By Jon Dougherty
As candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s star began to rise last summer thanks to wall-to-wall coverage from an adoring, enthused media, many of whom were claiming that she was going to be the new face of the Democratic Party (if not the Democratic Left), some older party hands were having none of it.
Rank-and-file establishment Democrats and former Democrats lined up to oppose Ocasio-Cortez’s agenda and even her candidacy after she unexpectedly defeated 10-term incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, who was widely expected to step into the party’s leadership (and perhaps even as Speaker once Dems won the House back).
“Meteors fizz out,” said Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., said, as reported by The Hill.
“What she will learn in this institution is that it’s glacial to begin with, and therefore no matter how far you rise, that’s just how far you will ultimately get your comeuppance. You come up here and you’re going to be buddy-buddy with all the folks or you’re just going to make them do certain things? Ain’t happening, OK?”
The Hill noted further:
Some legislators are voicing concerns that Ocasio-Cortez appears set on using her newfound star power to attack Democrats from the left flank, threatening to divide the party — and undermine its chances at retaking the House — in a midterm election year when leaders are scrambling to form a united front against President Trump and Republicans.
“She’s carrying on and she ain’t gonna make friends that way,” said Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.). “Joe conceded, wished her well, said he would support her … so she doesn’t know what the hell she’s talking about.”
“She’s not asking my advice,” he added, “[but] I would do it differently, rather than make enemies of people.”
When asked if he believed that Ocasio-Cortez was making some enemies within her party, Pascrell was direct: “Yes. No doubt about it.”
It turns out The Hill, and those Democrats who sounded the warning about Ocasio-Cortez were right. She’s turned out to be every bit as combative and divisive within her own party as predicted, even going so far recently as to claim she was ‘taking names’ of ‘moderate Democrats’ who voted with Republicans on recent legislation to target them for primary challenges.
That really ticked off a lot of those Democrats, CNN‘s Chris Cillizza noted:
“There is, without a doubt, a myth that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez somehow represents the narrative of Democratic primary voters in the country,” Alabama-based Democratic pollster John Anzalone, who polled for Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election race, told The Washington Post over the weekend. “Almost half of them identify themselves as moderates or conservative.”
Is Anzalone right about the makeup of Democrats? He is, according to Gallup polling of Democrats in 2018. That data showed that 51% of Democrats identified themselves as liberal last year, while 47% call themselves either moderate (34%) or conservative (13%).
Meanwhile, another freshman Democrat, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, has repeatedly angered and embarrassed party elders with her repeated anti-Semitic attacks on members of the Jewish faith and on Israel.
In fact, the anti-Semitism — Omar is Muslim — has become so pronounced that Democrats felt compelled to rebuke her (without mentioning her name — their hypocrisy only goes so far) this week.
The Washington Examiner reported:
House Democrats will vote on a resolution Wednesday condemning anti-Semitism, but the measure will not name Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., whose comments prompted the rare condemnation from her fellow lawmakers.
The four-page resolution is sponsored by Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and “rejects anti-Semitism as hateful expressions of intolerance that are contradictory to the values that define the people of the United States.”
The measure outlines the history of anti-Semitic attacks against Jews and addresses “the myth of dual loyalty, including allegations that Jews should be suspected of being disloyal neighbors or citizens.” Omar in a series of tweets raised the idea that Jewish members of Congress shouldn’t be loyal to Israel over America.
Senior Democrats have also already chided freshman Democrat Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, who was seen on video shortly after the midterms vowing to “impeach the motherf**ker” POTUS Trump, a cringe-worthy start to her congressional career weeks before she was even sworn in.
“I disagree with what she said,” said Jerrold Nadler of New York, to CNN.
“It is too early to talk about that intelligently,” said the then-chairman-elect of the House Judiciary Committee, who is now badgering the Trump administration with harassment subpoenas aimed at that very objective (past 2020). “We have to follow the facts.”
“I think some of our new members probably don’t realize that you are always on, that when you are a member of Congress there’s always someone listening,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.)
More recently, Tlaib was blasted by veteran GOP lawmaker and head of the House Freedom Caucus Mark Meadows of North Carolina after she accused him of bringing longtime Trump family associate Lynne Patton — now an official with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — to hear disgraced lawyer Michael Cohen’s testimony as a “prop” (Patton is black). The accusation led Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) to ask Tlaib to clarify; he later pulled her over for a private conversation at the dais during a break.
This, of course, came after Tlaib — who is also Muslim, of Palestinian descent — to reject going on a traditional congressional delegation to Israel for new members sponsored by Israeli lobbying organization AIPAC. Instead, Tlaib announced she would instead lead a delegation to the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which the UK’s Independent called “unprecedented.”
Since then, like her Muslim colleague Omar, she, too, has been accused of anti-Semitism based on remarks she has made accusing Republicans of being more loyal to Israel than to the U.S. (an accusation Omar has made, too).
Fox News reported:
Tlaib, responding to a post by Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders on Monday, suggested that Senate Republicans were more loyal to Israel than the U.S., amid a report that GOP leaders were planning to introduce a bill that would punish companies that participate in the so-called “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions” (BDS) global movement against Israel. BDS proponents seek to pressure Israel through economic and other means — often, until Israel ceases to exist in its current form.
“They forgot what country they represent,” she wrote…
In sum, these three represent a major challenge to Democratic leaders who, at least publicly, want their party to be seen as far less radical, regardless of the policies they actually pursue. And while it’s only been three months since they were inaugurated, clearly, leadership has already had a belly full.
CNN‘s Cillizza adds:
The real question then is not which part of the party is on the rise — it’s the AOC/Bernie Sanders wing for sure — but rather how those moderates and conservatives are treated by the liberals in the party. Will they be driven out as insufficiently loyal to the cause — as tea party (and Trump) Republicans have done to their own centrist wing over the last decade? Or will liberals find a way to incorporate the views of their more moderate party members as they try to find a candidate who can oust President Donald Trump in 2020?
Again, Anzalone hits the nail on the head. “My main gripe about AOC is that while I respect her voice in the party, I don’t think she respects mine or anyone else’s who differs with her on policy or comes from a different political electoral reality,” he tweeted.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10