From right, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Senator Bernie Sanders and James Thompson, a Kansas House candidate, at a campaign event for Mr. Thompson in Wichita on Friday.
Several weeks ago there was lots of thunder in the Bronx,
In a shocking political upset Representative Joe Crowley, the ten term, fourth ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives and likely eventual successor to Nancy Pelosi was defeated in a primary fight by community organizer Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Ocasio-Cortez, 28 years old and a card carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America handily defeated the Congressman running on a avowedly leftish agenda – Medicare for All, free state universities, getting tough on Wall Street and a minimum income guarantee.
She was vastly outspend by Crowley, who had close ties to Wall Street and she campaigned with $600,000 she raised from small grassroots donors. The district, which spans parts of the Bronx and Queens is heavily Democratic so Ocasia-Cortez is a virtual shoo-in in November.
At 28, Ocasio-Cortez couldn’t be a bigger contrast from 56-year-old Crowley. She was born in the Bronx to working-class parents. Her mother is Puerto Rican. Her father is from the South Bronx. She’s a former staffer for the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.
She’s certainly portrayed herself as a woman of the people, playing up her working-class roots in a viral introduction video, which shows Ocasio-Cortez riding the subway and doing community organizing work. It was created by Means of Production, a media production company run by DSA activists Naomi Burton and Nick Hayes.
She actively supported Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries against Hillary Clinton.
What was most exciting for Progressives is the degree to which she ran to Crowley’s left. As a member of the DSA her website was filled with a laundry list of Progressive policies.
She had some help from a major Crowley misstep – he sent a surrogate to a primary debate which led to a scathing editorial in the New York Times “leaving voters to wonder – What are we? Chopped liver?”
So of course she is already under attack from establishment pols.
During an interview on PBS’s “Firing Line” she “raised eyebrows” when she said “I also think that what people are starting to see – at least in the occupation of Palestine – is just an increasing crisis of humanitarian condition and that to me is just where I tend to come from on this issue.”
When asked to “clarify” her statement she replied “I am not an expert at the geopolitics on this issue. I am a firm believer in the two state solution and I’m happy to sit down with leaders on both of these – for me, I just look at things through a human rights lens and may not use the right words. I know this is a very intense issue.”
She was immediately attacked :
“Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez attacks Israel, calls them the occupiers of Palestine!”
The Washington Examiner magazine, considered by “fact check” to have a right wing bias, stated in an editorial: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talks about the “Occupation of Palestine” but she doesn’t know what that means.”
I guess one cannot use the word “occupation” when referring to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank which has gone on neigh more than 50 years.
Meanwhile, frustrated Democratic stalwarts are offering Ocasio-Cortez some advice – Cool it!
Some legislators are voicing “concern” that the new Socialist star is using her star power to attack Dems from the left, threatening – Oh! -to “divide the party” and that she is “making enemies” even before she arrives on Capital Hill.
Ocasio-Cortez has given her endorsement and support to a number of Progressive candidates running primary battles against centrist Democratic House members. When criticized for doing so she responded that she was endorsing more Progressive candidates who gave her support and encouragement before anyone else would.
Less than four weeks after she stunned the political establishment with the upset victory in the New York House primary, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez stepped out onto the national campaign stage for the first time this week, an emerging star of the insurgent left bringing her message to the heartland.
She campaigned in two conservative Midwestern states at rallies for House candidates who are also delivering a progressive message to their constituents.
“Change takes courage,” she told a packed auditorium at a downtown convention center in Wichita on Friday, in the first of two appearances in Kansas before heading to Missouri on Saturday. “Change takes guts.”
“What you have shown me, and what we will show in the Bronx, is that working people in Kansas share the same values — the same values — as working people anywhere else,” she said.
Whether establishment politicians like it or not, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic socialist, is now rushing to transport her unapologetically left-wing message to other parts of the country.
In Wichita, she shared the energy with the white-haired lion of the left, Bernie Sanders, who came on stage after her to deafening cheers, telling the crowd, “Whether you live in Vermont or the Bronx or Kansas, we share common hopes and aspirations that are much greater than the superficial differences that may separate us.”
“Nicholas Beddow, 25, a preschool teacher wearing a vintage “Bernie for President“ T-shirt, said he hadn’t heard of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez until she won her primary, but now was a full-throated supporter.
The fact that she is young, he said, “carries the progressive message further.”
He said he felt that message could resonate, even in an area labeled the Bible Belt. “I’m thinking we can give it a blue buckle right in the middle,” he said.
It’s going to be an interesting ride.