From the moment she won, they declared war.
Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley’s victory over Rep. Michael Capuano in the Democratic primary for Massachusetts’s Seventh Congressional District on September 4 was a moment of celebration for those who believe that new and passionately progressive voices are needed in the Democratic choir. It was also a moment of consternation for those who think that people who look like Pressley should never have even the smallest ounce of political power.
Ocasio-Cortez Derangement Syndrome was a mild flu affecting the right; Pressley Derangement Syndrome will be a full-on pandemic. The Trumpists are psychologically incapable of dealing with a strong, boldly progressive African-American woman; the sight of such a woman speaking her mind triggers a primal and uncontrollable rage among the MAGA minions.
If you combine the right’s hatred of Barack Obama with its hatred of Hillary Clinton, you have a good idea of the amount of animosity that will be directed towards Pressley. They see her potential. They know that a candidate capable of pulling off a stunning victory over a 20-year incumbent is a candidate capable of winning a US Senate seat, even the White House. The last thing they want to see is the rise of someone who is arguably more charismatic and more progressive than Obama. Right-wingers will do everything within their considerable power to destroy her political career.
Get ready for the daily demonization of Pressley by right-wing media entities. Everything about her will be attacked: her voice, her clothes, her hairstyle, her family. Right-wingers will be fixated on associating her with every stereotype in the book—and they will employ the usual tactic of getting right-wing pundits of color to unleash the harshest attacks.
Get ready for Pressley to be openly insulted by Republicans on Capitol Hill. Members of Trump’s party will be as rude, as dismissive and as obnoxious as possible towards Pressley on the House floor. The goal will be to rattle her, to tick her off, to get her to break. Of course, she’ll remain cool under pressure—which will only inspire House Republicans to become even more vicious.
Get ready for a faux-moderate Republican to run against her in 2020 (there is no Seventh District Republican candidate in this year’s general election), wooing voters uncomfortable having Pressley in power with false claims that she’s “too partisan” and cannot “bring people together.” This faux-moderate will be backed by all the usual right-wing moneymen, but will swear up and down that he’s not like one of those Republicans…and enough gullible voters might buy it.
Remember that moment at John McCain’s funeral last week, when former President George W. Bush slipped former First Lady Michelle Obama a piece of candy? Think about the millions of hate-filled right-wing Americans who wanted her to choke on that candy. The right spent years whipping up blind hatred of the former First Lady, depicting her as an angry, militant, America-hating radical. Right-wingers will use those very same attacks on Pressley.
Powerful, progressive African-American women scare the living daylights out of right-wingers. They always have in this country–Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Carol Moseley Braun, Maxine Waters. Ayanna Pressley is the next lady on that list, the next proud progressive woman of color right-wingers seek to beat down. Something tells me, however, that her political destiny will be reflected in Maya Angelou’s famous words:
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.