This Is How We Win

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Tuesday night wasn’t just the Democrats’ Eric Cantor moment. That quickly became the media narrative of the Democratic primary in New York’s 14th Congressional District well before the race was even called, but it’s an incomplete one. No, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s win over Rep. Joe Crowley yesterday was bigger than that. It was the political equivalent of an earth-shattering event, the effects of which are going to be felt for years.


Outspent by over ten-to-one, Ocasio-Cortez—who, after a November general election that is mostly a formality, will become the youngest congresswoman in history—ran a superior ground game against an incumbent who refused to take her seriously until it was far too late. As her supporters have noted, Ocasio-Cortez capitalized on Crowley’s complacency by showing up and actively seeking the votes of people who have been ignored by the Democratic Party for far too long. In doing so, she became just the third challenger to knock off an incumbent so far in this election cycle, and the first Democrat to do so.

It’s important to note here that Ocasio-Cortez is not just a progressive, or a Bernie Sanders supporter. She is an avowed socialist, recognizing healthcare, housing, jobs, and higher education as human rights which should belong to all of us. She supported abolishing ICE long before congressional Democrats began endorsing it. She ran against Crowley’s support of PROMESA, the undemocratic board running Puerto Rico’s finances that has forced the island into crippling austerity.

Ocasio-Cortez’s socialism is one that’s tailor-made for these brutal, infuriating times. Here’s her explanation in an interview earlier this week with Vogue (emphasis mine):

When we talk about the word socialism, I think what it really means is just democratic participation in our economic dignity, and our economic, social, and racial dignity. It is about direct representation and people actually having power and stake over their economic and social wellness, at the end of the day. To me, what socialism means is to guarantee a basic level of dignity. It’s asserting the value of saying that the America we want and the America that we are proud of is one in which all children can access a dignified education. It’s one in which no person is too poor to have the medicines they need to live. It’s to say that no individual’s civil rights are to be violated. And it’s also to say that we need to really examine the historical inequities that have created much of the inequalities—both in terms of economics and social and racial justice—because they are intertwined. This idea of, like, race or class is a false choice. Even if you wanted to separate those two things, you can’t separate the two, they are intrinsically and inextricably tied. 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.

It’s hard to overstate the importance of having this kind of charismatic young socialist in the House. Ocasio-Cortez will immediately be one of the biggest rising stars on the Democratic left, which is in dire need of them considering its standard-bearer is in his mid-seventies. She is also, in pretty much every way, the anti-Trump, and will be able to play a vital role in the (what has so far been feckless) Democratic opposition to the president from the very beginning of her tenure.

It’s true that Ocasio-Cortez’s district is one of the most Democratic in the country, and her platform wouldn’t win everywhere in 2018. But this win, like all of the left’s other recent wins, is a building block that will slowly but surely help to normalize these ideas—and that “s” word commonly used to describe them—in the minds of voters everywhere, especially those in places which have been negatively shaped by contemporary politics and ignored by Democratic and Republican politicians.


Last night, Ocasio-Cortez showed the path forward for Democrats. It won’t be found through the Paneras of America and in peeling off disaffected GOP voters, but by engaging the left’s natural constituencies—workers, people of color, immigrants, and anyone who has been threatened by this administration—and offering them not just a bandage to temporarily stop the bleeding of the Trump assault, but an idea of how to make this ailing country well.

Aside from Ocasio-Cortez’s historic win, there were a bunch of important primaries elsewhere in New York, Maryland, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Utah, as well as runoffs in South Carolina and Mississippi. Here’s what happened: