As a result of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s win, the Democratic Socialists of America are reporting an increase in their membership. Matt Taibbi has a roundup of the alarmed reactions to this result from the political-media establishment and says that the Democratic party leadership and the media pundits are dumping on AOC’s victory because she represents a different world from their comfortable one.
“Democrats need to choose: Are they the party of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or the party of Michael Bloomberg?” asked Business Insider columnist Daniella Greenbaum.
Bloomberg is best known as a Republican mayor, although he’s apparently thinking of running for president as a Democrat – hence Greenbaum’s fork-in-the-road thesis. The columnist argued we should, of course, take the billionaire-plutocrat turn.
Greenbaum went on:
“That kind of rich-oppressor versus poor-oppressed framework might work in New York’s 14th Congressional district, but it is sure to fail on a national level.”
First of all, so what? If that kind of message works for the 14th congressional district, isn’t that why you’d want a person bearing that message representing the 14th congressional district? This is exactly the purpose of representative democracy, allowing local populations to have an idiosyncratic voice in a larger debate.
Secondly, why is poor-vs-rich messaging “sure to fail” on a national level?
Despite extensive efforts to rehabilitate their reputations, Wall Street billionaires are unpopular more or less everywhere in the United States outside maybe Nobu Downtown.
Taibbi says that Nancy Pelosi’s downplaying of what is happening all around her reminds him of the Terry Jones character in the film Erik the Viking. Let’s not forget that Nancy Pelosi is the sixth richest member of Congress with a net worth close to $60 million. Her world is not the same as AOC’s.
Here is AOC on Stephen Colbert’s show last night. She makes the very important point that her poll-defying success was due to people voting for her who do not normally vote at all because they think that the system does not work for them (and are thus invisible to the pollsters who use the likelihood of voting as one of their factors).
I have discussed this issue before in the case of elections in Houston, Texas where the Democrats completely routed the Republicans in local elections.
The Houston activists did it not by trying to win over white and middle class voters (the strategy of the national Democratic party) but by aggressively seeking out and listening to the large number of poor and minority voters about their concerns and why they had been voting in such appallingly low numbers, allowing the Republicans to dominate. The answer they got was that those people felt that voting for Democrats seemed to make no difference in their lives even when they got elected. By then recruiting candidates who were firmly committed to speaking out and addressing those formerly ignored needs, these activists managed to swim against the national tide and win offices.
This is the issue that is making a difference. The Democratic party leadership that is downplaying AOC’s victory wants to focus on the same old voter pool (such as those who voted for Trump) and does not try to reach those who are disaffected. They are trying to be Republican-lite.
Which side of this dividing line the party ends up on is central to the future of the Democratic party. I think the old guard (the top three members of the House Democratic leadership are all in their late 70s in age) are afraid that the disaffected are demanding things that will alienate the party’s corporate-financial backers.