Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning upset victory over 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in the Democratic primary on Tuesday signals another sharp leftward lurch within a party seeking a decisive comeback in the 2018 midterm elections.
“We met a machine with a movement,” the progressive Ocasio-Cortez told NY1 after defeating Crowley.
After suffering resounding losses across the board during the 2016 elections, the Democratic Party has struggled to rally around a unifying message combating President Donald Trump, as the gap between its progressive and Establishment factions widened.
And now progressivism may take the upper hand in establishing the message Democrats will pit against Trump’s “Make America Great Again” and “America First” policy and political agendas.
Ocasio-Cortez, a Hispanic who was a campaign organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and worked as a bartender less than a year ago. The 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez’s win against the heavily funded 56-year-old chairman of the House Democratic Caucus — who was widely rumored to be a front-runner in succeeding House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) — is the latest dramatic shift in the party’s leftward trajectory.
“If there was any doubt that their party has moved drastically to the left, Democrats just elected a self-avowed socialist over the current chair of the House Democratic Caucus,” Republican National Committee (RNC) Rapid Response Director Michael Ahrens wrote Tuesday.
CNN White House Correspondent Jeff Zeleny tweeted Tuesday, “The stunning defeat of @JoeCrowleyNY is a fresh reminder that one of the biggest political stories (getting far less attention than it deserves, with Trump consuming so much oxygen) is the major identity crisis underway inside the Democratic Party.”
The stunning defeat of @JoeCrowleyNY is a fresh reminder that one of the biggest political stories (getting far less attention than it deserves, with Trump consuming so much oxygen) is the major identity crisis underway inside the Democratic Party.
— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) June 27, 2018
Crowley’s loss to the political novice also threw Pelosi’s status as House minority leader into question as Democrats attempt to retake the House in November.
“I think it’s far too early to make those kinds of commitments right now,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN’s Poppy Harlow on Wednesday when asked if she’d support Pelosi’s leadership bid.
When a reporter asked Pelosi if “Democratic House leadership” should “look that way” toward an increasingly “younger, more female, more diverse, more progressive” Democratic Party, Pelosi replied, “Well, I’m female, I’m progressive.”
“So what’s your problem? Two out of three ain’t bad,” Pelosi also said. “So let’s not get yourself carried away as an expert on demographics and the rest of that within the caucus or outside the caucus.”
But Ocasio-Cortez ran on a platform of progressive ideals such as Medicare for All, abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a “universal jobs guarantee,” “housing as a human right,” free rides to universities and public schools, and investing in 100 percent renewable energy.
Sanders himself cheered Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, saying Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports” that progressive ideals are winning and “happening all across the country.”
“What we need now is a movement in this country, and it is happening, of saying that we should not be living in a country where the three wealthiest people now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American society,” Sanders said. “That’s wrong. Those are the issues we should be talking about.”
Mark Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, warned Wednesday on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom” that Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Crowley “doesn’t bode well” for Democrats heading into 2018 and 2020.
“I think what you see in the Democratic Party is that [Rep.] Maxine Waters [of California] and Bernie Sanders are becoming more and more the face of the Democratic Party,” Short said. “They’re advocating for policies that provide essentially universal health care that’s paid for by the taxpayer. They’re advocating for open borders.”
“That certainly doesn’t bode well for them and their politics as they continue to move more to the socialist left.”
Short added, “In this case, [Ocasio-Cortez] even advocated for the elimination of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office, the elimination of that entire department. So that’s where you see the Democratic Party moving, and I think that certainly doesn’t bode well for them and their politics as they continue to move more to the socialist left.”
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Wednesday on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” that each 2018 and 2020 Democratic candidate must be asked about his or her support for “the new face of the Democratic Party” represented by Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez, which is “to the stark left of America.”
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