Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s demand for fair primary elections has the old guard trembling.
By S.T. Patrick
The Republican Party, Fox News Channel, and the National Review have spent three months lamenting the end of Western civilization as we know it, an apocalyptic tremor that is sure to befall America since the November election of 29-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.). The carbon tax, they claim, will surely have us all living on the street in boxes, and an increase to the marginal tax rate will devastate the billionaires who pay our minimum-wage salaries—or less, if they could do so legally. Yet the newest politicos concerned with the rise of “She Guevara” do not come from the right. The Democratic Party has its own internal issues with Ocasio-Cortez, many of which deal not with ideology, but with maintaining an entrenched, established, entitled power structure that is devoid of party, ethics, or concern for the average American or citizen worldwide.
Love her or hate her, Ocasio-Cortez is a natural challenger and an unabashed far-left progressive who believes in the ideology she espouses. She is also a populist in the sense that she does appear to have a genuine concern for the average resident of the Bronx and Queens, the boroughs of New York City encapsulated within her 14th congressional district. The Republican base differs with her on policy, but they also long for a sweeping hoard of Ocasio-Cortezes to arise from the populist right. What Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) did for the left is what populist-libertarians hoped former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) would have done for the right—be the leader of a wave, a movement of youthful ideologues with a natural propensity to change their own party by sticking to closely held ideals.
It is that internal zest for change that scares establishment Democrats just as much as it does fiscally conservative Republicans. One of the first ideas pushed by Ocasio-Cortez after her win was the idea of turning the Democratic primaries into true races rather than job interviews conducted by the Democratic National Committee (DNC).
“Turning the Democratic Party into a truly progressive force will require turning ‘primary’ into a verb,” wrote Norman Solomon, the coordinator of the online activist group “RootsAction.org.” “The corporate Democrats who dominate the party’s power structure in Congress should fear losing their seats because they’re out of step with constituents. And Democratic voters should understand that if they want to change the party, the only path to do so is to change the people who represent them. Otherwise, the leverage of Wall Street and the military-industrial complex will continue to hold sway.”
The idea for young politicians from both parties is to turn safe districts into real primary challenges. No longer should a 24-term Republican congressman like Don Young go virtually unchallenged in Alaska, and no longer should a 20-year congressman like Joseph Crowley own the 14th congressional district of New York. Ocasio-Cortez defeated fourth-ranking House Democrat Crowley in the 2018 primaries.
According to executive director of the far-left Justice Democrats, Alexandra Rojas, one goal of the new class of far-left Democrats is to “hold representatives who throw diverse working-class voters under the bus accountable.”
Working-class Democratic voters still feel aggrieved about the Sanders loss to Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primaries in 2016. “Bernie got screwed!” can still be heard nationwide. Though the Democratic voter would support Sanders, the DNC-controlled “superdelegate” would have their support weighed to the advantage of Clinton. Sanders won Indiana’s popular primary vote and then lost the delegate vote 46-44. New Hampshire overwhelmingly supported Sanders over Clinton (60% to 38%), yet the delegate vote—the only vote that counts at the convention—was Sanders 16, Clinton 16.
The average Democratic voter remains voiceless if the primary shackles and chains applied by the DNC aren’t released. This is another cause being championed by Ocasio-Cortez and the Justice Democrats, and it is another bone of contention they have with the DNC.
The DNC and its opposing Republican National Committee (RNC) both have a systemic belief that positions are earned through time and service to the party. It works top-down. Conservative-populists and Justice Democrats would both argue that a representative democracy, or democratic republic, should work bottom-up. A candidate should be chosen not by age, not by service to a powerful political organization, and not by a list of billionaire-donors. A candidate, they believe, should be chosen by the will of the people, in support of someone who truly represents their values, beliefs, goals, and objectives. It is the tip of a groundswell and not a directive from on high.
The 2020 Democratic primaries will feature the kind of “genuine progressive versus corporate Democrat” that Ocasio-Cortez supports. She will likely be on-site to speak in support of many of those on the far left. Regardless of ideology, this is vital in holding the status quo accountable. The GOP could take a lesson and do the same rather than ignoring it, as it did with the Occupy Wall Street rallies from whence this movement of the left and the Sanders campaign partially came.
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected].