Socialist Wins New York Primary; What This Means
On Tuesday, Democratic socialist candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated 10-term Representative Joe Crowley for the Democratic party’s nomination for New York’s 14th congressional district. In this heavily Democrat district comprising sections of the Bronx and Queens in New York City, Ocasio-Cortes’s primary victory almost guarantees that she will enter Congress in 2019. This political upset has shocked Democrats who viewed Crowley as a potential successor to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
The 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez, a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, ran on a predictably progressive platform, outmaneuvering Crowley to the left. She described her campaign as being focused on “economic, social, and racial dignity for working-class Americans,” this concise message has been credited with driving Ocasio-Cortez’s 15-point victory over her opponent. Some of her positions include Medicare for all, tuition-free college, and comprehensive gun control. Ocasio-Cortez also supports a federal jobs program that would guarantee workers a $15 minimum wage along with benefits. Perhaps her most extreme position is the abolition of ICE, which she calls “fascist” and claims is operating “black sites” on the Mexican border.
Not only does Ocasio-Cortez advocate many Bernie Sanders inspired positions, she also adopted his grassroots fundraising style, raising approximately $600,000 through small-dollar donors. While this number pales in comparison to the $3 million spent by Joe Crowley during the campaign, his apparent coziness to Wall Street cost him dearly in the heavily progressive district. Ocasio-Cortez’s surprising victory has been described as the biggest political upset since Dave Brat defeated House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in Virginia’s 2014 Republican Primary.
The electoral victory of Ocasio-Cortez is just the most recent indication of the Democrats extreme turn to the left, and the mainstreaming of Socialist views since the campaign of Bernie Sanders. Nancy Pelosi, who (as strange as this sounds) now represents the Democrats moderate wing, stated that this result does not indicate that democratic socialism is ascendant in the Democratic party saying, “No . . . it’s ascendant in that district . . . Our party is a big tent. Our districts are very different.” However, the widespread embrace of far-left positions by the Democrats, along with the increasingly charged and threatening rhetoric coming from those within the party show that the moderates have lost control. When Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer represent the moderates in the Democratic party, it is clear that the party has gone off the rails from its previously already left position.
Although the Democratic base has shifted decisively to the left, especially in progressive bubbles such as New York’s 14th District, it remains to be seen how this shift will play with the general electorate. The progressives and democratic socialists have a much more passionate base of support, particularly among the youth, than does the more moderate wing of the party, while many on both left and right still believe that the populist appeal of Bernie Sanders could have defeated Trump during the 2016 election. However, older voters and those in the flyover states are less enchanted with the socialist policies espoused by Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez. As a first-term Representative with few allies on Capitol Hill, it is unlikely that Ocasio-Cortez will have a huge legislative impact in Washington. The significance of her electoral victory this week lies in what it may indicate about the changing political landscape of the nation.
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