As an aging progressive, I need hope. And “Knock Down the House” knocks it out of the park. The Netflix documentary, which premiered today, focuses on the candidacies of four progressive women who ran for Congress in 2018. All four were supported by Brand New Congress and Justice Democrats, progressive organizations that aim to transform — or perhaps transcend — the current two-party system.
Undoubtedly, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is the star. She’s young, vibrant, and vulnerable. She’s surrounded by family and friends who love her. And we know before the film begins that she wins. That helps.
It’s amazing to see her blossom. At the beginning, she talks about the hazy path and expectations for women candidates. Preparing for the debate with Joe Crowley just before the primary, she psychs herself up with affirmations: I’m smart enough, I’m experienced enough, I’m mature enough. And indeed she is.
“It takes 100 of us running for one of us to win.”
The other three candidates are just as dedicated. They work just as hard. They have plenty of relevant life experience. They’re just as passionate and very inspiring. Amy Vilela was spurred to activism by the loss of her 22-year-old daughter, who was refused necessary emergency care when she could not provide proof of health insurance. Cori Bush is a nurse and pastor in the same Congressional district where Michael Brown was shot.
Paula Jean Swearengin, a coal miner’s daughter, showed us missing mountain tops and pointed out the homes of many neighbors with cancer. “If another country came in here and blew up our mountains and poisoned our air, we’d go to war,” she said. “But industry can do it.” Unfortunately, Joe Manchin won the primary and kept the Senate seat.
Although all three of these candidates lost their primary, AOC stayed hopeful. “It takes 100 of us running for one of us to win,” she said after the third defeat.
The New Progressives
AOC appears to have been the only candidate supported by Brand New Congress who won both the primary and the general election. But she’s not the only new progressive. Justice Democrats supported 78 candidates, 26 of whom won their primaries. Seven of them won their general elections, including Ilhan Omar (D-Minn), Ayanna Pressley (D- Mass), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich), Ocasio-Cortez, and three incumbents.
Imagine what we could accomplish if we doubled the number of progressives in 2020. Are we on our way?