Petty AOC Primary Challenge Won’t Teach Progressives to Wait Their Turn

Members-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, left, and Deb Haaland, pose together at the Capitol on November 14, 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

While billionaires hyperventilate over Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s support for a 70 percent marginal tax rate, the freshman congresswoman still faces opposition from some members of her own party. the Hill reported on Tuesday that at least one member of her state delegation thinks she should face a primary challenge:

“What I have recommended to the New York delegation is that you find her a primary opponent and make her a one-term congressperson,” the Democratic lawmaker, who requested anonymity, told The Hill. “You’ve got numerous council people and state legislators who’ve been waiting 20 years for that seat. I’m sure they can find numerous people who want that seat in that district.”

Since the Hill decided to let this lawmaker remain anonymous, we know nothing about their own legislative record or biography. Those details are integral to understanding why a Democratic lawmaker would consider Ocasio-Cortez so damaging to the party that she merits a primary challenge. Perhaps they once waited 20 years for a chance at a seat. Maybe they object to the party shifting to the left. They could fear they’ll face a progressive primary challenger in the AOC mold. Without these details, we’re left to guess at the roots of their resentment. Their gripe may be utterly petty, but it’s also a useful tell. There was a process, in this lawmaker’s view, and Ocasio-Cortez disrespected it by jumping the queue. Rather than accepting her surprise victory as proof of her nascent political skill, her colleague has decided to dismiss her as an upstart.

This lawmaker isn’t the first Democrat to complain, either anonymously or on the record, about Ocasio-Cortez’s ideology and rhetoric. Lawmakers have repeatedly expressed worry that the democratic socialist who unseated ten-term incumbent Joe Crowley would support primary challenges against other long-serving Democrats. The Hill claims that members of the Congressional Black Caucus are “furious” with Ocasio-Cortez over a Politico report that suggested she would back a challenge to Hakeem Jeffries, who defeated progressive Democrat Barbara Lee in a bid to become the House Democratic Caucus chair. (The Intercept reported last November that Jeffries’s campaign for the role was supported by allies of Crowley, who had spread a rumor that Lee donated to Ocasio-Cortez’s primary campaign.) But Justice Democrats, the left-wing group associated with Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign, has only announced one primary campaign so far — against Henry Cuellar, a conservative Democrat in a safe seat who recently raised money for Republican representative John Carter.

Some senior Democrats appear more supportive of Ocasio-Cortez. She, along with several other left-wing Democrats, recently won appointments to prestigious committees, including Oversight and Financial Services. But it’s not so strange that the young Democrat continues to rub some of her new colleagues the wrong way. The party’s identity crisis isn’t a recent development. Nor is that crisis limited to internal differences of opinion on specific policies, like a Green New Deal or Medicare for All. It’s much broader than that. The threat of an insurgent isn’t just that they’ll take the party further left, it’s that they’ll change the way things are typically done.

Primarying AOC Won’t Teach Progressives to Wait Their Turn