Primary defeat of fourth-ranking House Democrat a portent of the radical left takeover of the Democratic Party

The architecture of the 20th-century Democratic Party is slowly dissolving before our eyes, as identity politics and socialism replace the old center-left coalition.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Bernie Sanders organizer and endorsee of the Democratic Socialists of America, resoundingly defeated Rep. Joe Crowley, a ten-term incumbent who hadn't faced a primary opponent in 14 years, and who spent at least ten times as much money in the race.

Ocasio-Cortez's face at her campaign victory party reveals the extent of the shock:

Ocasio-Cortez will almost certainly win election to the House in November, running in a district that gave 78% of its vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and is 49.8% Hispanic and about one fifth white.  She will replace Minnesota's Keith Ellison as the radical socialist-identity politics standard-bearer in Congress.

(Via New York Times.)

Crowley was an old-style machine boss and, like Nancy Pelosi, an insider's insider. New York Daily News quipped:

The King of Queens has been dethroned. ...

[A]s the head of the Queens County machine, he is essentially the definition of a candidate with all of the institutional support.  He had raised $3.35 million in the race – compared with just over $300,000 raised by Ocasio-Cortez.

Among those New Yorkers absorbing the shock this morning is Democratic incumbent Governor Andrew Cuomo:

On hand at her victory party was Cynthia Nixon – who is hoping to pull off a similar upset against Gov. Cuomo in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in September.

"She ran an amazing campaign.  She really spoke to her community," Nixon said.  "If you give them the chance, they will embrace a female leader who really speaks to them.  If you give them a chance, they will buck the status quo.  They will elect a female leader who will really speak to them."

The New York Post agrees on the magnitude of the shock:

Crowley's defeat is a political earthquake in New York City politics where political machines dominate low-turnout elections and incumbents often go unchallenged. ...

Ocasio-Cortez was endorsed by the New York City Democratic Socialists of America and recently told Vogue she was a member of the group because: "When we talk about the word socialism, I think what it really means is just democratic participation in our economic dignity, and our economic, social, and racial dignity."

Such piffle about socialism is shocking from a Spanish-speaker who should know what socialism has done to Venezuela, where people literally are starving in the country with the world's largest oil reserves.

A comparison of Crowley's defeat to that of Eric Cantor, also a member of his party's congressional leadership, is reasonable.  Both incumbents grew out of touch with their constituents and focused on internal party politics and maneuvering.  CNN quoted Ocasio-Cortez harping on one theme similar to that used by Rep. Dave Brat to defeat Cantor:

"This is not an end, this is the beginning.  This is the beginning because the message that we sent the world tonight is that it's not OK to put donors before your community," Ocasio-Cortez told roaring supporters on Tuesday night.

Crowley also made a huge error in declining to participate in a debate with his challenger.  Bridget Bowman in Roll Call:

[Crowley] had received criticism from back home last week.  The New York Times published a scathing editorial criticizing him for skipping a debate with his opponent.  The pair had debated days before, and met again for a debate shortly after the editorial published. 

Ocasio-Cortez said in a phone interview last week that her campaign had caught fire in the final weeks leading up to the primary.  She was backed by national liberal groups including and Democracy for America.

Like Brat, she focused on grassroots organizing and was not taken seriously by the party establishment.

From the beginning, her campaign was focused on field organizing.  She said she shocked local leaders when she turned in more than 5,000 petition signatures, roughly four times the required amount.

"I don't think I've been actively dissuaded by any political operative," Ocasio-Cortez said of challenging Crowley.  "But largely it's because nobody took me seriously until it was too late."

She said she also benefited from supporters across the country phone-banking and writing postcards to voters in the district.  Ocasio-Cortez said her campaign had five core staffers and a couple of hundred volunteers.

Bowman also points out the explicitly racialist appeal she made:

A video detailing her story caught some attention, in which she pointed out that the district's representation did not reflect its majority-minority population.  The district is 49 percent Hispanic, 9 percent African-American, 16 percent Asian-American, and 22 percent white.

Ocasio-Cortez, like President Trump, did not spend money on the old guard political consultants and had a lean campaign.  She also has a good visual sense, as her campaign graphics were striking and appealed to non-English speakers:

As a visually striking, young embodiment of the New Democratic Party of minorities seeking socialism while denying the reality of its practice, Ocasio-Cortez will attract national attention in the campaign and when she is seated in Congress.  In the immediate prospect, she may help the GOP.  But if her version of the Democratic Party ever holds power, God save the United States.

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