Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in New York’s 14th Congressional District Democratic Party Primary was an off-script adlib that sent the directors fuming.
A leading anchor on America’s foremost ‘left-leaning’ cable news station, Joy Reid, Tweeted she was doing an ‘Ocasio-Cortez crash course’ after her victory; quickly copying her classmates long after the homework was due. Her Wikipedia page was quickly drafted from a stub overnight, with much shithousery – ‘even in the article of Joseph Stalin it doesn’t include the adjective “far-left”,’ commented one editor.
If/when she is elected to Congress in the mid-term elections she will stand out a mile. She grew up a working-class New Yorker from the Bronx, she is still a working-class New Yorker living in the Bronx, an unabashed socialist, feminist, anti-interventionist; taking the place of Joseph Crowley – previously expected to become Democratic House Speaker after Nancy Pelosi – a man who received $300,000 from investment banks such as Blackstone Group and voted for the Iraq War.
Michael Blake, a vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee, was quick to chalk up her victory to racial identity – ‘A lot of people of colour were excited about a young woman of colour, people say demographics are destiny and you can’t ignore that reality when looking at the numbers there.’ However, despite representing a sizeable Puerto Rican community in the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez received a higher proportion of votes in non-Hispanic areas, as noted by Steven Romalewski, of the Center for Urban Research.
Ocasio-Cortez was a campaign organiser for Bernie Sanders in 2016: himself accused conversely of having a base of supporters that are too white and too male – derided by Hillary Clinton as the so-called ‘Bernie Bros’. Likewise, Sanders’ spirit-animal across the pond, Jeremy Corbyn, is a man so white he rocks the grey shell suit like someone permanently residing in a Stone Roses gig in 1989.
It pains individuals like Blake to admit it, but this victory isn’t about race, identity or personnel. Ocasio-Cortez won because she represents a universal progressive ideology that is gaining traction; one that threatens the establishment, both Washington and Westminster. This is solely about economics: the haves vs the have-nots.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has amassed a fortune of $59 million throughout her time in office; she quickly derided the nomination of Ocasio-Cortez as ‘just one district’. The British Labour Party has never really shaken off the influence of Tony Blair, a man who now offers consultancy services to the regime of Kuwait at £27 million a contract, and claims that under Corbyn the party is in ‘much worse’ shape than the dismal 1980s.
These, quite simply, aren’t people who are fit to represent the centre, let alone the left. What these people chalk off as ‘dangerous populism’ is the natural remedy of the problems they themselves have created: an end to banking deregulation that crippled the world in 2007 and the bank bailouts that let the culprits get away with it, anti-austerity, public services that allow people to live with dignity, and an end to the racist, authoritarian police state that partners the seemingly untouchable military juggernaut employed overseas. Things that should be bread and butter for an ostensibly left-wing party.
42,000 people joined the Democratic Socialists of America after seeing Ocasio-Cortez triumph against a stale opponent. On the back of a Momentum-inspired grassroots insurgency the Labour Party has grown to become the largest European political party in terms of membership. ‘Left populism’ is carving out an opening in mainstream politics with leaflets and twitter memes rather than Bloomberg endorsements and military-industrial donations.
If this scares you it’s a tacit admission that you benefit from perpetuating an exploitative and rigged system of governance, and your days at the helm are truly numbered.