Since 2018 we've all come to know The Squad, a group of progressive women of color in Congress, which includes Massachusetts Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. Since the original four members were elected, they have been disrupting the political status quo. A new book titled "The Squad: AOC and the Hope of a Political Revolution"looks at their journey and political influence. Author Ryan Grim spoke with GBH’s Morning Edition co-host Paris Alston about why it's needed ahead of a big election year. This transcript has been lightly edited.

Ryan Grim: You know, when I was reporting this book, I thought that people would think that I was nuts for all of the time that I was spending reporting out the counter-revolution in big money that was being spent against The Squad and Squad-adjacent kind of candidates through organizations like No Labels, AIPAC and another organization, Democratic Majority for Israel. You combine those and you're talking about tens of millions of dollars that reshaped what was possible in Democratic primaries in in 2020 and 2022, and also heavily influenced, you know, the legislative agenda, not just on the question of Israel-Palestine, but also more broadly.

And since I finished writing the book, not only have you had the events of Oct. 7, you've also had the organization No Labels, really take it to another level and now threatening to spend $70 million to put an independent candidate on the ballot. So these forces that kind of rose to counteract The Squad kind of metastasized into much bigger phenomena in ways that I don't think I even saw. But the book really runs through where they came from and what their objectives are.

Paris Alston: Right. And it also illustrates how every step of the formation of The Squad has challenged that status quo that we know to be campaign funding in the world of our political system. I love the anecdote that you illustrated about a sort of orientation for new Congress members at Harvard here, right across the river from us in Cambridge, in which the members of The Squad who had been elected were like, what is going on here? We're not hearing from the people that we thought would really teach us how to govern. We're hearing instead from corporations. And that moment, that sort of walking out and saying, okay, we're going to go do some other stuff while we're here on Harvard's campus, interact with some other folks, was led by our very own Massachusetts congresswoman, Ayanna Pressley, who became the state's first Black congresswoman after defeating incumbent Mike Capuano in 2018. Now, you note that she is the most experienced of The Squad. How have you seen her leadership change since she helped usher it in?

Grim: Yes, exactly. She's the kind of elder, in some ways, of The Squad and was somebody that AOC in particular, but also the others, would go to for advice about politics, about how to legislate. And you might not have seen that coming in the beginning because, you know, she had an interesting road into Justice Democrats. As I report in the book, she almost kind of lost the Justice Democrats' endorsement just a couple of weeks before the primary.

Alston: And we should note that Justice Democrats is a political action committee that works to elect progressive candidates.

Grim: Right. They kind of learned after the fact that Pressley had in 2016 been critical of Medicare for All, been critical of Bernie Sanders as a Hillary Clinton surrogate; that her council campaign had taken, you know, some lobbying and corporate PAC money. So then they're like, wait a minute, this doesn't square. And so it led to this, you know, really tense phone call where Pressley said, that is true, but I am with you and with your agenda. I'm with AOC. I'm committed to the Justice Democrats agenda. And I think they believe that they made the right choice, that she has been a strong ally since then, although she, if you remember, of course, she broke with them and endorsed Elizabeth Warren in the 2020 campaign rather than Bernie Sanders, who the other three endorsed. But also everybody understood that's home state politics.

After this discussion aired, Rep. Pressley's team contacted GBH News to dispute Grim's account of this phone call. GBH News has not been able to independently confirm details of the call.

Alston: But to that point, right, even with that understanding of her dissension there, what does The Squad teach us about solidarity as a political strategy?

Grim: In the very early months, they were kind of a thrown together non-entity, like Ilhan Omar told me for the book. She's like, you know, there is no Squad, right? It's just a media creation. And that is both true — it came out of an Instagram post that AOC made in 2018 where she put up a picture of the four of them and just wrote 'Squad' underneath it. And the media is like, okay, that'll do. We were looking for a term and now we've got it and we're going to use it and we're going to kind of define these four people as The Squad. But at the same time, forces and events push them to kind of define themselves in that way as well. And so if somebody is in the barrel, are we all in the barrel? And at times you would have just one of them in the barrel and the others were kind of stepping back and saying, you know, we don't necessarily help right now.

Fast forward to the recent moment where Rashida Tlaib was censured for saying, you know, 'from the river to the sea' as she's speaking, you know, Ilhan Omar on the House floor, Ilhan Omar has her hand on her shoulder. Ayanna Pressley and AOC are right there behind her, you know, standing in solidarity with kind of a growing faction of progressive Democrats who have been willing to be openly critical of Israel as well. So you start to see that that solidarity in action now, I think.

Alston: And to your point, right, it's not always support with a House vote. Sometimes it's just emotional support, which we probably see more of when we see how women move in politics, arguably. And looking at the role of political action committees like Justice Democrats, how are they going to be important in sustaining what The Squad has done for years and generations to come?

Grim: The Justice Democrats and their kind of allied organizations are looking at 2024 as kind of an existential moment. They have to figure out, you know, how and whether they can fight back against overwhelming financial firepower. Let's say they can cobble together $10 million against this potential hundred-million dollar spend. Then their question is going to be, where do they spend that and how do they spend it? And how much kind of people power is left? How much people power is out there that will combine with them to create the space for this faction in Congress, not just to defend itself, but to actually grow?

And so I really think that the long-term question that you're asking will kind of be answered in 2024. Like at the end of it, we'll know. If they've been severely beaten back, that's going to set them back for a very long time. If they've been able to expand even in the face of this, I think that's going to signal that there are big changes coming in the Democratic Party.

Alston: Well, that is Ryan Grim, who is the author of "The Squad: AOC and The Hope of a Political Revolution." Ryan, thank you so very much.

Grim: No, thank you.

Alston: And stay tuned later this week, as we hear from Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. You're listening to GBH's Morning Edition.