Thursday, June 28, 2018

Columbus May Have Discovered America...

     ...but Cortez rediscovered it.
     Last Tuesday evening on Primary Night, races were being run in Maryland, South Carolina and other states. But, as with the Olympics, every election cycle, every Primary Night, has to have its darling, its Big Story. In this case, it was a race in New York's 14th Congressional district when a 28 year-old bartender beat Rep. Joe Crowley.
     Who's Joe Crowley and why is Ocasio-Cortez defeating him so important? Let me count the ways:
     Joe Crowley, the head of the Queens County Democrats, is one of those powerful Congressmen who fly under the radar and are little known outside their districts. While loudmouths and firebrands suck all the oxygen out of a room, Crowley was not one of them. A quiet, middling progressive, a Blue Dog in the mold of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Crowley represented the 14th district in my native Queens and the Bronx with all the excitement of a Steny Hoyer, which is to say none.
     The Beltway cocktail circuit started whispering he'd be the next House Minority Leader, which ought to show you how out of touch is the Beltway elite that can suck down martinis while not being able to read the tea leaves that the Democrats stand a very real chance of taking back at least the House if not both chambers.
     Crowley is a 10 term congressman who had run unopposed by his own party for the last seven of those terms. That's 14 years.
     Depending on which news outlet you listen to, Crowley outspent and outraised Ocasio-Cortez by a margin of between 10 and 16 to one. His upstart challenger did not accept one penny from corporations or Super PACS. In other words, Ocasio-Cortez ably showed you can win a primary campaign against a 10 term incumbent in a safe blue district while keeping big money out of politics.
     At 28, just three years above the minimum age to run for a congressional seat, Ocasio-Cortez is literally half the age of the 56 year-old Crowley.
     This was no mere eking out a fluke victory such as antisemitic Neo Nazi Arthur Jones winning the GOP primary in Chicago. Ocasio-Cortez defeated Crowley by a sound 15%, 57.5% to his 42.5%. And she did it by, again, without corporate cash, without Super PAC money and without the support of the Democratic establishment. And knowing the Tammany Hall 2.0 wing of the Democratic Party as well as I do, I wouldn't expect them to allocate many if any resources to the rest of Ocasio-Cortez's campaign.
     No doubt, their excuse will be that she'll have a cakewalk between now and November against Republican Anthony Pappas, especially if Elizabeth Perri, the Conservative Party candidate, stays in to split whatever meager votes Pappas will get in the 14th's minority-majority district. I wouldn't expect much from Crowley, either, except the bland and meaningless pledge of support that he's already made.
     Oh, and she's also a Democratic Socialist. You know, the kind of Democrats we used to have until the 80's. You know, the decade of the "Reagan Democrats."
     Now that the boring but telling numbers and other ephemera are out of the way, let's talk about why Ocasio-Cortez won the night before last.
     Joe Crowley is the darling of neoliberals who have actually heard of him. But like a lot of Blue Dogs, Crowley got complacent. He took his constituency for granted. He did this just before the primary election by citing the old right wing excuse of a "scheduling conflict" to skip out on a debate with Ocasio-Cortez, cynically sending in his stead a Latina proxy who, as Ocasio-Cortez later noted, looked like her.
     Crowley threw a few token jabs at the power-drunk ICE, calling them "fascistic" at one point but, unlike Ocasio-Cortez, stopped well short of calling for its abolition.

     After Tuesday night, Ocasio-Cortez had everyone running and screaming for the hills. The NRA went after her in an unhinged rant of the ages. Sean Hannity went after her in a hilarious segment in which he posted her entire campaign platform and tried to make it sound as if women's rights, caring for the elderly, clean campaign finance and higher education and Medicare for all were bad things. Holy fucking Milton Friedman, Batman, we can't have that! Cue the Nelson Riddle music! To the Batshitmobile!
     And here are the two main reasons why Crowley lost, besides Cortez' massive appeal to the voters of the 14th CD:
     Number one, Crowley got complacent and thought he'd have a job for life. Don't think for a minute he wasn't listening to that Beltway cocktail circuit scuttlebutt about him giving Pelosi the old heave-ho. He was unopposed for seven straight election cycles, thought he'd never have to actually campaign ever again and he lost touch with his constituents' needs.
     Number two, and I'm speaking as a native New Yorker here, Crowley also forgot that New York City (and this goes especially for the minority-rich Queens and the Bronx), is a city of neighborhoods. Chicago also is a city of neighborhoods but not as much as the Big Apple. In the summer, block parties abound. In Scott Carson's old neighborhood, 69th Street, there's a Halloween bash where everyone on the block goes all out with their frightful decorations. Crowley was so blinded by his national career ambitions, he seemed to have completely forgotten about the people who kept putting him back on the Hill because they simply had no better option.
     Then came Ocasio-Cortez, a Bernie Sis.
     And not only did she show love to her neighbors, she even recently traveled up to Harlem as an activist and harangued the ICE officials over detaining immigrant children. Joe Crowley wasn't there beside her. In fact, he was so out of touch he couldn't even be bothered to show up for his own debate.
     Crowley is what happens when you constantly campaign on letting tired old machine Democrats oppose a tyrant who never should have won an election to begin with. Crowley didn't seem to listen to the pundits to the left of him when they warned that the Democratic Party cannot simply win on the dubious merits of being against Trump and not having the slightest clue with what you'd replace his fascist agenda.
     Ocasio-Cortez gave the 14th district more than a glimmer of what that national platform should look like. And if Democrats were smart (and they aren't always), they'd listen to her.
     When the results came in and the media had declared her the winner, she took the celebration to the bar at which she works and thanked everyone in her campaign and invited them all to join her in DC.
     Now that's a block party!


At June 28, 2018 at 8:44 PM, Blogger Harry Hamid said...

This win really gave me a little hope this week. I needed it. I'm glad not everyone is as cynical as I have become.


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