I saw this Frank Luntz tweet a few days ago, concluded it was BS, then spent the morning talking myself into believing that maybe he’s onto something.
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) December 31, 2019
Partisans crave deus-ex-machina fantasies about removing their least favorite politicians from office sooner than anyone expected them to go. Democrats have spent the past three years cycling through scandals that were supposedly going to bring Trump down and maybe even land him in prison — Russiagate, the Stormy Daniels affair, now the Ukraine business. Luntz’s tweet feels like a right-wing version of that, a miracle solution for GOPers facing the prospect of AOC winning walkover reelections in her indigo blue district for the next 50 years. No Republican can beat her … but what if the state’s Democratic legislature is forced by the census to eliminate a district and they end up choosing hers? Republicans don’t have to beat her! Her own Democratic colleagues back home are going to downsize her out of a job!
The Wall Street liberals who dominate New York’s Democratic leadership would like to downsize her out of a job. She’s a pain in the ass, a progressive radical who threatens their bottom lines and a populist who’ll fight to reduce their stranglehold on the state party. But if they try to eliminate her district they’re declaring war, and war carries risk. She’s already one of the most well-known Democrats in the country and among the most highly regarded members of the party among progressives. If the NY leadership tries to murder her, she might primary Schumer or Gillibrand and she’d have oceans of grassroots money from Bernie Sanders’s base to help her do it. She’d be a cause celebre among leftists, with the AOC-versus-Wall-Street-libs battle seen as a high-stakes proxy fight for the future of the party. Progressive outfits like Justice Democrats would doubtless look for ways to retaliate too in the form of primary challenges to the state legislators responsible for the redistricting (to the extent they’re not looking to primary those people already). At a minimum, some Dems would suffer Election Day boycotts by progressives eager to make them pay for eliminate AOC’s job.
It’d be a stark test of strength between the left and neoliberal centrists. If the centrists lose, lefties across the country will find inspiration in it and suddenly the attempt to kick Ocasio-Cortez out of Congress will have ended in the whole party being jerked further towards socialism. That’d be an epic miscalculation. So if you’re one of those Wall Street liberals in the state legislature contemplating having to eliminate a congressional district in New York, why not leave AOC be? She’s no immediate threat to anyone so long as she occupies her House sinecure. Let her go on tweeting and voting ineffectually with the Squad for far-left programs that’ll never pass. When she does eventually get around to running for statewide office, at least her campaign won’t be rocket-fueled by progressive grievance over the fact that state leaders tried to disempower the movement by eliminating her seat. And who knows? Maybe she won’t run for statewide office after all. Scandal may intervene, she may tire of Congress, the party may tire of her. It’d be foolish to pick a fight with a populist at a moment when populism is in vogue nationally.
Besides: Who’s to say that eliminating her district would even succeed in ousting her from Congress? If NY-14 goes up in smoke, AOC will be a constituent of whatever district replaces it. She can run there, likely pitted in the primary against some other Democratic incumbent. Given the grassroots fundraising at her disposal, there’s every reason to think she might win a head-to-head race against Carolyn Maloney or whoever. It’d be competitive, at least. Redistricting her out simply isn’t a foolproof way to keep her out of office. And if it failed, she’d reenter Congress as an even more powerful figure, the progressive queen who suddenly looks unstoppable within her party.
So, bad idea, right? But then I think, “If she’s a long-term problem for the party, why not try to eliminate her now?” How does it diminish her influence to leave her in Congress, where she matters and she’ll have an eager media audience for her message anytime she wants one? So long as she’s a congresswoman, she can leverage her office to build relationships, address audiences, raise money, potentially shape policy, and maybe lead an important committee or two. The fight between progressives and neoliberals is coming no matter what; if AOC is going to lead it, and if she’s bound to grow more powerful with time, then neoliberals should attack immediately. Sure, they might lose — but if they win by eliminating her seat and then defeating a primary challenge from her, they’ll have effectively finished her as a political force within the state and national parties.
Since endorsing him in October, Ocasio-Cortez has become a supercharged surrogate for Sanders in early-voting and delegate-rich states. As she’s drawn massive crowds alongside the Vermont senator in Iowa, Nevada, California and New York, progressive insiders and activists are increasingly whispering about Ocasio-Cortez inheriting the movement one day — and running for the White House with it behind her.
“The future of the Democratic Party is not Pete Buttigieg. It’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” said Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, president of the California Young Democrats, which has endorsed Sanders. “She has gripped the attention of fellow millennials across the country. The Green New Deal has changed the conversation on environmental action in the Democratic Party.”…
Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez’s fans have also begun thinking about AOC 2024 or 2028. At their rally in Los Angeles, chiropractor Samuel Aguilera predicted that Ocasio-Cortez will eventually run for the White House: “In fact, I’m excited about that. She’s intelligent. I’ve got three daughters, and I’m excited that she’s opening up our opportunities for women.” Another audience member at the event shouted “Ocasio-Cortez 2020!” as she spoke.
Take her out now, New York libs. Or at least try. If you win, she’ll be a has-been loser and it’ll demoralize the left for years. Sure, they may retaliate by sitting out a general election or two, but it’s New York. Instead of winning your races by 20 points, you’ll win by 10. No biggie.
Exit question: How seriously are we supposed to take the prospect of President AOC, really? C’mon. America would never elect a loudmouthed populist social-media addict from Queens.