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The Fall of Jamaal | The Indypendent

The Fall of Jamaal | The Indypendent

The Fall of Jamaal | The Indypendent

Number 288

  • Elections 2024
  • NY politics

Incumbent Jamaal Bowman loses re-election bid in U.S. House of Representatives 16th District

Nine reasons why Jamaal Bowman was the first member of the Squad to lose a congressional re-election race.

John Tarleton July 1st

In June 2020, Jamaal Bowman rode the tsunami of Black Lives Matter protests from the Bronx high school where he was principal to Capitol Hill as a representative for New York’s 16th congressional district. Four years later, he became the first member of The Squad, a group of eight outspoken left-wing congressmen, to lose their reelection bid, trailing Westchester County Executive George Latimer by 17 points. Here are nine reasons Bowman was ousted.

  1. AIPAC–
    Any Bowman postmortem must begin with the role of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the powerful pro-Israel lobby group that poured $14.5 million into the race — flooding the airwaves with ads praising Latimer and condemning Bowman. AIPAC’s largesse, in turn, allowed Latimer to leverage all his other advantages.
  1. Gerrymandering —
    In 2020, 41% of registered voters in NY16 lived in the Bronx. After the 2022 redistricting, that number dropped to 15% as the district shifted further north into whiter, more affluent parts of Westchester County. In this year’s primary, Bowman won the Bronx portion of his district 84-16%, while Latimer won Westchester 63-37%. If the district boundaries had stayed the same, Bowman would likely be re-elected.
  1. Racism —
    When the district lines were redrawn, Latimer didn’t hesitate to use racist dog whistles to portray Bowman as an “angry black man” and a representative who only cared about his black and Latino constituents. Latimer’s use of white grievance politics should not have been surprising. He once compared Andrew Cuomo to Emmitt Till when the former governor was under investigation for sexual harassment.
  1. The fire alarm —
    Bowman pulled a fire alarm on Capitol Hill last September on his way to a budget vote. He later pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor. The video footage of Bowman doing the deed is damning and served as perfect material for AIPAC attack ads.
  1. The Biden Factor —
    Bowman was repeatedly criticized in attack ads for not voting for the 2021 Infrastructure Bill. The legislative history of this is convoluted and largely forgotten, but here goes. Once upon a time, there was a second, much more ambitious piece of legislation called Build Back Better. It was backed by the president and billed as the signature domestic initiative of his presidency. It would have created a raft of new government initiatives (permanent child benefits, investments in child care, better Medicare benefits for the elderly, to name a few) to make life easier for ordinary Americans. It also might have helped Biden get re-elected in 2024 and prevent a Trump restoration. Despite polls showing these programs had broad public support, a handful of conservative Democrats blocked Build Back Better. Biden eventually caved to their demands. The Infrastructure Bill was “decoupled” from Build Back Better and passed with Republican support, over the objections of Bowman and other Squad members. Because they fought harder for Biden’s agenda than Biden and other party leaders, Bowman and his fellow Squad members have since been branded disloyal. The conservative Democrats who thwarted Build Back Better for months escaped with their reputations intact.
  1. Aftermath October 7 —
    AIPAC’s attack ads did not target Israel, because much of Westchester County’s large Jewish population was already furious with Bowman for calling for a ceasefire and for calling Israel’s attack on Gaza a “genocide.” Those voters turned out in overwhelming numbers.
  1. Lack of local networks —
    Bowman was elected in 2020 as a political outsider. Latimer, meanwhile, has held various local offices in Westchester County since 1987. When AIPAC recruited Latimer with the promise of unlimited financial support, he already had extensive local political networks to activate.
  1. Lack of campaign infrastructure —
    For most of his tenure, Bowman was a tepid fundraiser compared to some other Squad members who have large small-donor bases. He had only about $200,000 in the bank when Oct. 7 gave his opposition a boost. AIPAC saw weakness and pounced.
  2. His own conscience —
    Bowman traveled to Israel in 2021 and visited the occupied West Bank — something most visiting politicians skip when they travel to Israel — and later recalled being shocked by the oppressive apartheid system Israel had imposed on Palestinians. He began speaking out. A former teacher, Bowman has also said he could not remain silent while Israel killed more than 15,000 children in Gaza and left thousands more as amputees and orphans. He paid the price.

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