Saturday, June 30, 2018

A Breath of Fresh Air

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.   Is she the face of America’s future? 

She is beautiful.  Well spoken.  Public-spirited.   Outspoken.   Authentic.   Resolute.  Self-assured.  Ambitious.  In touch with the underclass.   Reflective of an ethnically diverse America.  Reflective of an increasingly non-sexist America.   Willing to take on sacred cows (like the devotion to capitalism).   

Her face is now at the cutting edge of what appears to be an equal and opposite reaction to what happened several years ago with the rise of the Tea Party and its takeover of the Republican Party.  And why not?   Hers is a real Cinderella story.  Disney will probably not turn her story into a movie, but is there any doubt that such a movie will be made?  It will surely feature her precious reaction to learning of her victory in the Democratic Primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District over a member of party leadership – sheer shock, sheer jubilance.  It’s the same reaction Democrats had after the 2016 Presidential Election, except for the jubilance. 

Ocasio-Cortez (representing the future) had one reaction to the election -- “We beat a machine with a movement, and that is what we have done today,” “Working-class Americans want a clear champion and there is nothing radical about moral clarity in 2018.”

Nancy Pelosi (representing the past) had another reaction:  “The fact that in a very progressive district in New York, it went more progressive — and (incumbent Rep.) Joe Crowley is a progressive — but to the left of Joe Crowley is about that district.” “It is not to be viewed as something that stands for everything else.”

Let me translate:  There’s nothing to see here, the machine wants you to think.  The party is just fine.  The folks in their 70s have it in great shape.  With their help, the Dems control the White House, the State Houses, the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives....    What?  You mean they control none of the above?  Well then why the hell are Nancy and Company still in power? 

They and their fellow travelers show up on TV wearing suits and ties (or the female equivalent), take millions of dollars from Wall Street and their law firms, say very little about the poor, make tiny changes to the tax code ... yet they masquerade as “progressives.”  And why not?  If your main concern is getting elected, and you can gut welfare, support the War in Iraq, oppose gay marriage until the national majority approves of it, neglect poverty and still get the progressive seal of approval, why change?

When Bill Clinton came to the White House, he was riding the banner of the so-called “Democratic Leadership Council,” or DLC.  It was an apt name for a group of centrists who have led the Democratic Party into a ditch by acting like the Republicans of my youth.    Basically, they are a bunch of pre-Reagan Republicans who are fighting post-Reagan Republicans.  Is there any mystery why these centrists can’t generate much excitement among the Democratic base?

Just look at the election that was held in Washington DC on June 19th.  In Ward 8, the city’s poorest ward, voter turnout percentage didn’t reach the double digits. In Ward 7, which is also on the non-DLC side of the Anacostia River, voter turnout was a whopping 12%.  By contrast, in the 1994 primary, turnout was 45 percent in Ward 8.  During the ensuing 24 years, we’ve seen two leading national Democrats focus on poverty.  The first was former VP candidate John Edwards, but he turned out to be a flim-flam man. (If you don’t believe me, just visit his 26,500-square-foot home, the one with nine bedrooms, ten baths, a home theatre, a pool, a basketball court ... oh you get the idea, he belongs at the front table of a Democratic Party fundraiser.)  The second party leader who has given attention to poverty is Bernie Sanders.  You remember him – he’s the one the Democratic National Committee squashed like a bug when he dared to campaign hard against a Clinton, much like the Republican elites once treated McCain when he dared to campaign hard against a Bush. 

Yup.  The Democratic Party doesn’t need fresh blood like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.    It’s obviously doing just fine as it is. 

OK.  Sorry about the sarcasm.  I’m tired of it, too, and all the ridicule that’s spewed these days.  And I’m tired of voting for candidates whose main raison d’etre is to point out what’s wrong with their opponent.  Like the folks in Wards 7 and 8, I want to be enthusiastic about who I vote for.  Ennui and 
alienation might make for great French literature, but they destroy a democracy.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is going to make mistakes.  She has already said things that make me bristle, like her comments about Israel (e.g., referring to the fighting in Gaza as a “massacre”).  But I’m hoping she’s open-minded and humble enough to evolve. Besides, I support the idea of a Democratic politician who is willing to speak her mind.  I don’t need to agree 100% with anyone except myself, and I may not even agree with myself from one moment to the next.

Ocasio-Cortez calls for “moral courage.”  Can you imagine if politicians truly stood for that commodity?  If she can usher in an era of Democratic leaders who are committed to that one quality, the party would finally be worthy of its name, for it would inspire voters to show up at the polls for reasons other than to vote AGAINST someone.

In the recent Turkish elections, 87% of the electorate voted.  Imagine such a percentage in the US.  What do you say, Alexandria?  Can you and Bernie lead a movement that will inspire people to vote? Show compassion for the least privileged among us?  Shower us with moral courage?

Make it happen.  Please.  We need to know what progressivism really looks like.  That movement you’ve been talking about – it has to have a vision, and we have to want to see it and fill our lungs with it.  Otherwise, we’re just talking about replacing one vote-grabbing machine with another. 

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