- 10 Aug 18
A new breed of Democrat is taking the midterm fight to Donald Trump-and,in some cases, looking to unseat their own party grandees. It's a movement that could, in time, become a revolution.
June 26 was a bad day for U.S. representative Joseph Crowley. Indeed, it put fear into the hearts of incumbent Democrats, whose primary elections are fast approaching.
Three weeks prior to the election, the polls suggested that Crowley was ahead by 36%. Yet to his dismay, 28 year-old left-wing activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stole the Democratic nomination for New York’s 14th Congressional District, which takes in parts of the Bronx and Queens. She didn’t just win, she decimated Crowley, accruing 57% of the votes.
If Ocasio-Cortez beats the Republican nominee, Anthony Papas, in the November midterms, she will become the youngest woman ever to be elected to congress.
It was an Alexandria and Goliath story. Crowley was the incumbent for 19 years. He had not been opposed by another Democrat in over a decade, Crowley surely thought this year’s nomination was a shoo-in. In congressional terms, he was the No. 4 Democrat and a likely successor to Nancy Pelosi as the Democratic leader for the House of Representatives. His defeat baffled the nation.
Ocasio-Cortez ran as a Democratic Socialist, supporting universal healthcare, free public college tuition and the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The word ‘socialist’ is assumed to be toxic in US politics – and yet she won by a landslide. She’s a renegade with new and exciting ideas, making her a highly attractive candidate for those fed up with the perceived complacency of the established politicians.
The New Breed of Democrats
Her stunning victory could be emblematic of a larger ideological shift brewing within the Democratic Party. The battle between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 weakened them. With November fast approaching, are we about to see a repeat?
In an interview with Jacobin Magazine, Ocasio-Cortez spoke about the power of the progressive uprising.
“A lot of people are cynical and disaffected and believe that electoral organising is not worth it,” she proffered, “but I beg those people to reconsider, because it’s actually not the unvanquishable behemoth that people like to pretend it is. Money in politics has been so influential because there’s a lot of laziness on the ground. A lot of these ‘unassailable’ political machines are shells — they do not have strong turnout. They’re decrepit.”
On the frontlines of this shift to the left is an organisation called the Justice Democrats (JD). The group’s mission statement is to “elect a new type of Democratic majority in Congress, one which will create a thriving economy and democracy that works for the people, not big money interests.”
They understand that this reform must come from the inside out. It’s virtually impossible for a third party to win a national election with the two-party paradigm that has a stranglehold on American politics. JD is endorsing a number of candidates, including Ocasio-Cortez, who pledge to refuse funds from corporations and lobbyists as well as agree with their progressive platform.
The JD candidates are wonderfully diverse: Deedra Abboud, running for Arizona Senate, stands out as the only female candidate wearing a hijab. Among the others are Raúl Grijalva and Juana Matias, immigrants respectively from Mexico and the Dominican Republic, and LGBTQ activist Kerri Evelyn Harris.
Stirring the Political Pot
This new breed of Democrat does not sit favorably with conservatives in general, with numerous right-wing figures attacking Ocasio-Cortez on social media.
Conservative journalist and blogger Allie Beth Stuckey posted a fake interview with Ocasio-Cortez comprised of heavily edited clips from an actual interview with her. Although she later revealed the interview was satire, there was no indication of this when it was posted on Facebook. While not technically considered slander, it’s a dirty trick that often influences the opinions of the less-than well-informed politically.
However, not all Democrats are enthusiastic about JD’s message either. Former U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman recently commented on Ocasio-Cortez’s platform, claiming “She calls herself a Democratic Socialist. To me, she’s more of a socialist than a Democrat and that’s not good for the people.”
Christine Hallquist is a 59-year-old transgender woman and JD member, who is hoping to be elected as Governor of Vermont this November. She succinctly summarises the American political turmoil and shares her hopes for the future of the Democrats.
“In the world of physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” Hallquist reflects. “In the United States, we are witnessing the opposite reaction to the tyranny of a deathbot: Donald Trump. But, there are people like me all over the country who are committed to bringing America back to a healthy state of democracy.
“We’ve allowed our leaders to divide us – and fight with each other. What we saw nationally in 2016 is the same thing that happened in Vermont: we had fighting among our Democratic rivals that kind of tore our party apart in order for one person to win. I’m hoping our leaders have learned from this.”