In the Trump era, Democrats were left largely without a voice for the first two years. Without the White House, the Senate, or the House, there was a vacuum. President Obama was gone. Hillary Clinton was gone. Tom Perez was busy off trying to appease Bernie world without angering everyone else. It was a free-for-all.
Fortunately in the aftermath of the 2018 midterm, the Democrats are a relevant party again. Nancy Pelosi is arguably the second most powerful person in America. The House Democratic leadership team gets the title “Majority” in front of their names now. Their chairman can subpoena information and run investigations and oversight. There are relevant Democratic voices in the process of making law.
Unfortunately, those aren’t the only voices that seem to have emerged from the leadership. There are other voices rising, voices with a “burn it down” tone to them. They aren’t interested in any compromises, or therefore actually making law. They don’t accept any criticism, they fire back at friendly criticism with the fury of hell. They’re convinced they and they alone “get it,” and that the last generation of Democrats just didn’t “do it right” to get what we want. There idea of “coalition building” is to bait and switch allies into supporting their ideas, then moving the goal posts. When they say unacceptable things, they fire back at fellow Democrats with cries of xenophobia.
I’m obviously talking about more than one member, but none of them have quite shined like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC. On a Capitol Hill full of men older than my parents, and with far less charisma, her media savvy does shine out. She’s good on TV, active on social media, and unapologetic in making demands in a way that excites parts of our base. She is the proverbial “golden goose” of the left. She comes out of the Bernie left ideologically, but plays identity politics with the best of them. Taking away my personal feelings about her politics, she is an impressive talent.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represents the Bronx and Queens. It’s a cool district. It’s also not at all representative of most of the other 434 districts in Congress. At most, there are 100 seats as urban as her’s, probably less as diverse, and almost none as liberal. She did beat a formerly powerful Democratic Leader in last Summer’s primary, but she did so in a race where under 30,000 people voted, or less than 75% of what would typically show up in a hotly contested primary like this. She is not representative of a candidate who would win in most other blue districts, and yet she is demanding the rest of the party’s members follow her, whether it’s on the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, or abolishing ICE. Worse yet, when they do follow her, she then changes what they agree to without their consent.
We are a long way from AOC’s brand being electable in the large majority of house districts. She would not win in swing-districts in North Carolina, Iowa, or Pennsylvania. Her ideas roll up huge support numbers in her district, but are far more controversial in places that Democrats don’t have a stranglehold on. Should she be primaried? I’d actually say no, it’s not my district, not my choice. Should she be the face of the party, the person people in PA-8, IA-1, or NC-9 see as representing our party in the media? Hell. No.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez polls under water about 10% nationally. As you can see above, she polls under water in the blue state of New York. Her favorability in New York City is less than overwhelming, and her position against Amazon putting a second headquarters in Queens polls underwater. With this much opposition to her even in “friendly” areas, it’s hard to sell her as a national savior for the party anywhere else.
Still, I’d consider her just fine for her district alone, if she wasn’t such a bully. They elected her there, they can have her. She’s not content with that though. She has promised to primary Democrats that are out of step with her ideals for the party. She has talked up a potential primary to House Democratic Caucus Chairman Hakeem Jeffries. There are rumblings of a primary against House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey. Both Jeffries and Lowey are members of the New York delegation with her. While she is likely to fail to unseat either, the possibility of nominating someone unelectable (especially in Lowey’s seat) is very real. Even if she does fail, it’s a complete waste of resources.
AOC is not the face of the party that Democrats need if they want to represent the majority of the United States in Congress very long, let alone the White House. To this point, leadership has left her to fire up the faithful and do what she does. There’s a danger this will become less harmless soon. AOC is not the leading figure Democrats need, particularly if she’s going to push more and more members to be acolytes of her politics. The Democrats need to elevate representatives who could represent more districts, rather than throwing red meat to the ideologues.