It’s very interesting indeed that Ocasio-Cortez’s right-hand man, Saikat Chakrabarti, is on his way out just a week after her first meeting in months with Nancy Pelosi. And that the news is breaking late-ish on Friday afternoon, traditionally the hours when politicians dump inconvenient developments which they’d rather the public not pay any attention to.
The most hated man in the Democratic caucus is headed for the exit, just half a year into his boss’s first term. I wonder if Pelosi demanded his head on a plate or if AOC offered it as a gesture of goodwill.
Either way, who’s gonna write her tweets now?
Saikat Chakrabarti, her chief of staff, and Corbin Trent, her director of communications — who, through their work with Justice Democrats, have been alongside Ocasio-Cortez since her primary run — will leave the lawmaker’s office. Chakrabarti will go to New Consensus, a nonprofit focused on climate issues and promoting the Green New Deal. Trent will direct communications on Ocasio-Cortez’s 2020 campaign, the same role he played during her first congressional run.
“Saikat has decided to leave the office of Rep. Ocasio-Cortez to work with New Consensus to further develop plans for a Green New Deal,” Trent said in a statement to The Intercept. “We are extraordinarily grateful for his service to advance a bold agenda and improve the lives of the people in NY-14. From his co-founding of Justice Democrats to his work on the Ocasio-Cortez campaign and in the official office, Saikat’s goal has always been to do whatever he can to help the larger progressive movement, and we look forward to continuing working with him to do just that.”
Chakrabarti heading off to work on the Green New Deal is like a right-winger stepping down to go work on a balanced budget amendment.
You do that, buddy. Burn that midnight oil. See how it goes.
If you don’t know the backstory here, you need to read this right now and catch up. Chakrabarti was at the center of the barroom brawl that broke out within the Democratic caucus in mid-July, after Pelosi agreed to pass the bipartisan Senate bill on border funding. Lefties in the House were irate, believing that she’d sold out instead of fighting for better treatment for detained migrants and blamed moderate Dems for twisting her arm. Chakrabarti’s reaction was the most noxious of all: He tweeted that the moderates should be known as “New Southern Democrats” from now on because “they seem hell bent to do to black and brown people today what Southern Democrats did in the 1940s.”
He was comparing centrists in his own caucus, the majority-makers for the Democratic Party, to old-school segregationists. AOC’s colleagues went berserk:
“That’s just a terrible statement to make. That’s a terrible statement to make,” Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), a Congressional Black Caucus member, said of Chakrabarti’s segregationists tweets. “Somebody’s got to be held accountable. If my staff did something that was not right, then I have to handle my staff.”…
“Do I think AOC’s chief of staff needs to be fired? Of course I do,” said a moderate Democratic lawmaker. “Who is in charge in that office? Is she unable to fire him for his racist comments?”
Another Democratic lawmaker added: “My chief would have the honor to resign” if he tweeted those things.
But that’s not all. Chakrabarti also co-founded Justice Democrats, the far-left PAC that helped AOC herself successfully primary Joe Crowley and that’s eyeing primaries to other safe-seat House Dems next year. Her colleagues have gone berserk over that too, especially members of the Congressional Black Caucus who tend to align with more centrist legislators like Pelosi and might be ripe to get knocked off in a primary by an energized progressive opposition. Rep. Lacy Clay spoke for many a few weeks ago:
The Missouri Democrat also described Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti and the progressive group Justice Democrats as “juvenile” and “ignorant.”
The Justice Democrats have endorsed a progressive primary challenger against Clay and other centrist Democrats…
“They’re missing the fact that we have a very thin margin of a majority that we’re operating under and apparently it doesn’t matter to Justice Democrats, they just want to get skins. They want to score points for whatever reason. But I find it juvenile, their tactics, I find their ignorance to be beyond belief about American history and about who are really segregationists. And so how dare they try to play the race card at this point, it shows you the weakness of their arguments.”
Rahm Emanuel, one of the party’s most pugnacious centrist Dems, called Chakrabarti a “snot-nosed punk” for badmouthing Pelosi and for daring to jeopardize the new majority by running primaries against incumbents. God only knows how nasty the invective got in private.
Chakarabarti’s also the guy, you may recall, who admitted that the Green New Deal “wasn’t originally a climate thing at all” and claimed that he thinks of it “as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing,” thereby confirming the worst suspicions of his opponents. In sum, he’s a fringy ideologue a la AOC herself, is eager to remake the party in Congress as an overtly socialist mechanism, and wasn’t afraid to make many enemies as chief of staff, even breaking rules of etiquette forbidding staffers from criticizing members of Congress to do so. I’ve compared him before to Steve Bannon, but from the left.
And now here he is being packed off to join Bannon in the wilderness.
And so we’re left with a mystery: Who ordered the Code Red? Did Pelosi give AOC some sort of ultimatum, warning her that Chakrabarti was a cancer on the caucus and would harm her ability to build legislative alliances if he didn’t skedaddle? Did Chakrabarti perhaps arrive at that conclusion himself and offer to leave? Or did Ocasio-Cortez decide that he had become more of a liability than an asset to her and dropped the axe herself? Stay tuned!