Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), the California Democrat who represents far-left bastions like Berkeley and Oakland, announced on Monday that she will run to be the next House Democratic Caucus chair.
Lee gained notoriety in 2001 when, three days after the September 11 attacks, she was the lone Member of Congress to vote against giving then-President George W. Bush authorization to use military force against those responsible for the terrorist attacks or harbored organizations that were responsible for the 9/11 attacks.
According to a Monday Politico report, Lee said that black women who have been the “backbone” of the party now need to be in the party’s leadership structure.
“When you look at the history of the Democratic Party and the Democratic leadership, African-American women … we’ve been the backbone of the Democratic Party — we should be in the face of leadership also,’’ Lee reportedly said.
The position became open after Democratic-Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez upset Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY), the current Caucus chair, in a primary. Ocasio-Cortez recently floated Lee’s name to replace House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as the party’s next Speaker if Democrats take back the House.
Left-wing activists said that Lee, who has accused President Donald Trump of wanting to “make America white again,” “would represent a major ideological shift in the party leadership” if she becomes the Democratic Caucus chairwoman.
If Barbara Lee becomes Democratic Caucus Chair, it would represent a major ideological shift in the party leadership.
Lee has co-sponsored #MedicareForAll, free college, reproductive rights, private prison ban, & keeping fossil fuels in the ground.
Hoyer & Pelosi have not. pic.twitter.com/oPGAafOQtd
— Waleed Shahid (@_waleedshahid) July 23, 2018
Lee will face Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), who defeated Lee by two votes in 2016 to be the House Democratic Caucus vice chair, in a race that The Hill predicted is “sure to highlight the thorny questions of identity politics swirling around the party” heading into 2020.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), the Bay Area Democrat who was the first Democrat in Congress to endorse Ocasio-Cortez’s upstart candidacy and whom Ocasio-Cortez later thanked for being the only Member of Congress to acknowledge her existence before her upset primary win, mentioned the importance of black Democrats in Sen. Doug Jones’ (D-AL) victory over Roy Moore to boost Lee’s candidacy.
“I think she’d be terrific. We’ve never had an African-American woman in the leadership in this party. And look at who won us the Doug Jones seat [in Alabama], look at who the most mobilized constituency has been — it’s been women, of course, and African-American women,” Khanna told Politico. “And it’s about time that an African-American woman is in leadership, and I can’t think of a better person than Barbara Lee.”
Khanna also said that even some Republicans “admire her sheer guts” for opposing” the authorization of military force after the 9/11 attacks.
Lee reportedly wrote to House Democrats on Monday and said her top priority will be “offering new ways to engage all members.
“Our caucus is at its best when everyone has an opportunity to contribute and collaborate,” Lee reportedly said.