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New York socialist scores stunning victory

John Bell

June 29, 2018

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, openly campaigning as a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, knocked off one of the Democratic Party’s top ranking members in New York City. The defeat of 10 term incumbent Joe Crowley is sending shock waves through the establishment of corporate politicians of all stripes. Her primary victory means Ocasio-Cortez will be running for a Senate seat in November.

Crowley is the epitome of a corporate politician. He was endorsed by Google, Facebook, JP Morgan and Lockheed Martin, among others. He had a huge amount–around $4 million­–to spend. In contrast Ocasio-Cortez had about $250,000, most of it coming from small individual donations between $5 and $250.

In the end it wasn’t even close. 28-year-old Latina Ocasio-Cortez won 57% of the vote against Crowley’s 42%. As Philip Henken, a Queen’s based DSA organizer told Socialist Worker (UK): “The elites have money, but we have the numbers, and we have the people power.”

That power was mobilized by a grass-roots, activist campaign that relied on face-to-face discussion, door knocking in the racially diverse district of Queen’s and the Bronx, and a platform that really addressed the concerns of working people. That included: universal medicare, housing as a human right, a federal jobs guarantee, a ban on assault weapons, criminal justice reform and an end to for profit private prisons, real action on climate change, free higher education, defending women’s rights, and above all immigration reform and abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Having this last demand in place even before the revelations about child detention centres struck a strong chord with voters.

Democratic Senate leader Nancy Pelosi tried to play down the significance of Ocasio-Cortez’s victory as an open socialist: “It’s ascendent in that district, perhaps. But I don’t accept any characterization of our party presented by the Republicans. So let me reject that right now. Our party is a big tent, our districts are very different, one from the other.”

But Ocasio-Cortez insisted that her victory had wider implications. “We beat a machine with a movement, and that is what we have done today,” she told the media. “Working-class Americans want a clear champion and there is nothing radical about moral clarity in 2018.”

We can be sure that that the corporate elite in both Democratic and Republican parties will pull out the stops to downplay and attack Ocasio-Cortez’s politics. While history demands that we remain skeptical about attempts to pull the Democratic Party to the left, her victory shows an appetite for a clear, social democratic program to radically oppose ruling class austerity.

The CBC’s headline of the victory called Ocasio-Cortez a “liberal”. The BBC went one better, simply calling her a “millennial”. They are clearly afraid of the “S” word. Let’s celebrate the fact that NYC voters are not.

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