Which side are you on? The choice the Democratic party can no longer ignore

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.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Why can’t the Democratic Party continue to ignore this choice?

    They can be absolute ace ignorers when they choose.

  2. flex says

    Let me give you my take on the Democratic Party’s strategy over the last 20 years.

    If you think of politics as a tug-of-war between two parties, the party which holds more of the rope should be the party which wins elections. The Democratic Party has been consistently moving to the right, not in response to the further shifts to the right the Republican party is moving, but because the Democratic Party thinks that by moving further right it can marginalize the Republican Party. The basic strategy is that if more people have beliefs to the left of the Democratic Party, the Democrats will win elections. So the Democrats adopt Republican ideas in the hope that people who previously identified as republicans will now identify as democrats, and everyone to the left of that position will vote for democrats. The Democratic Party believes it holds more of the rope, and is getting frustrated that it still can’t win elections.

    This doesn’t work. Their model is wrong.

    Most voters these days, democrat, republican, or independent, are voting for change. In my opinion, the reason Clinton lost to Trump was because Clinton represented stagnation while Trump represented change. Those of us who were more in tune with the characters of both candidates could see that Trump was unfit to lead. Certainly the Trump victory encouraged the xenophobes, the misogynists, the racists, and the bigots. However, had Clinton offered some more radical ideas other than stay-the-course there would have been more support for her. The few, marginally-radical, ideas which Clinton offered were buried in her campaign website for fear that promoting them would scare away the big-money donors. It was clear from the huge approval of Sander’s campaign that the voters did not want a stay-the-course candidate, and Trump offered a radical change. Not a good change, but a change.

  3. sonofrojblake says

    @flex, 2: totally agree with that. It remains to be seen whether the Dems, after fielding the worst candidate they’ve ever nominated in 2016, will learn anything. The pushback against AOC suggests they’ve learned absolutely nothing. Count on four more years of Trump… and don’t bet against MORE years of Trump after that. Ivanka for first woman President?

  4. says


    RE: Is this normal? (above) when did Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez join presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Fitzgerald Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson and become AOC? : )


  5. says

    The problem is it almost works. The Dems consistently get more votes nationwide than the GOP. Only in a profoundly broken system does this mean they so often still lose elections.

  6. Quirky says

    Tabby, the system isn’t broken; it was designed that way.
    It was designed to overcome the inherent errors that would occur if the masses that populate in the cities were able by sheer majority vote to control the futures of those who pursue a different sort of happiness in rural areas.
    Direct democracy had been tried many times before and had failed.
    The PR sales-line of the new social experiment was to guarantee individual rights secured by a republican form of government.
    Did you ever give your allegiance to those republican ideals and to the republic for which those ideas and the flag stand?
    Why are you breaking allegiance with that pledge now? Not saying you don’t have a right to, just wondering?

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