A radical 28-year-old former Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer stunned the political world by defeating longtime powerful Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY14th). Until last night, Crowley was expected to be one of the top picks to eventually replace House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic socialist from the Bronx, has unseated Joe Crowley, a 20-year congressman, in a stunning political upset that caught the attention of veteran party members and young liberals alike.
The victory, in a New York district primary election to determine who stands against the Republicans in November’s midterms for a seat in Congress, immediately prompted debate about the wider ramifications for the Democrats, and whether it heralds a further move to the left.
Many on the right welcome the shift to the hard left by the Democrats, as outside of the East & West Coast, this brand of socialism which boarders on communism is not exactly popular.
Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America and a former organizer for Bernie Sanders. She would be the youngest female member of Congress in history if she wins as expected in November.
Ocasio-Cortez ran on a left-wing platform that included a federal jobs guarantee program and abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the border patrol enforcement agency created under President George W. Bush in 2003. She advocates: free college for all, free health care for all, open boarders, emptying out prisons and ran a divisive campaign based on class warfare and race baiting. Many would classify her ideological leanings as communist.
She won by a margin of 57.5 percent to 42.5 percent over Crowley in a majority minority district that included parts of Queens and the Bronx.
Observers last night were quick to point out a tweet she posted about Israel during her campaign. Replying to Qatar-based news agency Al Jazeera English, she tweeted that what Israel was doing at the Gaza Strip “is a massacre.” Her tweet continued, saying that she hopes her “peers have the moral courage to call it such. No state or entity is absolved of mass shootings of protesters. There is no justification. Palestinian people deserve basic human dignity, as anyone else. Democrats can’t be silent about this anymore.”
In an interview earlier this month with Glenn Greenwald, a pundit with the Intercept who’s best known for his National Security Agency reporting when he published top-secret material handed over to him by former contractor Edward Snowden, Ocasio-Cortez explained her position in greater detail. The Jerusalem Post said that Greenwald opened the discussion referring to “peaceful, unarmed protesters” killed on the Gaza-Israel border in the mid-May protests, although Israel and Hamas both note that 50 of the 62 killed were members of Hamas and were attempting to breach the border.
“My background is as an educator, an organizer and an activist,” Ocasio-Cortez said. She added that she thinks she “was primarily compelled on moral grounds, because I can only imagine if 60 people were shot and killed in Ferguson, or if 60 people were shot in killed in the West Virginia teacher strikes.”
The Jerusalem Post reports that she talked about her diverse congressional district, saying that many Jewish and Muslim constituents had thanked her for the stance she took on Twitter. According to the Berman Jewish Data Bank, a project of the Jewish Federations of North America, roughly 29,000 Jewish residents live in the district.
“People say in New York City this is political suicide, and so on, but I had a lot of my own constituents thanking me for taking that position,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “I think that in the same lens that I looked at it, people, I think, are separating the actions and the status of the Palestinians from the greater geopolitics of the area. I think people are starting to just look at the humanitarian state of the Palestinian people through a humanitarian lens.”
She hit Crowley hard for his ties to Wall Street, accusing him of being out of touch with his increasingly diverse district. Crowley sent a surrogate to fill in for him at a debate against Ocasio-Cortez and rarely spends time in his district. Like Sanders, she denied corporate donations and help from super PACs and 501(c)(4) dark money groups.
When the result was called, a visibly shocked Ocasio-Cortez clasped her hands to her mouth. “Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God,” she repeated. She then said: “We meet a machine with a movement, and that is what we have done today,” she said, barely containing her enthusiasm. She added that “working-class Americans want a clear champion and there is nothing radical about moral clarity in 2018.”
Crowley, head of the Queens county Democratic party and the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, hadraised over $3m for his campaign, 10 times the amount raised by Ocasio-Cortez. To say he was unprepared for this result and shocked by last night’s outcome would be an understatement. One national Democratic strategist told the Guardian that “the Crowley team did not raise red flags or ask allies for help with his primary.”