The question for many newly elected politicians is whether they can keep the same energy they had on the campaign trail once their names are written on the office door. With Massachusetts Congresswoman-elect Ayanna Pressley, it appears that concern can be laid to rest.
As BuzzFeed News reports, Pressley gave Democratic Party donors a stern—and much needed—lecture about their priorities in a private meeting on Tuesday.
Pressley’s comments were made available thanks to an audio recording provided to BuzzFeed News—while Pressley’s office declined to comment further on her remarks, she did end up retweeting the article and praise, including from fellow congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted that she was “so incredibly proud” of the Boston Democrat.
From what BuzzFeed reports, it appears Pressley spoke to donors at the Democratic National Committee fundraising meeting much the same way she talked about the Democratic Party on the campaign trail, at one point asking the room, “Do black lives only matter in election years when our votes are at stake?”
Pressley told donors that the party needed to ask itself “if we are simply content with making history, or if we want to commit ourselves to working together to make a lasting, transformative change.”
“Now we must push ourselves to ask the tough questions about whether or not we provided them with the institutional support so we can break through more glass and concrete ceilings as rapidly as possible,” she added.
According to BuzzFeed News, Pressley’s speech spanned about 10 minutes, winning cheers and ovations from some attendees, but crossed arms from others.
Pressley, for good measure, told the audience that she didn’t intend to make anyone uncomfortable, but she didn’t not come to make anyone uncomfortable, either.
“I’m okay with doing that in the name and in pursuit of progress,” she continued. “Those young people are demanding and expecting more from me. And I owe it to them. I ran to fight for the ignored, the left out, and the left behind. And that is not only true for the electorate. Together we’ll do that work beginning with our own party.”
Pressley also emphasized that what she saw in her historic victory—in which she unseated 10-term Democratic incumbent Mark Capuano—was a “mandate for hope.” Still, “we”—the Democrats—“do need a checkup.”
This echoes comments Pressley told The Root in September, when she emphasized that Democrats needed to take responsibility for policies that propelled and entrenched inequality in districts like the Massachusetts 7th, which Pressley now represents.
There are many ways to define character, one of which is to ask whether a person is the same behind closed doors as they are in public. Her Tuesday speech suggests that Pressley is more than ready to provide both character and moral leadership to a party that has seemed unmoored and confused in recent years about its messaging—and which voters it wants to appeal to.
Pressley homed in on this as well in her speech.
“Of all of the negotiations and decisions of our day, this gentle battle is the most important: Will we go in the direction of worry, weariness, or indifference? Or in the direction of joy, of peace, of equality, and justice?” she asked the room.
“I applaud each one of you for winning that gentle battle today. And what I would offer is that our nation and our party face a crossroads.”