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Socialist wins congressional election in New York City

A New York City congressional district representing working class neighborhoods in Queens and the Bronx has elected Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, a member of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), in the Democratic Party primary. She defeated incumbent Congressman Joseph Crowley, a centrist with extensive ties to Wall Street and the national Clinton machine.

Ocasio Cortez, who run publicly as both a progressive and a socialist, won nearly 58% of the vote in the primary. In a district that is more than 80% Democratic voters, it makes her election to Congress in the general election all but certain. Crowley had not faced a serious challenger since inheriting his seat from the previous Queens Democratic Party political boss in 1998. The race drew national attention as the latest skirmish between the dominant corporate faction of the party and the small but energetic progressive wing that looks to Bernie Sanders as its de facto leader.

Just making a competitive race was an achievement for Ocasio Cortez, NYC-DSA, and other groups supporting her campaign. She turned what would normally have been a sleepy, uncompetitive race into a national story, even outlining the need for socialism in unlikely places like Vogue magazine, “There is no other force, there is no other party, there is no other real ideology out there right now that is asserting the minimum elements necessary to lead a dignified American life.”

Ocasio Cortez ran on a set of demands that reflect DSA’s core message, taking the basics of Bernie Sanders’ populist platform and pushing it further to the left. Her proposals included universal public healthcare, tuition-free college, a universal jobs guarantee, and restrictions on corporate campaign donations and real estate and Wall Street speculation. She was the first national candidate in the country to call for the abolition of ICE, the immigration enforcement agency founded in 2003 that has been a source of national outrage, most recently for detaining immigrant children as young as four years old apart from their parents. Bizarrely, Crowley, who voted to create ICE in 2003, recently described it as a “fascist organization” but declined to call for its abolishment.

Ocasio Cortez was one of the few federal candidates in recent history to refuse all corporate donations. She raised a total of about $313,000, with more than $208,000 of that coming from small donations of less than $200 per donor, according to the campaign finance publication Sludge. In contrast, Crowley raised more than $1.1 million from over 250 corporations. In total, he raised more than $3 million, of which less than $30,000 came from small donations, Sludge reported.

Ocasio Cortez’s campaign generated enthusiasm among younger and non-white voters, many of whom were previously disengaged from politics. The population of the district is more than 50% Latino and overwhelmingly working class. Her victory demonstrates the appeal of material, universal demands on the state–and the working class’s hunger for a fight. The mainstream Democratic Party has tragically (though expectedly) failed to use the mass mobilizations of the past 18 months to form a coherent opposition to Trump. The party heads seem to spend as much time fretting about how to kill the Sanders-Ocasio movement in its crèche as they do opposing the Republicans dismantling the remaining skeleton of welfare state. Ocasio Cortez has demonstrated how to win by gaining broad support across the working and lower middle classes. It remains to be seen if the party leadership will pay attention. So far, the institutional party’s resistance to winning has come from its resistance to organizing exactly those classes.


LEFT ON THE MOVE’s Redaction Team selected below some excerpts from the international repercussion in the press of the great Ocasio-Cortez’s victory:

Al-Jazeera: “A young Latina of Puerto Rican descent who has not held elective office, Ocasio-Cortez is a democratic socialist who advocates for a federally guaranteed job and “Medicare-For-All,” calls for tuition-free public collegesand the dismantling of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and supports Palestinian rights. She is expected to win handily in the general election, in a Democratic district that is majority people of colour and half Latino. The Bronx activist represents a new generation of bold and uncompromisingly progressive leaders, many of whom are women and people of colour who hail from grassroots social justice movements. They stand in marked contrast to an old-guard political system that has relied on corporate patronage and has failed to address the myriad social and economic maladies in the US. This, as the “all white men” of the Trump administration make decisions impacting women, and the members of racial minority groups who will constitute a majority of Americans in coming years.” (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the future of US politics, 29 Jun 18)

The Guardian: “It is fitting that the earthquake victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over one of the most powerful Democrats in the country came sandwiched between two catastrophic US supreme court decisions. The court, shifting rightward with Donald Trump’s Neil Gorsuch, defended a travel ban on people from Muslim-majority nations and chose to devastate labor unions with its decision on Wednesday. Many voters, particularly young people, understand the time for incrementalism and moderation is long over, and ended for good when a race-baiter who empowers white supremacists and oligarchs stormed into the White House. It ended with the kids in cages, the attacks on immigrants and all people of color.” (Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represents the future of the Democratic party, 27 Jun 18)

El País (Spain): “The personal characteristics of the candidate constitute in themselves another powerful message, since Ocasio embodies all the political fractures that have been putting the establishment in check for some time. The genre is the most obvious, but to it generational, racial and social aspects are added, completing the quartet that begins to define this new political era marked by instability. Recall the criticism leveled against Hillary Clinton after her electoral failure: the most prepared presidential candidate in history would have fragmented the vote of her electorate with a rhetoric of diversity that was described as moralistic and divisive. Just two years later, the victory of Ocasio denies this premise, demonstrating that it is possible to articulate majorities by putting on the table the axis of diversity, generating credibility and getting a majority to feel represented by who, precisely, politicizes these fractures.” (Golpe al establishment, 28 Jun 18)

Pagina 12 (Argentina): “With the almost total vote count spread yesterday, Ocasio Cortez won 57.5% of the votes, compared to 42.5% of Crowley and who came forward thinking he would have secured his election. The Democrat, in fact, was considered the next Speaker of the House of Representatives in case the Democrats won the majority in the November elections. “This is the beginning of a movement,” Ocasio Cortez tweeted shortly after learning of his victory. The policy of the Bronx, representative of the Puerto Rican community of New York, worked on the political campaign of the progressive Bernie Sanders in the internal Democratic elections that gave the victory to the presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Two years ago, the young politician decided to embark on a congressional career in a mission that, she remembers now, some described as impossible because of the power that Crowley accumulated in the district, which includes the East of the Bronx and the north of Queens, neighborhoods from the city of New York.” (Nace una estrella en NY, 27 Jun 18)

 

 

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