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:
- In Maryland, former NAACP president and progressive Ben Jealous won a crowded nine-person Democratic primary and will face Republican Larry Hogan in November. Hogan has a high approval rating and is starting out with a double-digit lead over Jealous, but Donald Trump’s disapproval in the same April poll was at 70 percent. This one could get much closer depending on what happens over the course of the next several months.
- In April, the DCCC parachuted into a swing district in central New York currently represented by Republican John Katko, and pushed its own candidate, Juanita Perez-Williams, into the race against the more liberal Dana Balter. Balter won on Tuesday night by 25 points. As the Intercept’s Ryan Grim noted, big money groups including the DCCC spent over $300,000 for Perez-Williams in this race.
- Apart from Crowley, two other House Democrats from New York City hung on in tough primary races. Congresswoman Yvette Clarke narrowly defeated New York Times-endorsed challenger Adem Bunkeddeko by a little over a thousand votes, while Carolyn Maloney had a double-digit victory over challenger Suraj Patel, who campaigned on Tinder for some reason.
- Also in New York, huge dipshit Michael Grimm fell on his ass in his attempt to reclaim the seat in Congress he gave up after he pled guilty and went to jail for tax evasion.
- In Colorado, Congressman Jared Polis easily won his four-person Democratic primary for the gubernatorial nomination over former state treasurer Cary Kennedy and two other candidates. He’ll face Republican state treasurer Walker Stapleton, who also won his primary on Tuesday night, in November; in the most recent polling, he has a lead over Stapleton that’s just outside the margin of error. If Polis is elected, he’ll become the U.S.’s first openly gay governor.
- In another DCCC-left showdown in Colorado, establishment-backed House candidate Jason Crow won the Sixth District’s nod over Levi Tillemann, whom House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer personally tried to convince to drop out. He’ll face Republican Mike Coffman, who recently said Trump should fire Stephen Miller.
- Oklahoma legalized medical marijuana in a ballot measure.
- In South Carolina, Trump-endorsed governor Henry McMaster narrowly won his primary runoff over businessman John Warren.
- Mitt Romney easily won his Senate primary in Utah. Will we see more of Resistance Mitt or The Din Din Boy now that he’s virtually assured a spot in the Senate? Who knows!