Meet the GOP freshmen taking on the squad

Politico:

A new, diverse class of Republicans preps for battle with the left — and hopes of winning back the House

On the first day of Congress’ freshman orientation, four incoming GOP members realized they shared a special connection: All had first- or second-hand experience living in communist or socialist countries.

The crew quipped that their family histories with brutal dictatorships and their aversion to Big Government basically made them the opposite of the liberal “Squad” that has surged to political stardom in the House.

Taking a page from their social media savvy rivals, they took to Twitter to share the name of their own counterrevolution. And the Republican “Force” was born.

“It was a natural alliance that formed. … We understand what it’s like in other countries. We understand how truly special this nation is,” Rep.-elect Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), whose mother was born in Cuba, recalled in an interview. “And we look forward to working together to push back on anyone who tries to bring a socialist agenda to America.”

The quartet — which includes Malliotakis and Reps.-elect Carlos Gimenez and Maria Elvira Salazar of Florida, and Victoria Spartz of Indiana — is positioning itself as a conservative counterweight to the Squad. And they are recruiting others in their class to join them.

Stuck in the House minority, the Force is unlikely to have much influence on next year’s legislative agenda. But their message is already proving politically potent. Democrats are still reeling from House losses in November, when lawmakers on both sides of the aisle say the anti-socialist attacks helped take down a dozen incumbents, including in South Florida.

Beyond the initial four members in the Force, there’s also California GOP Reps.-elect Young Kim and Michelle Steel, Korean immigrants who have been friends for decades and speak on the trail. Steel frequently points to the suffering their families endured under communist regimes.

They all belong to a high-profile freshman class that includes a record-breaking number of women and minorities for the House GOP. And with their diverse backgrounds and already-impressive Twitter followings, the Force could have an outsize impact as Republicans look to take back the House in 2022 — particularly as some are itching to do battle directly with the Squad.

Some incoming lawmakers already have star power in the GOP; Kim and Steel were tapped to campaign in the Georgia Senate runoff races, where they hope to appeal to the rapidly diversifying communities in the Atlanta suburbs that have begun trending toward Democrats.

“I want to be different. I don’t want it to be the same old, same old. This is a new Republican Party,” said Rep.-elect Nancy Mace of South Carolina, the first woman to graduate from The Citadel. “We have to be different if we want to survive and be successful in the long-term.”

As members of the Force build up their political and social media brands, they’re taking cues from an unlikely, but familiar, source: Squad leader Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The New York Democrat has offered up a blueprint for how freshmen, who typically hold little powerful in the halls of Congress, can still exert influence by leveraging their loyal grassroots base. The Squad also includes Reps. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

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