I ☭ NY? Incumbent and #4 House Democrat Ousted by 28 Year Old Socialist Newcomer and Bartender
Proving the lessons learned in the 2016 election have been all but forgotten, Democratic voters in NY ousted Rep. Joseph Crowley last night in a congressional primary. Instead, they elected twenty-eight-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a former Bernie Sanders campaign organizer and member of the Democratic Socialists of America, who has never previously held office. This event, one that may not exactly prove favorable for a rudderless Democratic party, is significant for several reasons.
Progressives who accuse the Democratic establishment of selling out to the middle of the road and of reluctance to steadfastly adopt their left-most propositions hail the election of Ocasio-Cortez as the dawn of a party revolution. Party "Moderates" and establishment Democrats who view the socialist progressives under their umbrella as 'useful radicals' support the result publicly. Privately, however, they fear the shake-up that could be wrought should more establishment candidates fall in similar fashion to opponents within the party akin to Ocasio-Cortez.
Critics point to the demographic of the voting district from which Ocasio-Cortez drew victory as the determining factor, claiming that the margin of victory (approximately 4,000 deciding votes out of 27,000 total votes) is due primarily to the roughly forty-seven percent Hispanic makeup of the district. Given the fondness for identity politics over the past several years, one could make the argument that voters would have happily elected a 'radical' ham sandwich over establishment candidate Crowley who was favored to replace Nancy Pelosi (herself a target of criticism from party progressives) as Minority house Speaker.
However, Ocasio-Cortez's election cannot be entirely attributed to voting demographics. Democrats' clamor for change after the Democratic disaster that was the 2016 election isn't going away anytime soon. The point in question is whether or not politics like Ocasio-Cortez's can sell outside of the primaries. It's one thing to appeal to an NYC enclave of 30,000 voters; it's another thing entirely to to have to sell yourself on a federal level as a House representative. Bernie Sanders-esque politics were undeniably popular among the left youth in 2016. However, that sect has been accused by many leftists as being too radical and detracting attention from HRC and her campaign against Trump.
What picture forms for the DNC when these pieces fall into place? Infighting in a midterm election year, further dragging an already fragmenting party further down the road to balkanization. Unity sells far more votes than internal strife, and, in a nation where the highest court recently handed down a widely popular decision curbing the power of unions to force non-unionized members to pay dues, only time will tell whether or not flirting with socialism will be the death or deliverer for the Democratic Party.