A new “Squad” will charge into Capitol Hill next year with a laser-focused agenda—to rebrand the Republican party and take down its rival’s “socialist squad” leader, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.).
Republican Rep-elects Maria Elvira Salazar (Fla.) and Nicole Malliotakis (N.Y.) sprouted the idea last month of a new crew to counter Ocasio-Cortez’s progressive “Squad,” labeled as “the Force” or the “freedom squad.”
“I want to create a force within my freshman class that will have to be reckoned with. A force of reason, a force for freedom, a force for democracy,” Salazar, a Cuban-American and former journalist, told NBC News. It’s a clever riposte that is starting to garner attention.
Salazar and Malliotakis, the only Republican to represent New York City in Congress, are members of the most diverse freshman Republican class ever, with at least eight members who are a person of color or a minority. Members of the GOP also more than doubled the amount of women serving in the House of Representatives in the 2020 election, bringing the total to at least 28.
“We need to form our own ‘squad.’ We have a group of new Republicans who love America. We value freedom, liberty and opportunity,” Malliotakis told The New York Post in November.
“Freedom squad” Goals
Ocasio-Cortez’s progressive “Squad” also includes Democratic Reps. Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), congresswomen who are members of a new era of elected officials who are young, diverse, progressive and willing to question establishment, often championing liberal agenda including the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.
The Democratic crew, however, is seen as fueling dangerously radical messages of socialism to the U.S.
“I think what you're going to see is a group of individuals who are going to serve as a counterbalance to the values of the socialist squad,” Malliotakis said last month during an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “We don't believe we should be dismantling the economy. We don't believe we should be destroying free market principles. We don't believe in 'Green New Deal.' We don't believe in packing the courts.”
Malliotakis, with pro-President Donald Trump and pro-police ideals, plans to blast more “socialist” policies brewing on the other side of the aisle like bail reform and the “defund the police” movement.
The New York Rep-elect shot at Ocasio-Cortez during her campaign run against Democratic Rep. Max Rose, but attributed some of her election success in gaining votes in Russian, Chinese, Ukranian and Korean communities in her district—which is in Staten Island and in a part of southern Brooklyn— to the congresswoman’s radical, socialist agenda.
Potential members of the conservative crew
Salazar and Malliotakis, both daughters of Cuban refugees, lead other incoming House Republicans who boast anti-socialism rhetoric.
Other members of the “freedom squad” include Republican Rep-elects Carlos Giménez (Fla.), born in Cuba, and Victoria Spartz (Ind.), from Ukraine—both of which grew up under a communist rule.
“There is a natural alliance that is forming between people whose families have similar histories to mine,” Malliotakis told POLITICO after the election. “People who are rightfully concerned about the direction our nation is moving in and what the socialist squad is peddling.”
Spartz, who lived in formerly communist Ukraine, told Fox News that the U.S. is “building socialism,” adding “I’m kind of going full circles. I can tell you what is going to be next. It’s very sad for me to see that.”
“When I hear this Democratic socialism that is being presented within the Democratic Party, I can only tell you that only brings misery, oppression and exile. And how do I know? Because I have lived it and I have covered it,” Salazar said in an interview with NBC News.
The “freedom squad’s” future in the GOP
As members of a freshman Republican class with ground-breaking diversity, Malliotakis noted “there’s a lot of new blood” within the GOP, and it’s no longer “the party of white men.”
She pivoted the GOP female public office successes to Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.), the youngest Republican elected into Congress, and her efforts in getting more women on her side of the aisle by mentoring and monitoring the candidates’ growth during their campaign trails.
Much of Malliotakis and the conservative crew’s House victories reveal a growing foundation of Hispanic and Latino voters in the Republican Party, as their vote helped Trump cruise to victory in Florida during the presidential election and held his candidacy in Texas and Arizona.
“I think one of the reasons why we were so motivated to run is seeing the Democratic women being elected in 2018 that don't necessarily reflect our values, particularly those who are self-described socialists,” Malliotakis told CNN. “I think there's just a stark contrast between what we're offering and what people like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are offering. And that's something that needs to be debated in Washington.” Game on.
Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.