The backlash to Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not limited to conservative white men. It includes many establishment Democrats, who loathe her socialist politics and willingness to confront members of her own party on issues.
A report in POLITICO highlighted how Democrats in the House of Representatives are irritated with the 29-year-old community organizer, Justice Democrat, and supporter of Bernie Sanders, who defeated longtime incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley to become a congresswoman from New York.
Several House Democrats are upset that Ocasio-Cortez backs primary challengers against centrist or moderate representatives. They despise the fact that she opposed House rules that were passed in the first week of Congress. They also dislike how she campaigned for a top committee post, when she is a freshman senator who they believe should wait her turn.
As noted by POLITICO, she backed challengers to Democratic Representatives Stephanie Murphy of Florida, William Lacy Clay of Missouri, and Mike Capuano of Massachusetts.
“I’m sure Ms. Cortez means well, but there’s almost an outstanding rule: Don’t attack your own people,” declared Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). “We just don’t need sniping in our Democratic Caucus.”
While many House Democrats are bothered by Ocasio-Cortez, few of them are willing to say so openly. POLITICO helped a few Democrats, including one self-described progressive, share their disgust with the public by granting them anonymity to trash her.
“She needs to decide: Does she want to be an effective legislator or just continue being a Twitter star?” stated one House Democrat. “There’s a difference between being an activist and a lawmaker in Congress.”
To be clear, Ocasio-Cortez voted against the House rules because it included a pay-go rule that Democrats have passed before, which “requires them to offset any increase in the deficit by cutting spending or raising revenue elsewhere.”
Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders were some of the Democrats to oppose the measure because it would unfairly hamstring efforts to advance a progressive agenda. They pointed to President Donald Trump and the GOP’s tax cuts for the rich that amounted to $1.9 trillion.
“At a time when climate change threatens our planet, when our infrastructure is crumbling, when 30 million people have no health insurance, when millions of Americans are struggling with outrageous levels of student debt, I am concerned that the concept of pay-go will make it harder for Congress to address the many crises facing our working families,” Sanders argued.
What upset Democrats even more than her vote against the House rules was her advocacy for a Green New Deal, as well as the establishment of a House committee that would strongly confront climate change.
From The Intercept:
Her first organizing effort in the halls of Congress began with the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats-led occupation of [Nancy] Pelosi’s office during orientation. Ocasio-Cortez and the activists demanded a select committee to craft legislation toward a Green New Deal. It sparked a national conversation that is still alive today, but the committee Pelosi ultimately created — unveiled in Thursday’s rules package — is weaker than one she created on the same issue in 2007.
But putting the climate on the map came at a cost — and here’s where the contradiction comes in — in that her proposal angered her colleagues, who furiously defended the turf of their respective committees, seeing themselves in competition with the proposed select committee. That hostility built upon already strong wariness on the part of her fellow lawmakers, who see in Ocasio-Cortez’s brand of people-powered, corporate-free politics a challenge to their own integrity or progressivism. She is a walking reminder to some Democrats of the space between their ideals and how they have come to practice politics — and they don’t appreciate the reminder. Indeed, incoming Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone flat-out refused to move an unrelated bill by Khanna, citing his public support for what he saw as a rival committee.
It does not matter how many headlines confirm the planet faces an intensifying crisis that demands action. Establishment Democrats despise someone who will reinforce protests and engage in campaigns that pressure them to uphold progressive ideals. They want their base of voters to believe they are doing all they can to fight Trump and Republicans and are not responsible for further entrenching a corporate status quo.
What made Sanders’ presidential campaign against Hillary Clinton repulsive also fuels resentment against Ocasio-Cortez.
Ocasio-Cortez may not fully understand the best ways to advance the people’s agenda while in Congress, but she will learn how to be a more impactful lawmaker. Plus, the system is designed to chew up and spit out activists like her.
There has been a lot of focus on her gender and ethnicity, as the right attacks her for a dancing video and high school nickname and even spread a nude photo hoax. But there are young Democratic women elected to Congress, who do not deal with this level of misogyny. They have more mild progressive politics or are center-left politicians, and they aren’t inspirational phenoms.
Ocasio-Cortez faces smear campaigns because she is an unabashed left-wing activist, whose election was viewed as a phenomenon.
House Democrats would fully embrace her rise to prominence if she took after Pelosi. They desperately want her to go from someone who is a grassroots leader to a technocrat willing to work her way up the totem pole before trying to wield power. They know she could be an asset in the 2020 elections, if she was a “team player.” Except her anti-establishment politics will never be tolerable.
Elected representatives from her own party will keep complaining to POLITICO or other media outlets in the Beltway so long as editors invite them to promote their disdain. They wish to rein Ocasio-Cortez in so they can hold her up as an example to future activists who may run for election in their party.
Yet, no matter how much Democrats grumble, it is more likely to validate her approach, which may be best characterized as afflicting the powerful while comforting those who are sick and tired of being sick and tired of politics as usual.