It is fitting that the earth-shattering victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over one of the most powerful Democrats in America came sandwiched between two catastrophic United States Supreme Court verdicts. The court, shifting rightward with President Donald Trump’s Neil Gorsuch, defended a travel ban on people from Muslim-majority nations and chose to devastate labour unions with its decision on Wednesday.
Many voters, particularly young people, understand the time for incrementalism and moderation is long over, and ended for good when a race-baiter who empowers white supremacists and oligarchs stormed into the White House.
It ended with those children in cages, the attacks on immigrants and all people of colour.
Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old former Bernie Sanders organiser, crushed Joe Crowley, the number four-ranked Democrat in the House. Crowley was widely-viewed as a possible successor to Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker. Not only was Crowley a Washington power broker, but he was one of the most influential Democrats in New York State, controlling the Democratic Party in his home borough of Queens and directing much of the internal Democratic politics of New York City. Other than Ocasio-Cortez, almost no Democrat would dare rebuke Crowley publicly.
In retrospect, Crowley as a future speaker was a laughable proposition. Ocasio-Cortez represents the future of the Democratic party. When she breezes to victory over Republican opposition in November, she will be the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She is a Latina in a majority minority district that Crowley, who is white and raises his family in Virginia, never truly represented.
Just as important, Ocasio-Cortez is an unabashed leftist, supported by the Democratic Socialists of America and numerous progressive organisations. She ran on a platform of Medicare for All, abolishing Ice and a federal jobs guarantee. She was unafraid of calling out corporatism.
I count myself a proud supporter. Her election was truly grass roots-driven. She was Crowley’s first opponent in 14 years. Voters were longing for a choice and Ocasio-Cortez offered, by far, the best one.
What the institutional Democrats who closed ranks around Crowley until his dying breath can’t understand is that there is no place, anymore, for rhetoric to not match action. Not anymore. You can’t wave the progressive flag, as Crowley had begun to, and vote for the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, and take gobs of cash from Wall Street.
You don’t get to do both. You don’t get to be the Democrat who sells out the working class in the name of a mythical idea of moderation that only serves those with money and power.
Republicans, especially the foot soldiers of the far right, long understood politics is simply a struggle of leverage and power, a zero-sum war where winners set the agenda and losers wail from the sidelines. Republicans run the country. They are the reason so many states are hell-bent on gutting unions and ending the social safety net as we know it.
Lives are literally on the line. Democrats like Ocasio-Cortez comprehend this. They aren’t going to Washington to compromise, to shake hands with an enemy that would prefer to kick the working class, the poor, and people of colour to the gutter and leave them there.
Voters are ready for politicians who will speak to the hopes that they have and offer solutions that aren’t meaningless, that aren’t focus-grouped bromides spit out by consultants pulling in a half million a year who never knew what it was like to work as a waitress or a bartender, as Ocasio-Cortez had done for years.
National Democrats will understand, perhaps, that it was a mistake to ever consider anointing Crowley, who merely represented a “new” generation because he was younger than Pelosi, who at least had the sense to oppose the Iraq War. Ocasio-Cortez is not a hero because she is young: she is a hero because of her ideas, vision, and courage.
It was Sanders, a senior citizen, who began this movement, and it will be all of those — of all ages and races and ethnicities — who battle for a politics that serves the most vulnerable amongst Americans. The 2020 presidential candidates (will Sanders be among them?) will adjust accordingly. This is actually what democracy looks like.
— Guardian News & Media Ltd
Ross Barkan is a journalist and candidate for the New York state senate.