She hasn’t even arrived officially in Congress yet, but Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to dictate who will be leaving. In a livestream on behalf of the activist-progressive group Justice Democrats, Ocasio-Cortez pledged to back primary challenges to more moderate Democrats in the newly established House majority. Politico reports that their top target is Hakeem Jeffries, who just ascended to the #5 slot in the caucus leadership:
[A] person who has discussed the project with Ocasio-Cortez and her team said the congresswoman-elect has recruited an African-American woman to challenge Jeffries, who was just elected to replace Crowley as caucus chairman — the No. 5 House Democratic leadership position.
The person who spoke with Ocasio-Cortez and her team, who asked for anonymity to discuss a private conversation, called Jeffries the “highest priority” primary target of Ocasio-Cortez.
A second person with direct knowledge of Justice Democrats’ primary plans said the group is “looking” at Jeffries’ seat. Since Justice Democrats put out a call for potential targets, the group’s supporters have singled out Jeffries as a member they would be “excited” to oppose. “We’re not going to shy away from New York,” the second person said.
Challenging Jeffries would open an audacious new front in Ocasio-Cortez’s efforts to steer the direction of the Democratic Party, pitting her and allies against a rising-star African-American Democrat seen by some as a potential future speaker of the House. It would also set off another intra-party New York City brawl — Jeffries’ Brooklyn district is just a few miles south of Ocasio-Cortez’s Bronx-and-Queens seat — that would peak just as Democrats hope to rally around a presidential nominee in mid-2020.
It might not be all about purity, Politico points out. Progressives don’t like Jeffries for some policy reasons — too close to moneyed interests, and too interested in school choice, among others. However, Ocasio-Cortez apparently thinks that Jeffries got too personal against her in the leadership fight, using her support for Barbara Lee in a “whisper campaign” to torpedo her challenge. Ocasio-Cortez wants to return the favor in 2020.
Ocasio-Cortez seems to want it both ways here. She’s been complaining recently about her status as the whipping post for conservative critics, suggesting that they have blown her up into a party leader illegitimately. Now, though, she’s trying to play kingmaker and settling personal scores even before taking the oath of office for the first time. Shouldn’t all of these machinations wait until her constituents discover whether Ocasio-Cortez has the foggiest idea of what’s she’s doing … or at least return from her “self-care” week off from all the stress of winning?
Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t yet started her new job, but she’s already taking a break.
The Democratic Socialist said Monday that she’s taking time a week off for “self-care” after feeling burned out and lamented that her political activity changed her lifestyle.
“I am starting a week of self-care where I am taking the week off and taking care of me. I don’t know how to do that though, so I would appreciate any and all self-care tips,” she said in an Instagram video.
Frankly, she might be better advised to focus on her own primary in 2020. Her stumbles and vapidity make her a good target for more polished and accomplished Democrats in and around her district. Ocasio-Cortez caught Joe Crowley napping earlier this year, but a tougher challenge is sure to come. A wiser politician would be looking to protect her electoral flanks by finding allies, especially in the state, rather than alienating those who might have more resources and clout in recruitment than a freshman-to-be backbencher. You know … someone like Hakeem Jeffries.
Don’t let this conservative critic keep you from launching your purity purge, though, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez. Eventually one would have arisen in the new and fragile House Democrat majority anyway. Few of us would have placed bets on D-minus-15 for its start, but we’ll just pull some of the popcorn off the Christmas tree and enjoy the head start.
Update: Ocasio-Cortez is denying that she’s targeting Jeffries, kind of:
For the record, this is the second @politico article about me in a short period of time with *0* named sources to back claims containing false information.
Their articles are printed + distributed to **Congressional offices** – w/ no named sources.
It’s really unfortunate.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 18, 2018
Didn’t media outlets get angry with Donald Trump over that complaint? Twitchy’s Sarah D seems to recall that. Note that Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t get around to specifically disputing that Justice Democrats is considering an effort to target Jeffries, and her own public comments for the group calls for such challenges to Democratic incumbents.