“We are where we are because we failed.”

It’s a surprising sentiment to hear at the start of a reelection campaign.

But in rallying supporters on Saturday afternoon at The Riveter in Capitol Hill, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA-07) asked those on hand to grapple with something she acknowledged is hard to hear. There are lessons to be learned, she said, and key takeaways needed to move forward from failure.

“We gave away our power,” said the first-term member of Congress. “We allowed corporations and the wealthiest to convince that somehow our voices don’t matter and that the system is too corrupt to make a difference, and so too many people stopped engaging, stopped voting, stopped even caring.”

And for good reason, people lost faith.

“We lost faith because sometimes, too many of our leaders abdicated their responsibility to stand forthrightly for what we believe in, unfettered by corporate lobbyists and money in politics,” she said.

There is, however, a silver lining to an environment that allowed Republicans to take the House and Senate, and Donald Trump the White House.

“Failure is sometimes necessary to awaken us,” she said.

She likened it to an alarm clock, a signal to do things differently. Failure — she told the crowd of more than 150 — “has taught us that we can’t win alone.”

“This is really fertile ground for organizing,” Jayapal said. “It is fertile ground for digging, for replanting, for sowing seeds, for reaping results that are a departure from the past because what we are sowing, more deeply than ever before, are the greed resistance seeds, the human dignity seeds, the shared values seeds.”

In launching her bid for a second-term, Jayapal listed off a long list of policy priorities. She said she’ll introduce a state-based health care bill in the coming weeks — one that would allow states to take federal streams of money and put it toward a single-payer system — and that she’ll continue fighting for everything from gun reform and an overhaul of election financing, to net neutrality, debt-free college for all, and a clean DREAM Act alongside comprehensive immigration reform.  

“When someone accuses us of being idealistic, just ask them, ‘Who in the world has ever done big things by thinking small?’” she said.

Jayapal has yet to draw a challenger, with the filing deadline just weeks away. But the congresswoman is looking for a large margin of victory in November no matter who she faces, to show strong backing for the work she’s doing.

“Whoever I draw as an opponent, I want us to win, and I want us to win big,” she said.

In addition to her own re-election efforts, Jayapal stressed the importance of Democrats retaking control of the House in November. Though she currently holds one of the bluest seats in the country, she noted races in Washington’s 3rd, 5th, and 8th Districts — all currently represented by Republicans — as key opportunities toward flipping the 24 seats needed to shift the balance of power in the House.

As first vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Jayapal said that group — one that “hasn’t used our power the way we could,” — is now building a different kind of infrastructure in preparation of having that majority.

She also cited a recent poll of 30 “swing” districts across the country, which found progressive messaging resonates beyond traditionally blue areas.   

“Progressive voters and swing voters both want the same things,” she said. “They want us to be bold. They want us to rewrite the rules of the economy so it works for them.”

But, Jayapal doesn’t necessarily view pushes like Medicare for All or a $15 minimum wage as progressive ideas.

“They are tested ideas from other countries, they are ideas that serve working people,” she said. “They are centrist ideas, in the sense of the word. That we serve the center.”

The focus now is on getting that message to voters.

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