There are a couple of stories out today that sketch out a coming battle within the Democratic Party between the far left, led by freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the more moderate left exemplified by Joe Biden. As Buzzfeed reports today, Democratic candidates were quick to jump onboard when Ocasio-Cortez suggested a push to “Abolish ICE” but a few months later almost no one in the field wants to talk about it:
The push to abolish ICE surged onto the national stage after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her primary — in part by hammering her incumbent opponent for voting to establish ICE in 2002, and calling for the agency to be eliminated altogether.
Top Democrats eyeing presidential runs took notice. When Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was asked in June what the Democratic Party would do with Ocasio-Cortez’s push to “get rid of ICE,” Gillibrand said, “Well, I agree with it. I don’t think ICE today is working as intended.” She added: “I believe you should get rid of it, start over, reimagine it, and build something that actually works.”
Days later, Sen. Elizabeth Warren called for “replacing ICE with something that reflects our values” in a Facebook post. Sen. Kamala Harris quickly announced she wanted to “reexamine” ICE, saying, “probably think about starting from scratch,” but distanced herself from those calling to “abolish” the agency. Sen. Bernie Sanders tweeted that he wanted to “abolish the cruel, dysfunctional immigration system,” which he said would mean “restructuring” ICE…
Almost a year later, as they vie for the Democratic nomination, Gillibrand, Harris, Warren, and Sanders have, for the most part, simply stopped talking about it at all. On the campaign trail, they stick to much more popular immigration issues, like ending child separation at the border.
As Dave Weigel at the Washington Post points out, even AOC seems to have stopped talking about it:
A viewer of the new documentary “Knock Down the House” can see Ocasio-Cortez browbeat Joe Crowley, the congressman she defeated in a June 2018 primary, for not wanting to “abolish ICE.” But Ocasio-Cortez has not tweeted about “abolishing” Immigrations and Customs Enforcement since August; even Democratic candidates popular on the left, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have said they would simply restructure immigration enforcement.
The rest of Weigel’s piece suggests a reason AOC may not be talking about ICE anymore: She’s got her hands full defending the Green New Deal.
At a rally for the Green New Deal, held on the campus of Howard University, an audience of about 1,500 activists repeatedly booed at mentions of the former vice president…
When one audience member yelled “no middle ground,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said that she agreed with him and that Washington elites had known about the threat of climate change since the year she was born.
“I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act then come back today and say we need a ‘middle of the road’ approach to save our lives,” she said.
Remember just a few of days ago when AOC claimed that her statement about the world ending in 12 years was “dry humor” and that only someone with the brain of a sea sponge would fail to get that? How does that square with her claim here that this debate is about saving “our lives?” I can tell you how. She was never joking. This was pretty obvious to anyone who watched her speak. Even she’s feeling the pressure to slide away from some of her own extreme comments.
But AOC is ratcheting up the dire urgency once again because Joe Biden is doing really well in early polls, far better than all of the candidates who quickly jumped on board with the Green New Deal. Of course, all of that could and probably will change as the field narrows from 22 candidates (or whatever we’re up to today). Biden may stand out in a crowd of people to his left but once there are only a few far left options to choose from (Sanders? Buttigieg?) this is going to be a tighter race.
But there’s evidence that in the meantime, the GND has taken a hit. Republicans really don’t like it and Democrats are divided. That’s not a recipe for success as Vox pointed out:
We know what Republicans have been told about the GND — “It bans cows!” — so it’s no surprise to find that differential level of exposure reflected in the support numbers: 80 percent of Republicans strongly oppose the GND, while just 46 percent of Dems strongly support it…
While total support for the GND (43 percent) is fairly close to total opposition (46 percent), support and opposition are not of the same intensity. Out of those who support the GND, 24 percent strongly support and 19 percent somewhat support it; among those who oppose it, 43 percent strongly oppose and 3 percent somewhat oppose.
The real danger for AOC is that some of the more moderate candidates who are already considered problematic by the far left (I’m thinking of Kamala Harris) are looking at Biden’s poll numbers and the polling for the GND and thinking maybe a more moderate approach would benefit them. And once people start to get off the bandwagon, her argument for the fierce urgency of now has less power. This has become an actual race and some of these candidates are going to triangulate to win. But to AOC this is going to look like dreaded compromise.