A Reader on Jamaal Bowman

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I just got this note from TPM Reader RL who lives in NY-16 and says he just voted for Latimer. He brings up something that didn’t figure in my piece at all: the fire alarm. I’d always written off the idea that Bowman was trying to delay that vote. It simply didn’t make sense to me. It seemed like he was in a rush. The door was locked. And he pulled the fire alarm to unlock the door. RL says it actually played a significant role in his vote, not because it was a huge deal in itself but because it was just dumb and made him a story when the GOP was imploding. As I told RL, perhaps it’s the same difference. It you’re in a rush and a door is locked, setting off a fire alarm in a large office building is not a smart thing to do. Terrible judgment and possibly even dangerous. It just seems like the kind of move, whatever the motivation, that is very much a Jamaal Bowman thing that you’d never see Hakeem Jeffries, Dan Goldman or AOC doing. Just not ready for prime time, quite apart from ideology.

Now RL

Long time subscriber and NY-16 resident. Appreciated your take on the Latimer-Bowman race and how out of step Bowman is with the overall district.  I just voted for Latimer.  I consider myself to be a highly pragmatic/normie Dem voter, but believe that a strong progressive vanguard is important to move the party forward (as long as they don’t go too overboard – I agree completely with your coverage of how the Progressive Caucus is nothing like the Freedom Caucus and is not the tail wagging the dog as the outer wing operates in the GOP).  I notice you omitted a criticism of Bowman that was important to my vote: the fire alarm.  This may seem like nitpicking and being a hall monitor.  But if you think back, this was not just embarrassing for Bowman (and our District, by extension), but was an infuriating political move.  The House GOP had just spent weeks beclowning themselves more than usual by failing to elect a Speaker.  And despite GOP messaging efforts to say that it was “Democrats working with a small number of backbenchers,” for the most part the national press was finally reporting what we all know: the House GOP was an ungovernable mess.  This was a breakthrough to the both-siderism reporting we detest, and it should have been allowed to really flower.  As the old saying goes, when your enemy is self-destructing, just stay out of the way.  And then Jamaal Bowman pulled the fire alarm.  Yes, there are some minor details about why he tried to delay the vote that he (briefly!) delayed with his stunt.  But his actions gave an opening to the press to be able to say “Oh, looks how bad it is in CONGRESS!”  Back to bothsiderism with one pull of a fire alarm that substantively accomplished nothing.  This may have receded from some people’s memories as headier events like Gaza make a fire alarm seem doubly childish.  But this was straight-up political malpractice in my book and I don’t think we should be elevating someone who is going to pull (ahem) such a counterproductive move. 

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