it shouldn’t be such a shock that a young woman of color who identifies
as a democratic socialist won a Democratic primary against a machine
politician who takesmillions
of dollarsfrom corporate donors, even a 10-term
incumbent like Crowley.
voters, and much of the public, have been telling us for years that they
were ready for a genuinely progressive policy agenda to enter the
mainstream. Maybe it’s time to listen.
a 28-year-old who is a registered member of theDemocratic
Socialists of America, ticked off every box in the emerging litmus
test of the American left:
certainly sounds like a left-wing platform — but it also might be pretty
'socialist ideas' might be more popular than you think
has written aboutthe
polling on single-payer health carea lot, and
opinions are undoubtedly malleable. But the fact is that
“Medicare-for-all,” as a slogan, is overwhelmingly popular. Even
single-payer described as such has the support of nearly half of
are now evenly split on whether they want an insurance system based on
private insurance companies or the government.
other policy proposals haven’t been tested nearly as much, but a 2016
than 60 percent of Americans support free college tuition for every
student, and it was nearly unanimous that students from families with an
income below $50,000 should be able to attend college at no cost.
federal jobs guarantee had the support of 46 percent of Americans, anApril
pollfrom Rasmussen Reports (of all places)
found. Those polls surveyed the entire US public, so I’m willing to bet
in both cases that support is much higher among Democratic voters for
the other two major universal program proposals.
likely benefitted from being a young woman of color running against a
56-year-old white man in a diverse district (40 percent Latino, 32
percent white, 15 percent Asian, and 14 percent black.) But there is
progressivism there too: Young people, untainted by years working in
politics and the unsavory relationships that develop as a result, may be
the best hope of removing undue influence from our politics.
plain fact is that a Latino woman can be a forceful advocate for people
of color in a way that a white man never can — and, given the changing
demographics of the party and our country, that’s exactly what Democrats
need. Ocasio-Cortez supportsa
Marshall Plan for Puerto Rico. Representation matters.
the Ocasio-Cortez agenda didn’t just win in the Bronx and Queens, with
their favorable demographics. Dana Balter, running on Medicare-for-all
and universal pre-K, prevailed in the New York 24th District — 87
percent white, central New York — over Juanita Perez Williams, the
choicein the Democratic primary.
could also look to the Nebraska 2nd, where single-payer-endorsingKara
Eastmanstunned centrist and establishment-backed ex-Rep. Brad
Ashford, or the California 45th, where theDemocrats
in Orange County chose Katie Porter, yet another Medicare-for-all
supporter who is endorsed by Elizabeth Warren and beat the California
Democratic Party’s preferred candidate.
need to decide whether to fight or embrace this lefty energy
even with this enthusiasm and encouraging polling, you can still sense
hesitation among national Democrats about this progressive wave. They
aren’t sure if they’re going to go all-in for Balter in the New York
24th, for example, especially after actively recruiting Perez Williams
to beat her — which seems categorically ridiculous, given the district’s
D+3 lean. These more progressive candidates do still have to prove they
can win in November in competitive elections. Otherwise, Democrats might
fall short of taking back the House.
is also a quiet campaign underway to redefineMedicare-for-all—
the left’s signature issue in America — as something other than single
payer. The worry from more moderate-minded Democrats is, of course, that
single-payer health care is simply too divisive and too easily
as one progressive activist remarked to me recently: “Why get into the
weeds?” People don’t vote on policy minutiae, for better or for worse.
They want something to believe in.
Blendon, a Harvard University pollster,told
melast year that support for something like
Medicare-for-all isn’t just about supporting a national health program.
It’s about support for the idea of universal programs, an inherently
progressive ideal. Free college and a jobs guarantee meet the same
you say, ‘I’m for that,’ it says that ‘I’m for equity.’ It says, ‘I’m
gonna fight back against the corporate establishment,’” he said. “They
are not health care voters, but essentially it’s symbolic of these other
things that appeal to young liberal people.”
people and women are the vanguard for this new brand of progressivism,
Blendon and other pollsters told me back then. Which is why
Ocasio-Cortez’s win really shouldn’t be such a surprise. Joe Crowley is
the Democratic Party’s past. She is its future.