Rep. Pramila Jayapal Wants to Grow Congressional Progressive Caucus and Move Dems Left

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

The GOP took the House in the 2022 midterms, but even before Democrats have officially left the House majority, some members are already thinking about 2024 and how their party can win back control from Republicans.

Eying the GOP’s slim majority—they won by just nine seats—some Democrats believe the House is prime territory for a flip. That sort of quick turnaround for House control would be a rarity. Democrats last held the House for four years, Republicans held it for eight before that.

And yet, House progressives say that at least on their end, the inner workings of that goal are already underway. They’re hoping to be the key for it all—to mobilize voters en masse next election around Democrats’ left-most ideas and candidates.

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The work to do so starts now, they say.

Of course, the minority isn’t where Democrats, including progressives, wanted to be after the 2022 cycle. But defying widespread forecasts of a red wave, the party has been meticulously dissecting their relative success. The impacts of the downfall of Roe v. Wade. The effects of Trump’s lasting presence on Republicans. Whether Democrats’ policy wins over the past two years were motivating factors.

House progressives, who competed in a mix of safely blue and competitive districts, claim to have found a formula. They argue what’s worked for them—and what they hope can work for House Democratic candidates writ large in 2024—is speaking “to the fundamental concerns of working people, young people, women of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ community, and more,” according to a Congressional Progressive Caucus PAC memo obtained by The Daily Beast.

Even in the minority, the CPC is expected to grow this term. The memo goes on to tout the wins of 16 of the 18 CPC PAC-endorsed candidates this cycle. All seven CPC incumbent members who were in especially competitive districts won re-election. CPC PAC-endorsed candidates won in all five of the open primaries the PAC spent in—with $1.6 million in independent expenditures this cycle, its largest ever.

The memo also notes CPC membership “will grow by at least three seats in the 118th Congress,” though CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal in an interview suggested it’s likely to be more.

“We’re continuing to get a couple of incumbents who have been progressives but never joined the Progressive Caucus wanting to join the caucus, because they see what a powerful force we are. So it’s not just new members coming in,” Jayapal said.

With those wins still fresh, Jayapal said the Progressive Caucus’ campaign arm is already piecing together its 2024 game plan. It’s working to streamline its endorsement process and planning to invest early in its primary candidates. She says fundraising has already begun, too, with the PAC aiming to increase member contributions this cycle and individual donations.

Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI), a co-chair of the CPC PAC alongside Jayapal, told The Daily Beast progressives are already thinking about their next class of contenders and recruitment as well.

“There’s already plans, at least one special election out there,” Pocan said, referring to a Virginia House seat that’s up for grabs after Rep. Donald McEachin (D) passed away from cancer earlier this month.

“[We’re] making sure that we're staffing up… You know, all this sort of work that puts us in the best position to be ready come the time we need to,” the congressman added.

Jayapal told The Daily Beast that after recent election cycles, she feels progressive leaders “now know a lot about the kinds of candidates that can win.” Expanding on what those candidates look like, Jayapal said she envisions diverse coalition-builders who are “really leaning into tough issues and not running away from them, whether it’s immigration or crime.”

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The incoming class of freshman House progressives would tend to agree.

Rep.-elect Maxwell Frost (D-FL), for instance, has made headlines as the first Gen Z member of Congress, being elected at only 25 years old. Frost told The Daily Beast that for upcoming progressive recruits, it’s not a question of “young people versus old people,” but instead “new perspectives versus old entrenched dogma.”

Rep.-elect Greg Casar (D-TX) told The Daily Beast he thinks progressive candidates will be essential assets to Democrats’ success.

“We can bring energy, inspire working class people to be with Democrats, inspire young folks and folks of color, Casar said.

To be sure, no election strategy or outlook is bulletproof. The 2024 cycle, in earnest, is still a good bit away. And Democrats won’t be entering that cycle with the same legislative advantages they had this year.

Working with Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, alongside a Democratic president, progressives were able to influence policy and secure key wins for their base. Working with a Republican majority, however, the chances of that same level of legislative success are slim.

Moreover, House progressives weren’t unanimously victorious this cycle.

The two CPC PAC-endorsed candidates who lost, Jamie McLeod-Skinner (D-OR) and Michelle Vallejo (D-TX) were both in especially competitive districts. Some political onlookers have questioned if more moderate candidates would have fared better. And in 2024, with swing districts being the homes of Democrats’ best pickup opportunities, those questions about the saliency of progressives vs. moderates in competitive districts still matter.

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But Rep.-elect Delia Ramirez (D-IL) says she hopes candidates toward the center will begin to shift leftward.

“As we’re talking about 2024, there’s this idea that we need to move to the center. What I think we need to be really clear as Democrats… We need to move away from corruption. We need to move away from this generic way of being and tiptoeing. Tiptoeing and not being clear on who we are and what we’re about is why we are where we are,” Ramirez said.

Asked whether she believes her more moderate colleagues, the new ranks of Democratic leadership or Democrats writ large are on the same page about the allegedly needed leftward shift, Ramirez said they’re getting there.

“I think that they’re beginning to get it. Whether you like it or not, we’re not going anywhere, and we’re growing,” she said.

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