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Reviews |  Pramila Jayapal won’t let Biden presidency fail


But Jayapal didn’t find the business world fulfilling, and an internship at a nonprofit in Thailand put her on a different path. In her book, she describes visiting Site 2, a huge refugee camp on the Thai-Cambodian border, in 1989. It was, she says, her “first exposure to the suffering, trauma and dire situations that cause the migration”. Risking her parents’ disappointment, she eventually accepted a job with a Seattle-based international development nonprofit. Then, after 9/11, she began organizing on behalf of immigrants targeted by both fanatic civilians and the federal government, whose agencies routinely harassed innocent Muslims in the name of counterterrorism.

It was this work that put Jayapal in touch with his congressman, Jim McDermott. He was the first politician she had ever met, and she remembers wearing a copy of Martin Niemöller’s “First They Came for the Socialists…” in his jacket pocket. In it, she wrote: “I saw what real leadership looked like in an elected office.

When Jayapal first started to think about running for office herself, it was with the idea of ​​doing essentially what she is doing now: forcing the system to the left. “For years, I had believed that if politics was the art of the possible, then our job as an activist was to push the limits of what is possible, but from the outside,” she writes. “Why couldn’t this push also come from the platform of an elected office? In 2014, when she was 49, Jayapal was elected to the Washington State Senate, becoming the only woman of color in that chamber. Two years later, after McDermott announced her retirement from Congress, she won the race to succeed him.

Jayapal has brought his decades of organizational experience to the work of strengthening the House Progressive Caucus, which has grown from 78 in 2017 to 96 today. “When I first came to Congress, I was a little stunned by the lack of foundation of the progressive caucus,” she said, although she credits her predecessors for starting to reform it. “There really was no organization. It was more of a social club.

When she and Wisconsin Democrat Mark Pocan took over as caucus leader in 2019, they sought to create a more solid structure, increasing dues and hiring more staff. They instituted a requirement for members to attend meetings and sign a number of flagship bills.

Jayapal and Pocan professionalized the political action committee of the caucus. “I think when I got there we raised maybe $ 300,000 to elect progressive candidates,” she said, referring to the 2016 cycle. In the most recent cycle, they raised 4 , $ 4 million. They created an external organization, a nonprofit called the Progressive Caucus Center, which researches, develops policy, and coordinates with labor and social justice organizations.

She became the sole caucus chair in January. The decision to get rid of the caucus co-chair structure led some anonymous sources to complain to Politico about a “power grab,” but Pocan insisted it made the caucus more nimble. With two co-chairs, he said, decision-making could be extremely slow: “Each press release had to be approved by two bureaus. “

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