Skip to main content

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Not a 'Problem' for the Democratic Party

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez soundly defeated longtime incumbent Joe Crowley. So of course the press is turning it into a warning sign for the midterms.

You have to hand to the mainstream media, they will spin anything into a "the Democratic Party is at war with itself!" narrative. Last night, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turfed out 10-term congressman Joe Crowley in New York's 14th District. Somehow, this portends doom for the Democratic establishment and the midterm blue wave.

Crowley was, according to Time, seen as a probable successor to Nancy Pelosi and was the leader of the New York political apparatus. The comparison to Eric Cantor were as immediate as they were wrong:

Some saw in the upset clear echoes of 2014’s Republican primary in Richmond, Virginia. There, a little-known college professor named Dave Brat challenged House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who at the time was considered the inevitable successor to then House Speaker John Boehner. Despite a huge fundraising deficit, Brat toppled the No. 2 Republican in the House — the first time anyone had unseated by primary someone in that role in history.

Eric Cantor was loathed by the Republican base because he wasn't racist enough and because he was Jewish. Brat, as a Tea Party darling, ran on a platform of barely concealed white supremacy. Crowley was anything but the household name Cantor was and was not universally loathed. This was not an "uprising" against the establishment.

On the other hand, the 14th is a heavily minority district with 54% Latinos and 26% African-Americans. In a year when Donald Trump is making even the politically unaware pay attention, it's not surprising that minorities want to vote for someone that speaks to their life experience. Ocasio-Cortez campaigned on ending private prisons and getting rid of ICE and those issues clearly resonated with the community.

But Time wasn't done forecasting trouble over the nomination of a Latino socialist from Queens:

The party needs to expand beyond costal [sic] cities. Look at a map of congressional districts today and you’d be hard-pressed to find meaningful pockets of blue in the heartland. The Democrats may have found a new rising star on Tuesday night, but adding a socialist to the Democratic caucus is unlikely to help the Midwestern Democrats’ efforts to pick off the 23 seats the party needs to capture the majority this fall.

I'm a centrist and even I think this is mindless fearmongering against a Latino progressive. I don't know about you, but when I go to vote for my local congressperson in Virginia, the last thing on my mind is who is on the ballot in New York. And mind you, I'm on the East Coast and I used to live in the district next to the 14th (I was in the 6th). I don't even really care who is on the ballot in Maryland and they're literally 20 minutes away from me. Why would the election of a congressperson in New York have any bearing whatsoever on my decision much less the decision of people voting in the Midwest?

The answer, of course, is that Republicans will probably be screaming her name all over Fox News and inventing stories about how she wants to bring MS-13 into every white person's home to steal their retirement money from now until November. But by dubbing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez something for the Democrats to "worry" about, Time has given legitimacy to whatever racist smear campaign the right comes up with. And it's the press' "all's fair in love and war" mentality (that is only ever applied to the right for some reason) that enables the GOP to act with reckless abandon, undermining our democratic and societal norms.

Maybe instead of looking for a metastory where there isn't one, the press could simply stick to the story of a powerful incumbent being toppled by a talented newcomer. They've already done more than enough to aid the Republican Party in damaging the country. They're more than welcome to stop now.