I haven’t been posting much about politics lately (haven’t had the time, energy, and spirit, really) but I have been following the elections, of course, especially the ones involving liberal and progressive candidates running in Democratic U.S. House and U.S. Senate primaries. Just as in election cycles past, the road through this election season has been littered with the corpses of campaigns of promising liberals. These liberals could have and should have been the future of the Democratic Party, but for a Democratic Party too centrist, too anti-government, too backwards-thinking, too dependent on corporate money, and too enthralled in corporate ideology to do the right thing and be the party of the people again.
To me, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was slated to be another sacrificial progressive lamb at the altar of the corporatists who still very much control and run the Democratic Party. Especially since her particular would-be corporatist butcher was Representative Joseph Crowley, number 4 Democrat in the U.S. House and the undisputed mob boss of the Queens Democratic Party, who was outspending her 10-to-1. Ocasio-Cortez was, in order of importance, very liberal, compassionate, earnest, dynamic, and – yes, I’ll say it, sue me – stunningly beautiful. In a just world, she would be a big part of the future of the Democratic Party. Instead, in this world, she would just show up as a minor bump in Crowley’s otherwise smooth renomination and reelection. June 26 2018 would be yet another election night where I tune into the news to get my regular dose of electoral disappointment. I would just check to make sure that all my favorite candidates went down in crushing defeats before I go to bed, where liberal victories at the polls and a truly liberal Democratic Party can actually exist in my dreams.
Then June 26 2018 actually happened. I load up the news to find that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her race – and by a hefty 57-43. This was easily the best political news I got since Bernie Sanders somehow overcame a 23-point polling deficit to win the 2016 Michigan Presidential primary. Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t just one more liberal candidate who started way behind only to finish way behind. She wasn’t yet another no-chance progressive I supported who would get her requisite 30-70 drubbing prior to a swift and orderly disposal into the dustbin of history. I didn’t have to spend another Election Night completely defeated. I was still mostly defeated, to be sure – Dylan Ratigan lost his primary, for instance – but not completely defeated. Like a starving mouse clinging to a fortuitous bread crumb, just for once, I got to have one victory to celebrate. Let me have this one.
Okay, because it’s me, I have to include the bad side – the reverse silver lining, if you will – involved with this otherwise exhilarating good news. The media analysis right now is focusing a lot on the district being heavily Latino and choosing a Latina over a white person. Ocasio-Cortez ran mainly on the issues but she did bring up her Puerto Rican heritage and the fact that her majority-minority district has never had a non-white Representative. In my own state of Texas, Sema Hernandez, a liberal Latina Democrat running against Beto O’Rourke, carried most of the counties in the heavily Latino Rio Grande Valley. I voted for Hernandez because she was the more liberal candidate, but I can’t help but think that voters in the Rio Grande Valley went with her based on her ethnicity rather than ideology or issues, and I can’t help but wonder if the same thing happened with Ocasio-Cortez. Let me be clear: I do not want voters to vote primarily based on race or other non-substantive factors (like gender, which also could’ve helped Ocasio-Cortez), even if it so happens to help the candidate I’m supporting. Ideology and issues come first and are far more important than whatever intangible feeling of “representation” voters may get from having someone of their own ethnicity in office. How will liberals feel when a liberal white man loses a race to a more conservative person of color because of race or ethnicity?
That said, I’m elated that Ocasio-Cortez was able to win her race by running a strong campaign based on the idea of a government that truly represents and helps ordinary people. This is especially important after years and years of watching just about every liberal candidate I supported lose – and usually very badly – in competitive primaries. 2018 wasn’t much different, until now. Now, we have a victory that gives us a little crack of hope. We liberals can run on a liberal message and liberal positions on the issues and win uphill battles. And we need to do just that in a thousand other races if we’re going to take the Democratic Party back from the corporate elites and make our politics work for the people.
P.S. And then there were two: liberal candidate and Kenneth Huang endorsee Ben Jealous won his primary too. I didn’t expect this one. Jealous was slightly behind Rushern Baker in most of the recent polls and of course in this world we live in the progressive always loses. Nope, not this one! He’ll get to lose in the general election to unfortunately popular Republican Governor Larry Hogan, but for this night, let me have a second victory to celebrate.