The Squad faces a series of tests in primaries

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) wipes her eyes as she listens to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on March 07, 2024 in Washington, DC. She has vocally criticised Biden’s policy toward Israel. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) (Getty Images)
U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) wipes her eyes as she listens to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol on March 07, 2024 in Washington, DC. She has vocally criticised Biden’s policy toward Israel. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

This week symbolised the absolutely shambolic state of Republican infighting. On Monday, Donald Trump threw a grenade by impying that he simply would leave states to decide abortion — while not explicitly saying whether he would veto an abortion ban, just that he would not sign one.

Then, on Wednesday, the House Republican conference once again soiled itself when it voted down a rule to begin debate on reauthorising the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

But these internecine dealings are not so much about policy as they are about tactics. On Friday, the House passed a new version of the rule after the Freedom Caucus was put down for a bottle and a nap. Republican states have still restricted abortion and Trump continues to take credit for killing Roe v Wade. And even if not all Republican Senators want to take up impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, they most certainly want to continue to make immigration the defining issue of the 2024 campaign.

Conversely, Democrats do actually have legitimate policy differences but once disputes are resolved, they move as a unit. The coming months will prove the mettle of both the more establishment wings and the progressive insurgents, particularly on the issue of Israel.

A week from Tuesday, the Squad — the coterie of progressive insurgents — will face their first major challenge when Summer Lee faces a primary challenger in Pennsylvania. Lee has been a lightning rod for criticism ever since she ran for an open seat. I covered the last few weeks of her campaign in 2022 in the Pittsburgh area when pro-Israel groups had alreadt come out against her before she had even gotten a chance to vote on any policy pertaining to Israel.

Now, Moderate PAC has hit Lee for voting against Joe Biden. The claim is baffling, considering that Lee sits on the House Oversight Committee with other members of the Squad as part of what ranking Democrat Jamie Raskin called in an interview with The Independent last year “the Truth Squad” to push back on the House GOP’s spurious attempts to impeach Biden.

Antisemitism is especially salient for Pennsylvania’s 12th district, given it is the home of the Tree of Life Synagogue, where a gunman killed 11 Jews in 2018.

Lee also faced criticism when she was scheduled to speak at the Philadelphia branch of Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) after Jewish Insider reported that some of the other speakers had made antisemitic remarks.

At the same time, the freshman Democrat has seemed to deftly avoid anything sticking to her. She pulled out from speaking at the CAIR event. Lee has — correctly — pointed out that Jeffrey Yass, the richest person in Pennsylvania, has contributed $800,000 to the PAC spending against her. Yass, of course, is a major investor in TikTok’s parent company ByteDance, whom Trump has courted, and he has been floated as a potential Treasury Secretary in a second administration.

In the most recent round of spending bills, Lee touted the fact she brought money to combat antisemitism in her district and to provide resources for people still healing from the shooting.

But other members of the Squad might not be so fortunate. Representative Jamaal Bowman, who in 2020 knocked off a longtime incumbent, now faces challenges on multiple fronts. His opponent George Latimer has received the backing of the Democratic Majority for Israel, which is led by Mark Mellman, a former consigliere to the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

On Thursday, he jousted with DMFI when he said on a Protect the Squad launch call of the Democrat Majority for Israel that “we are taking their power away from them”. They responded on Twitter/X: “We have no power. The power is in the hands of his constituents, 55% of whom give Rep Bowman a negative rating for his performance in Congress and the majority of whom are voting against him in favor of @LatimerforNY.”

Similarly, Rep. Cori Bush of Missouri, who also knocked off a longtime Democratic incumbent, faces a challenger supported by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Bush, like Bowman and Lee, supports a ceasefire in Gaza and has a well-supported opponent in Wesley Bell.

That being said, other members of the Squad do not face legitimate challenges. Tellingly, Representative Rashida Tlaib, the only Palestinian American congresswoman, who faced a censureship for her comments about Gaza, seems to face only a surface-level primary challenge.

In fact, the increased scrutiny she faces has probably helped her as she reported raising $3.8m at the end of last year. That would be a haul for a Senate candidate, but it’s an eye-popping stat for a backbencher in the House.

Similarly, Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota faces a rematch against her 2022 challenger who almost defeated her but she seems to be in a good spot. And for all of Bowman’s troubles, fellow New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an outspoken critic of Biden’s policy on Israel, faces no major challenge.

But while Republicans feuds are little more than sophisticated food fights, the Democratic feuds are underpinned by a larger policy question. Many of the Squad members have refused to sign onto a discharge petition to put a bill passed by the Senate to give aid to Israel as well as Ukraine to the floor.

Of course, there are other elements within the feud: more establishment forces fear that the criticism of Israel is a ruse for antisemitism — despite the fact that even Jewish Democrats like Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have recently spoken out against Israel’s bombardment of Gaza. Meanwhile, progressives see the primary challenges as thinly-veiled anti-Black racism (though, it should be said some of the most outspoken Democratic voices for Israel are Black members of Congress such as House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Representative Ritchie Torres).

Progressives have told me they had serious reservations in the past weeks because of Israel’s handling of its war with Hamas. The results beginning with the April 23 primary in Pennsylvania could easily determine whether progressives sign onto the petition or remain unbowed.