Things That Matter

Could This Young Woman Of Color Be The Next AOC? This Progressive Political Group Hopes So

Inspired by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Mckayla Wilkes of Maryland has got her sights set on 2020, challenging House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer for his seat. In fact, Wilkes has been influenced so much by AOC’s run for Congress in 2018, she’s now secured backing from Brand New Congress – the same progressive group that supported Ocasion-Cortez’s campaign way back when.

That’s swell and all, but why do we care?

Instagram / @meetmckayla

There’s plenty of reasons to care about Wilkes and who she is: she’s a black, working-class, 29 year-old mother-of-two studying political science in Waldorf, Maryland. When you compare her to Steny Hoyer and his background – essentially an old, white man serving his 20th term in office – you can definitely imagine that Wilkes would be more familiar with the everyday struggles that most of us face, than Hoyer. “He’s not for people that are my family, my friends, my coworkers,” Wilkes said in an interview with Buzzfeed. “It shows in the policies that he sponsors and that he endorses, and it shows in the donors that he gets his contributions from.”

Wilkes has been extremely candid and open about her past and her struggles.

Twitter / @MeetMckayla

It’s easy to see that Wilkes is as genuine as it gets, as she’s also been upfront about her past. “I just don’t want any secrets … I want everything to be out there. It’s not like I’m the only person who goes through these things,” she said, having publicly spoke about her time in jail as a teen and young adult. Wilkes has admitted to going through a rough patch, and also spoke about the abortion she had when she was 19: “It’s not like it’s something easy to do,” she told BuzzFeed recently. “It’s not an easy decision to make. But I feel like women should have that right. … My body is not a political playground. There’s no room for [politicians] in the room with me and my doctor.”

Sure, she’s more representative of the population, but what does Wilkes stand for?

Instagram / @meetmckayla

In short, it seems as if Mckayla Wilkes is running on a platform that’s kinda similar to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Things like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, affordable housing, overhauling the criminal justice system and even initiating impeachment proceedings against Trump are all on her to-do list, should she be elected. And yeah: none of these policies are gonna be easy to institute, especially as the Democrat’s current position doesn’t support impeachment. But, whoever said that running for office – and getting things done – would be easy?

She is committed to raising money for her campaign directly from her constituents.

Instagram / @meetmckayla

However, Wilkes is clearly driven by her morals, and isn’t afraid of a challenge. She’s also committed to staying away from PAC money and is seeking funding through other means. It’s meant that, since launching her campaign in June, she’s raised $70,000 from door knocking. To put it in perspective, Hoyer raised just $185 in the first quarter of 2019 from grassroots donations … and over $650,000 from other sources. What this means for Wilkes is that, having fundraised exclusively through donations from the community, her decisions and policies are tied directly to her constituents – and not other interests. More power to her, right?

It sounds like Wilkes is definitely for the people – but what is she up against?

Instagram / @leaderhoyer

Well, there is the obvious: Wilkes is running against an incumbent, and one who’s got plenty of funding and connections to boot. It’s not easy to run against someone who’s in that position. Especially when the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) made an announcement earlier this year that if an organization supports candidates challenging an incumbent House Democrat, the party would cut them off from business. It means that even simple things like securing advertisers becomes that much harder for someone in Wilkes’ position.

Wilke’s campaign will be a challenging one to win but she’s got her eyes on the prize.

Instagram / @meetmckayla

Chances are that Wilkes’ campaign will face more challenges than what Ocasio-Cortez saw, too. The population of Maryland’s 5th District is 60 percent white. However, New York’s 14th District, where AOC ran for her seat, is 18 percent white. Political pundits speculate that because 2020 is a presidential election year, it’s highly likely that younger and more diverse voters will show up to have their say – which in turn should help Wilkes.

Mckayla Wilkes is no fool, and she knows that she needs to lean into the fact that she not only represents a more diverse face in the race for Congress, but also a deeper, more tangible connection to the average Joe. “That’s … what sets me apart from Hoyer and also the majority of people in Congress,” Wilkes said to the media, “because I would not be able to sleep at night knowing that I’m denying my sister health care or that I’m denying my friend a place to live or that I’m denying my classmate a place to live. So, for me, it’s personal.”

Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Calls Out Media For Painting AOC As Representative Of Democratic Party

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Presidential Candidate Joe Biden Calls Out Media For Painting AOC As Representative Of Democratic Party

ocasio2018 / joebiden / Instagram

Former Vice President and Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden answered a question about Medicare for All by pivoting blame on the media, saying AOC is “a bright, wonderful person,” but not representative of the Democratic party as a whole. “You guys got it all wrong about what happened,” Biden told journalist Mike Allen on Axios on HBO. “You sound like Trump. Fake News,” Allen pointedly responded. Initially, Biden agreed, but then went on to reframe what Trump calls “Fake News” as simply “bad judgment.” Biden claims that the media’s assertion that “AOC was the new party” were “all wrong,” and that the Democratic party and its voters are not ready to relinquish private health insurance and adopt Medicare for all. 

“Come on, man,” Joe Biden implored the journalist to see his perspective.

CREDIT: AXIOS on HBO / YouTube

In a teaser trailer for Axios on HBO’s interview with presidential candidate Joe Biden, his view on the media took center stage. In fact, journalist Mike Allen prompted Biden’s response by asking if Medicare for all is “political suicide.” Before Allen could finish his sentence, Biden interrupts to chuckle, “The party’s not there at all.” Allen asserts that “Some of your opponents are,” but Biden doesn’t bite. He continues to state, “Yeah, but the party’s not there. You know the numbers. You guys got it all wrong about what happened.”

“You sound like Trump. Fake news.” Allen posits. “I do. No, look, it’s not fake, it’s just bad judgment,” Biden responds in an attempt to differentiate the semantics around a presidential candidate attempting to discredit negative media criticism. “You all thought that what happened was the party moved extremely to the left after Hillary,” Biden added, referencing media stories that “AOC was the new party.” He goes on to add that Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is “a bright, wonderful person, but where’s the party? Come on, man.”

However, a recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) poll shows that “a slight majority of Americans say they favor [“Medicare-for-all”].”

CREDIT: KFF HEALTH TRACKING POLL (NOVEMBER 7-12, 2019)

The poll results, published just last month, states that “overall, a majority of Democrats and about half of independents favor a national Medicare-for-all plan while most Republicans oppose.” The only dissent boils down to misinformation about the existing proposals on the table. KFF polling found that Americans “know little about how the leading Medicare-for-all proposals would reshape the way all Americans get and pay for health care, and public support for Medicare-for-all shifts significantly when people hear arguments about potential tax increases or delays in medical tests and treatment.” 

The “what” is settled. The majority of Americans want Medicare-for-all. The “how” is still up for debate, and what Americans hope to see settled on the debate stage. The KFF polling found that Americans are more likely to support “incremental changes to expand the public health insurance program” rather than completely replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and private health insurance altogether with an entirely new proposal. The polling makes it clear that Democrats are far beyond the question of whether or not to expand public health care. They want to understand how their candidates-of-choice will expand public health care.

Biden’s top opponents, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, have campaigned on Medicare-for-All.

CREDIT: AXIOS on HBO / YouTube

In fact, the same KFF poll found that Bernie Sanders’s 2016 campaign was what tilted Americans toward a majority favorability of government healthcare. “This is America. You should not go bankrupt because you’re diagnosed with a serious illness,” 2020 Democratic hopeful, Sanders, tweeted this week. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) has endorsed Bernie Sanders for President, both of whom identify as Democratic Socialists. Both AOC and Sanders have a shared vision of free public college, guaranteed family leave, and free healthcare for all, often citing the successful examples of other European countries that offer those same solutions for basic human needs.

Thus far, the YouTube comments on the Axios on HBO trailer are telling. The top three comments, in order, are “Jose is the part of the party we’d like to leave behind tbh,” “Senile Grumpy Old Joe !!!!!!” and “‘you should vote for Trump’ – Joe Biden 2019.”

Most recently, AOC criticized Biden for asking Cory Booker to issue an apology for criticizing Biden’s insensitivities to Black history in the United States.

CREDIT: @ALXTHOMP / TWITTER

In June, Biden shared an anecdote that was meant to attest to his political diplomacy, about how he worked with segregationist Senators James Eastland and Herman Talmadge. Democratic hopeful Senator Cory Booker demanded an apology to the American people for paternalistic story during which Biden referred to Black men as “boys.” Booker’s demand for an apology has been outstanding since June 2019. “You don’t joke about calling black men ‘boys,'” Booker said. 

In response, Biden said he didn’t have a “racist bone” in his body, saying the American people and elected officials should “know better,” adding, “I’ve been involved in civil rights my whole career. Apologize for what? Cory should apologize. He knows better.” AOC took to Twitter to shoot back, “For the record, Cory Booker does *not* owe Joe Biden an apology for pointing out that waxing nostalgic about working with segregationists is insensitive. ‘He knows better?’ Really? What is ‘better?’ To stay quiet about it?”

READ: Joe Biden Released A New Platform Regarding Puerto Rico And Hopes To See The Island Get The Respect It Deserves

Pete Buttigieg Supporter Wields Cane At Latino Black Lives Matter Protester During Event

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Pete Buttigieg Supporter Wields Cane At Latino Black Lives Matter Protester During Event

@MaxLewisTV / Twitter

After a Black Lives Matter (BLM) Latino activist disrupted a Pete Buttigieg event led by South Bend’s black leaders, an elderly woman attempted to end the interruption with her cane. Reporter Max Lewis captured BLM activist Igor Rodríguez interrupting councilwoman Sharon McBride to demand, “Who are these black leaders?” Democratic hopeful and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is polling at 0% with black South Carolina Democrats, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released last week. Buttigieg has received just six endorsements from current or former black or Latino elected officials compared to Biden’s 154 endorsements, according to a The New York Times report last month. Buttigieg has come under fire for his response to the death of Eric Logan, a black man, by white police officer Ryan O’Neill, and for the racial makeup of his police force.

With a crowd of protesters holding up BLM signs in the back of a room full of black Buttigieg supporters, Rodríguez stole the microphone from McBride and started to chant, “This is a farce. This is a farce.”

Soon after Black Lives Matter activist Igor Rodríguez started to question the political machination of the present leadership, an elderly woman stood up to hit him with her cane.

CREDIT: @MAXLEWISTV / TWITTER

“Who organized this?” Rodríguez shouted while McBride stood at the podium. “Let her talk!” shouted one audience member repeatedly. “These black leaders are here to talk about Pete Buttigieg when people are having a crisis because of police violence,” Rodríguez continued on. Then, an elderly woman suddenly stood up in an attempt to attack Rodríguez with her cane. Several people crowded around her to block her advances, granting Rodríguez an opportunity to swiftly grab the microphone off McBride’s podium. Without missing a beat, he went on to demand into the microphone, “Who chose these people as the black leaders? Who organized this? We have a police crisis in this town. Why are we talking about Pete Buttigieg?”

“What kind of nonsense is this? What kind of nonsense is this?,” Rodríguez repeats, going on to begin a chant that would be echoed by the BLM protesters in the back of the room. “This is a farce! This is a farce!”

Black voters have spoken out against Buttigieg for his response to the fatal police shooting of Eric Logan, 54.

CREDIT: @JOSHUASHORTWNDU / TWITTER

Officials say that South Bend Police Department Sgt. Ryan O’Neill was responding to reports of a car break-in on June 16 when he encountered Logan. O’Neill maintains that Logan approached him with a knife and refused to drop it, prompting O’Neill to shoot Logan, but there is no video surveillance of the incident. O’Neill did not turn on his siren lights, which are connected to body cam footage. O’Neill told the dispatcher that the “guy threw a knife at me,” but Logan’s family is suspect to believe that Logan would ever attack a police officer with a knife. The family also wants to know why Logan was taken to the hospital, with a bullet to the abdomen, in a police cruiser instead of an ambulance. O’Neill resigned after weeks of protest.

Buttigieg left the campaign trail to discuss race and public safety in the days following Logan’s death. He met with BLM activists and took calls with them, but the activists didn’t leave the conversation feeling heard. “I remember he felt very rushed as if he wanted to check it off a box as something that he did,” Melina Abdullah, the co-founder of the BLM Los Angeles chapter told NBC.

Rodríguez’s comments have sparked mixed reactions.

CREDIT: @MAXLEWISTV / TWITTER

The interaction between Rodríguez and the cane-wielding woman has been cited as “the perfect encapsulation of white liberals who try and tell black people how they should think,” according to one Twitter user. “A white man stealing a mic from a black woman and telling her what to think? I don’t know how BLM thinks that was a good publicity for them,” tweeted one black woman. “He’s Latino… and was standing proudly with and for his black brothers and sisters who were also there making their voices heard. Don’t discount them… Pete already does not.” Rodríguez considers himself a “Bernie bro”, according to his social media. 

Though people are universally united in support of #GrandmaWithCane.

CREDIT: @MAXLEWISTV / TWITTER

I don’t care who you are and what you represent, but don’t be out here disrespecting our elders. They should of let grandma swing that cane just once,” tweeted @__Tiffany__84. “But #GrandmaWithCane is bringing me Joy tonight! Warms my heart!  #Respect!” replied @mcfetsch. “The cane wielder is 100% tired grandparent energy,” another commenter announced. Others are flocking to #GrandmaWithCane as representative of “every fed-up voter.”

READ: Pete Buttigieg Faces Backlash After 2011 Video Claiming Minority Children Don’t Know Anyone Who ‘Values Education’ Resurfaces