The Democratic Socialists who launched a full-on assault on the House of Representatives in 2018 are looking at bigger targets for 2022 and 2024, but they still involve the group’s most successful candidate to date, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).
According to a report in Axios, “top Democrats” are expecting Ocasio-Cortez to build on the success of the small civil war she’s created between factions of the party and launch a campaign to primary one of New York’s two senators, either Sen. Chuck Schumer or Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Schumer seems the more likely target, according to Axios’s sources, particularly given that he often falls on the “wrong” side of the battle between progressives and moderates. She’s also dealt more closely with Schumer, helping to dictate how the Senate handles policy initiated in the House by progressive legislators, including her own “Green New Deal,” which came up for a vote in the Senate and lost handily (even though AOC and her co-authors were adamant that a solution be enacted quickly).
Gillibrand, though, may be the weaker candidate, especially given her lackluster primary performance thus far, and will be up for re-election more in Ocasio-Cortez’s timeline: 2024, rather than 2022 for Schumer.
There are drawbacks. Even if Ocasio-Cortez is planning to move on to bigger and better things, she’ll need a base of support she currently lacks. National popularity is one thing, but a Senate run will require the attention of every voter in New York State, and Ocasio-Cortez is only popular with voters in and around Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx. Those might be key constituencies for a Senate run, but they by no means guarantee a victory for a first timer.
And as far as Ocasio-Cortez is concerned, they are also by no means hers to fall back on. She’s popular in her home district but not particularly effective, and has yet to open a constituent office from Bronx residents, preferring to focus her attention less on local needs and more on building a national progressive movement.
Her communications director, Corbin Trent, admitted as much to Axios: “Having worked on her campaign, I don’t think we’re going to be moving to a different role any time soon.”
Four years, of course, is an era away in politics, though.
The Democratic party will have a lot to contend with between now and then, and the coming battle between progressives and moderates for the soul of the Democratic Party seems closer than ever, especially considering that the battle is playing out, in a microcosm, in the 2020 Democratic primary.
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the concept of far-left progressivism and Democratic Socialism to the party platform in 2016, and by 2019, some of Sanders’ more outrageous ideas have become part of the everyday Democratic agenda. The primary is now a race between the progressive wing of the party, those who pose as progressives, and the “electable” candidates — and Ocasio-Cortez’s agenda is leaking through even to former Vice President Joe Biden, who was forced by progressives to lean left on the Hyde Amendment just last week.
AOC may not have to worry about winning any permanent seats anytime soon. Her ideas have already infected the party in an unstoppable and incurable way.