By Garrett McGinley
Web Content Contributor
With an outcome likely no one outside of The Bronx saw coming, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory over Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) in the New York Congressional District 14 Democratic Primary sent shockwaves through the political world. Her victory is also emblematic of a larger conflict brewing within the American left.
Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old former bartender and self-described democratic socialist, is perhaps the most prevailing of the many left-of-liberal candidates to surface since 2016, and the centrist, establishment wing of the Democratic Party is less than thrilled with her victory.
Crowley, the 10-term incumbent once rumored to succeed Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as House Democratic leader, now sits devastated and desperate. In a move that has been chastised by critics, Crowley will remain on the District 14 ballot in November, not as a Democrat, but as a member of the Working Families Party.
Ocasio-Cortez lambasted Crowley’s decision on Twitter.
Crowley responded to Ocasio-Cortez’s claim by citing a bizarre New York elections law that prohibits him from leaving the race. Regardless of the reason, the debacle gives progressives even more ammunition for its belief that the establishment would rather lose than see a progressive win.
The establishment wing is the most influential and cash-rich faction in the Democratic Party. Since 1970, they have also been the gatekeepers for the Democrats. The establishment is very careful– to a fault some progressives would argue– in who they choose to support, often undercutting populist candidates in favor of more palpable ones.
Perhaps the highest profile example of this happened in the 2016 Democratic Presidential Primary. Long before the final tallies had been counted, there were signs that the establishment, and party itself, had chosen its candidate. They scorned progressive Bernie Sanders for the long-time party favorite Hillary Clinton. Even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former interim head of the Democratic Party Donna Brazile think something fishy happened in 2016.
The “Bernie would’ve won” meme is tired and a moot point, but it’s long past time for a change of direction in the Democratic Party. I don’t mean the half-measure hope and change of Barack Obama, but real tangible change: Medicare for all, support for the working class, prison reform, decriminalizing immigration, etc.
Ocasio-Cortez is a punch to the jaw of the establishment, and it could just be the beginning. She is a member of two political action committees, Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress. Both are grassroots organizations focusing on rooting out establishment candidates.
Featured image by Jesse Korman (original) and Garrett McGinley (edited).