My Hometown Hero: Cori Bush

Aug 9, 2020

By Alan Minsky, Executive Director – Progressive Democrats of America


When I started this weekly blog, I told myself that I would be a little more experimental with my writing – move outside of the realm of the rational, away from the territory of hard politics where I spend far too much of my time.

One thing I didn’t anticipate was that I’d be reflecting so much on my hometown  – but good ol’ St. Louis keeps creeping into my imagination. 

It’s happened again, only this week it’s due 100% to politics – and I couldn’t be happier about it!

On Tuesday, something truly amazing happened when a poor working class woman of color, who had never held political office previously, knocked out one of the longest lasting congressional family dynasties in U.S. history. Cori Bush defeated Congressman Lacy Clay – in my hometown district in St. Louis Missouri!

Lacy’s father, Bill Clay was my Representative during my entire childhood. While Clay Sr. was solidly liberal (as the electoral left was called in those days) and a formidable politician – his son was much less impressive from a progressive perspective.

However, Cori Bush is not just ideologically to the left of Lacy Clay, she is from the people in a way that no other Congressperson can claim – not even Ilhan, Rashida, or AOC.  Bush made her reputation as a frontline activist in the Ferguson demonstrations that started six years ago. Bush is not a lawyer, nor is she wealthy – nor did she go to elite schools, nor did she set out to be a politician. None of that. 

Cori Bush is entering Congress in January 2021 because she recognized that people like herself, the people of her community were not being represented by politicians – and someone like herself, of and for the community, needed to step up and represent.

This result is as glorious as it is long overdue.

I grew up in Missouri’s first district. My family wasn’t wealthy, but we were from one of the more prosperous corners of the district.  Nearby, was the legendary urban blight of St Louis.  It’s not Detroit, in terms of a post-industrial apocalyptic landscape, but it’s not far behind.  The number of vacant lots is stunning, the absence of small businesses unmistakable – and it’s been that way now for decade after decade after decade. 

Unlike Detroit, metropolitan St. Louis hasn’t seen much of an overall decline – there’s still loads of prosperity there. Just not in the heart of Missouri’s first district.  

Urban blight remains an open wound on American society. The product of our racist/classist divide – and it’s an open wound that the establishment wing of the Democratic Party has allowed to fester long enough. 

Cori Bush’s arrival in Congress is a historic event. In this era of tremendous wealth inequality – with a massive racial wealth gap – almost no members of the working class are elected to office. This, of course, speaks volumes about how our political system serves the wealthy and not the many. 

Cori Bush will be demanding something different, something more.

I was acutely aware of the brutal racist inequalities of St Louis society by the time I was an adolescent – and I hated that reality with every fiber of my being. It defined my politics then, and still does today.  I’ve always wanted the people of north St. Louis to have as much prosperity, and all the advantages that come with it, as the people of Ladue, MO (one of the richest suburbs in America). As a political activist, it’s that vision that continues to inspire me – ’cause one thing for sure, if we get there the world will be a much better place.

The Ferguson uprising changed the political dynamics of St. Louis. Now Cori Bush is entering congress. I’m thrilled, but now the rubber hits the road. Cori is calling for everything we need in American society right now. I’m going to do everything I can to help her get it. 

Move over all you Cardinals and Blues, I have a new hometown hero! 

…and I’ll be thinking even more about St, Louis in the coming days.