Why did Nancy Pelosi reverse her earlier approach to her noisy first-term progressives and start taking them to the public woodshed? An internal poll conducted in May by Democrats might explain why Pelosi decided to start cracking down on the frosh “Squad.” Axios got its hands on the survey, which showed that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had succeeded in making herself the “definitional face” of Democrats among swing voters.

And that’s not a good thing for most other Democrats. When it comes to “white, non-college voters” that Democrats wooed away from Donald Trump in the midterms, AOC is box-office poison:

  • Ocasio-Cortez was recognized by 74% of voters in the poll; 22% had a favorable view.
  • Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — another member of The Squad — was recognized by 53% of the voters; 9% (not a typo) had a favorable view.

It’s not just Ocasio-Cortez personally. The socialism that she espouses turns out to be “toxic,” as Democrats discovered:

  • Capitalism was 56% favorable; 32% unfavorable.
  • “Socialism is toxic to these voters,” said the top Democrat.

Yikes. Socialism is toxic in any waters — just look at Venezuela to see how it inevitably ends up — but Pelosi and other Democratic leaders had to have blanched at that result. Not only is Ocasio-Cortez busy selling socialism as the new agenda for the Democratic Party, so are most of their presidential candidates. Joe Biden’s the only one lightly jogging just to the right of Karl Marx, and only just. Biden’s taking flack for trying to add more socialism into ObamaCare rather than abandoning it for single-payer.

We’ll have more on that later, but this extremist impulse explains why Pelosi decided to go on the offensive against Ocasio-Cortez and her squad now, although the necessity has existed since the first days of 2019. Until that poll, Pelosi could shrug off AOC and her “Squad” as nothing more than a media creation and believe Pelosi herself was the face of the Democratic Party. Pelosi’s not a terribly popular figure either, but she knows how to stay on brand and on message to keep a competitive posture. Ocasio-Cortez and Democratic Socialists threaten to destroy that brand and turn the Democrats back into a fringe urban party and lock them out of power for a generation.