Politics

Citing a “Mandate for Hope,” Ayanna Pressley Went after Democrats in a Closed-Door Meeting

She's calling for change in the party, and a new message ahead of 2020.


Rep.-elect Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. speaks at a small rally outside an orientation meeting for incoming members of Congress at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

She isn’t even in office yet, and Ayanna Pressley is becoming a voice in Washington that’s impossible to ignore. The Boston City Councilor who has enjoyed a very big spotlight after besting incumbent Democrat Michael Capuano this year, delivered some strong words for donors in a closed-door Democratic National Committee fundraising meeting.

According to Buzzfeed, which got its hands on a recording of her speech, Pressley said she wasn’t afraid of making fellow Dems uncomfortable in a push to transform the party, raising questions about a perceived lack of support offered for female candidates of color, urging Democrats to make their staffs more diverse, and, as the 2020 election inches closer, making a case for focusing more on issues, and less on Donald Trump.

“It has been said that people are ultimately motivated to vote for one of two reasons: hope or fear,” she said, according to Buzzfeed. “I reject this shallow analysis and narratives about our campaign that have summed up our victory as one that was a referendum against hate. In the Massachusetts 7th and across the nation, what I saw— what I bore witness to—was a mandate for hope.”

She also repeated what was apparently a message she heard from a young person at a listening session held at Boston City Hall on Monday that touched on gun violence: “Do black lives only matter in election years when our votes are at stake?” The 10-minute speech reportedly got mixed reviews from the audience, with some cheering and others remaining seated and looking stern.

Pressley has, of course, made similar comments following her primary win, including in an interview with the Dorchester ReporterBut a direct confrontation with powerful donors is yet another example during her transition period of attempts to challenge the status quo. Last week, she walked out of an “orientation” for newly elected officials held at Harvard, joining fellow progressive rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a demonstration outside the training session, which has become a traditional welcome for new members of Congress over the last several decades. Both said they did so because of the disproportionate influence of corporate lobbyists and the former CEO of Goldman Sachs at the meeting, and not enough representation from labor and community groups. “I was not sent to Washington to play nice,” Pressley said.