First-time candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez defeated one of the most powerful Democrats in the country Tuesday night in a Queens/Bronx congressional primary that was supposed to be a sure thing for longtime incumbent Joe Crowley.
The 28-year-old community organizer won handily, 57 percent to 42 percent, despite being outspent 10 to 1 and almost immediately went from an obscure primary challenger to one of the most recognizable faces in American politics.
Her victory represents the growth of the left wing of the Democratic Party in the Trump era, a wing that wants to pass Medicare-for-all, abolish ICE, and have the federal government guarantee people a job.
But while Ocasio-Cortez is to the left of almost every Democrat in Congress, she dismisses the idea that there is a coming intra-party civil war.
“I think we have to kind of get past this like a battling,” Ocasio-Cortez told VICE News Tonight's Michael Moynihan on Wednesday after her victory the previous night. “We're going to have absolutely a lot of spirited debates in the Democratic Party. But the goal is the same. The goal is social-economic-racial justice for working-class Americans.”
Ocasio-Cortez identifies as both a democratic socialist and a Democrat and says the two aren’t mutually exclusive. “The Democratic Party is a big-tent kind of party,” she said.
The Party’s leadership in Washington, however, will certainly have to expand their own tent in order to accommodate Ocasio-Cortez. Asked about the rise of democratic socialism among young progressives in February of 2017, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said dismissively, “I have to say, we're capitalists, that's just the way it is.” And on Wednesday, Pelosi dismissed Ocasio-Cortez’s victory as “a choice in one district” and told reporters not to get “carried away.”
And it’s true that many other progressive challengers across the country have lost and that the politics in New York’s 14th District are decidedly more to the left than most districts in the country. Still, Ocasio-Cortez believes that she is a small part of a growing movement on the left full of people dissatisfied with the Democratic leadership.
“I think what's going on is that working-class Americans are looking for a fierce and unapologetic champion,” she said. “It could be more than one. I hope it’s more than one. But what people are asking for is a little bit of moral clarity in, I think, this time of chaos.”
This segment originally aired June 27, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.