Er … in the universe where Democrats might still want to win a few elections? In a lengthy interview with New York Magazine, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez decries the idea that young progressives like herself have to engage with moderates in a Democratic party. The frosh House member resents her fellow first-termers — the members who gave Ocasio-Cortez an opportunity to legislate — and the necessity of having to account for their own views.
Not addressed: maybe they feel the same way about her and her lectures from a D+29 district? Just sayin’:
The Democratic congressional majority, she told me, is too acquiescent to the demands of its members in so-called red-to-blue districts — those moderates who flipped Republican seats and gave Pelosi the gavel. “For so long, when I first got in, people were like, ‘Oh, are you going to basically be a tea party of the left?’ And what people don’t realize is that there is a tea party of the left, but it’s on the right edges, the most conservative parts of the Democratic Party. So the Democratic Party has a role to play in this problem, and it’s like we’re not allowed to talk about it. We’re not allowed to talk about anything wrong the Democratic Party does,” she said. “I think I have created more room for dissent, and we’re learning to stretch our wings a little bit on the left.”
It’s not just that Ocasio-Cortez wants a purity campaign for the Democratic Party. She also wants one for the progressive movement, starting with the House Progressive Caucus:
Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the first politician to become a cultural sensation, but she may be the first to do so at the very beginning of her career, when she is occupying the lowest rung of political power. Her main project going forward may be this: harnessing her immense star power and the legion of young lefties who see her as their avatar, not just to push the Democratic Party away from an obsession with its most moderate members but also to make the stuff of government, like congressional committee hearings and neighborhood town halls, into must-see TV. She said the Congressional Progressive Caucus should start kicking people out if they stray too far from the party line. Other caucuses within the Democratic Party in Congress require applications, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out. But “they let anybody who the cat dragged in call themselves a progressive. There’s no standard,” she said.
Don’t even get AOC started on the concept of a “big tent.” Bigger is not necessarily better, Ocasio-Cortez advises, which is … an interesting view of electoral strategy, let’s say. With that in mind, she’s hardly excited by her party’s clear frontrunner for the 2020 presidential nomination, wondering how she and Joe Biden could possibly be in the same party:
The same goes for the party as a whole: “Democrats can be too big of a tent.”
It is comments like that that kept Ocasio-Cortez and the rest of the Democratic Party from reaching any kind of meaningful détente. I asked her what she thought her role would be as a member of Congress during, for instance, a Joe Biden presidency. “Oh God,” she said with a groan. “In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party, but in America, we are.”
It’s progressive venting such as this that gives me great hope for America. And not in the way Rep. Ocasio-Cortez imagines, either.
In the first place, Ocasio-Cortez seems blissfully unaware that the US does not have a multi-party parliamentary system. For better or worse, we build coalitions before elections within the framework of the two-party system, not after elections in putting together operating majorities. We don’t need such mechanisms because we have an executive elected by separate voting through the Electoral College, with coequal power with Congress. We could have a multiparty environment, but it’s more efficient to settle coalitions within a binary system. And, of course, Ocasio-Cortez took full advantage of that when she shocked Joe Crowley in the 2018 primary and cinched her election to Congress. Why didn’t she run as an independent or on a third-party ticket? Because it would have ended with her being a bartender, and AOC knows it.
Perhaps the congresswoman just doesn’t have enough experience in electoral matters to realize that her D+29 district is not an electoral microcosm of America. One might think that a little more engagement with other members of her frosh class and a little less scorn might make that clear, but that’s not how revolutionaries operate, which is why they tend to flame out after a short period of time. They aren’t interested in strategic alliances, incremental success, or broad consensuses. They are only interested in imposing the will of a pure minority on what they see as an unworthy majority — which is what makes them both dangerous and usually largely impotent.
Ocasio-Cortez brags about dragging the Democrats to the Left, and in that she may be closer to the truth. What she doesn’t realize is that she’s not dragging the rest of the country along with them. Again, her frosh colleagues might enlighten her if she deigned to engage with them, but instead she’s busy scorning them and the voters they represent. Ocasio-Cortez may well succeed in “purifying” the party in that manner, but they’ll be back to a minority without any legislative power when she does, with enclaves on both coasts and in small academic bastions, with the GOP in control of everywhere else by default.
Unless Republicans screw that up with one of their own purity purges, that is. But that’s a post for a different time.