statement Wednesday that Pressley ran to advocate for those who are often left out of policy making, adding that her remarks show how she is bringing that message to Washington.
“She has dedicated her life’s work to bringing diverse voices to the table and into the Democratic Party, and she has been outspoken about the need for Democrats to embrace the important lessons from the 2018 elections – to advance a bold agenda and to intentionally engage and empower marginalized communities,” Groh said in the statement. “Yesterday was another example of Ayanna sharing that call to action with Party leaders and supporters.”
Pressley told the Associated Press after Tuesday’s meeting that Democrats can “no longer make assumptions in the party about who desires or deserves a seat at the table of democracy.”
“I may not be invited back,” she added, jokingly.
And I of you. Thank you for living #shinetheory out loud, for sparking a movement, inspiring a generation & leading the charge on a #GreenNewDeal Select Cmte @sunrisemvmt @SunriseBoston https://t.co/D6HAmL7OV0
— Ayanna Pressley (@AyannaPressley) December 12, 2018
People in attendance said Pressley’s speech prompted both applause and “people who sat back with their arms crossed,” BuzzFeed News reporter Darren Sands wrote.
Pressley assured them she didn’t intend to make anyone there uncomfortable, “but she didn’t not come to make anyone uncomfortable, either,” he wrote.
“I’m okay with doing that in the name and in pursuit of progress,” Pressley said. “Those young people are demanding and expecting more from me. And I owe it to them. I ran to fight for the ignored, the left out, and the left behind. And that is not only true for the electorate. Together we’ll do that work beginning with our own party.”