Tags: progressives | insurgency | new york | ocasio-cortez

Progressive Insurgency on the Rise After NY-14 Primary Coup

Image: Progressive Insurgency on the Rise After NY-14 Primary Coup
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AP)

By    |   Friday, 29 June 2018 07:09 AM

This week, Democratic primary voters in New York's 14th congressional district - spanning The Bronx and Queens boroughs of New York City - sent shockwaves across the political landscape. Ten term Congressman Joe Crowley was ousted in a landslide victory by upstart Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Latina Democratic-socialist.

Crowley is the highest-profile member of Congress to lose a primary since Eric Cantor, the then-Republican majority leader in 2014. Ocasio-Cortez's victory embodies many of the divisions currently plaguing the Democratic pPrty, most importantly a progressive shift.

This leftward shift within the party will ultimately prove to be detrimental when it comes time for the general elections. Here are my top takeaways from the race:

  1. Despite low turnout, Cortez mobilized her supporters. While her far-left views do not have broad appeal in the entire Democratic Party, Cortez's voters are notably fervent supporters. In midterm elections, particularly midterm primaries, voter-participation is always low. In the case of the Crowley race, just 26,000 votes were cast in a district of over 700,000 people. When incumbents get complacent, upsets like this can happen. Ultimately, voter fervor was why Cortez won, not mass appeal. Nevertheless, Cortez's victory explicitly demonstrates that far-left policies are capable of generating a deep, if narrow, enthusiasm.
  2. Regardless of Ocasio-Cortez's win, calling for the abolishment of ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) is still a dangerous trend for Democratic candidates. This election cycle, there has been a widespread call for the abolishment of ICE by various Democratic candidates. Moderates agree it can be reformed, but the system is vital. Most notably, in a recent interview Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, an avid proponent of the abolishment of ICE, was describing the way in which ICE operates when she said, "Our incumbents created that system. Everyone who voted for it is responsible. Period. And they need to be held accountable and if they're not actively calling for the abolition of ICE, then I don't want to hear it." While the national party has not yet adopted her position that ICE must be abolished, the prospect of it happening is worrisome. The idea is not only out of touch, but ridiculous. The officers of ICE serve a basic, fundamental, and legal role in our country. Aspirant Democratic candidates who use inflammatory rhetoric and anger to mobilize voters are only hurting the Democratic cause in the midterm elections. Announcing that core institutions like ICE should be abolished will only do more to motivate Republican voters, than appealing to a broad group of moderate voters.
  3. Further, radical policy, such as guaranteed jobs or debt forgiveness ultimately hurt the party. It would be of greater benefit to advocate for inclusive economic growth than free handouts. As a party, Democrats should guarantee expanding opportunity across all sectors and socioeconomic levels, not guaranteed outcomes. It is vital that the party has a uniform message: unequal opportunity is unjust and should be ameliorated, while simultaneously, hard work and innovation are required before one can be rewarded. This extreme notion of everything being without cost is ultimately not feasible and strays too far from traditional Democrat platforms.
  4. This radical leftward movement will hurt Democrats' chances of taking back Congress. Democrats need to emphasize inclusive policies with broad appeal if they want to take back the house, not indulge the smaller extreme groups of the party. However, Democrats seem to be doing the opposite and instead pandering to these fringe groups who are not the heart of the party. People like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez identify as Democrats despite having more commonalities with socialism. Democrats risk even further alienating their traditional, moderate base which might even vote for a Republican when it comes time for the general election.
  5. Most primary challengers will not be able to oust the incumbent, even with a good turnout operation. During this election cycle, many far-left liberals have challenged sitting Democratic candidates. However, prior to this week, none have been successful. We often have the tendency to be swept up with the excitement of an unexpected electoral result, but the truth is that one election is not indicative of a trend. Ultimately these far-left challenges still hurt the Democratic Party because they encourage moderate democrats to use the divisive rhetoric of their progressive competition. This language has an immensely detrimental effect because the further a candidate moves to the left, the harder it is for them to capture voters beyond that niche. A candidate that can't appeal to anyone but a faction of their own party will never win a general election.
  6. Time is running short for Nancy Pelosi's reign over the Democratic caucus. Pelosi's denials notwithstanding, all signs indicate that this incoming class of Democratic representatives will present her with a significant challenge. During the campaign, Ocasio-Cortez was a vocal critic of Pelosi, and she's not alone. Despite disagreeing on many other things, Democrats of all stripes want to see Pelosi go. A hallmark of this election cycle has been young Democratic nominees putting new congressional leadership in their platforms. Pelosi's role must be filled by a moderate Democrat, not a progressive, or the party will crumble.

Ultimately, the result of the New York primary was deeply concerning for the future of the Democratic Party.

However, one must not forget the tangible successes Democrats have had in the past year. When reasoned alternatives to President Donald Trump's reckless and impulsive style are offered, Democrats like Doug Jones in Alabama and Conor Lamb in southwestern Pennsylvania's coal country, have been able to shock the nation and flip Republican seats. More Democrats should take these two leaders' examples and actually promote sensible alternatives, as opposed to radical demands.

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This week, Democratic primary voters in New York's 14th congressional district - spanning The Bronx and Queens boroughs of New York City - sent shockwaves across the political landscape.
progressives, insurgency, new york, ocasio-cortez
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2018-09-29
Friday, 29 June 2018 07:09 AM
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