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Jacobin - July 15, 2019

"The fact that a freshman representative who came to power by challenging a powerful incumbent has made such an impact was bound to draw the ire of Democratic establishment figures. But the backlash from Democratic centrists is more than just resentment or jealousy. They really fear a policy program that threatens to shake the neoliberal political consensus that has dominated both parties for the past forty years."

Just over one year ago, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) sent shockwaves through the mainstream political establishment by ousting ten-term incumbent Democrat Joe Crowley in New York. Running as an open democratic socialist on a platform of redistributive economics, universal health care, bold climate action, and abolishing ICE, she lit a spark under a moribund Democratic Party, becoming an immediate media sensation and capturing the imagination of progressives and young people across the country.

In the face of the incredible response to Ocasio-Cortez’s surprise victory, House leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) threw cold water on all the excitement. “They made a choice in one district,” she said. “So let’s not get yourself carried away as an expert on demographics and the rest of that.”

Flash forward to today, and Pelosi’s dismissal of Ocasio-Cortez and her role in the party is again making headlines. This time, the controversy stems from comments Pelosi made to the New York Times’s Maureen Dowd about AOC and her “squad” of fellow freshmen reps Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI): “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world. But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

Those comments elicited a response from Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti in which they defended the reputation of the four new progressives, calling Pelosi’s characterization “outright disrespectful.”

The ensuing back-and-forth has seen longtime incumbent Democrats pile on criticisms of the squad, with some members accusing Ocasio-Cortez of using “the race card” for suggesting that leadership was “singling out” the newly elected women of color. Even the operatives behind the official House Democrats Twitter account got in on the action, sending out a tweet disparaging Chakrabarti for daring to criticize moderate Democrats over their votes.

Mainstream outlets have characterized the conflict as driven by generational tensions, or (on Pelosi’s side) simply a desire to protect Democratic incumbents from criticism. But the feud in fact speaks to something much deeper: Ocasio-Cortez and her allies are pushing for bold, transformational policies that would upend the current economic and political system. That campaign is coming into open conflict with a Democratic establishment that would prefer to just keep things as they are. ...
Read full article at Jacobin