The sudden and growing prominence of self-described Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has put New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic Minority Leader, in a real pickle.
Since Ocasio-Cortez’ stunning victory in last month’s Democratic Primary election for Congress in the 14th Congressional District over veteran Democratic powerhouse Congressman Joe Crowley, she has been increasingly touted as the new face of the Democratic Party, lending momentum to its hard leftward tilt most recently personified by Sen. Bernie Sanders.
As the highest-ranking elected Democrat in the nation, Schumer has a special responsibility to go along with the choice of Democratic voters in the 14th CD. Yet Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has made some extremely troubling comments about Israel. In a series of interviews following her victory, Ocasio-Cortez, drawing on her roots as a progressive community activist, embraced the Palestinian spin of its conflict with Israel hook, line, and sinker.
She viscerally portrayed all Palestinian actions in opposition to Israel as legitimate protest – even those that are part of a terrorist master plan. And correlatively, she reflexively described Israeli defensive measures resulting in loss of Palestinian lives as “massacres.”
As a rising star on the left, she can be counted on to heighten the party’s alienation from Israel. So Sen. Schumer, long considered a strong supporter of Israel, surely cannot unthinkingly support her. As a leading Democrat, he also has to be wary of the emergence of a radical Ocasio-Cortez as his party struggles for its identity in the midst of a full-court press for dominance by extremist elements.
Significantly, the Ocasio-Cortez victory was not the electoral blowout it appeared to be. True, she drew 57 per cent of the vote to Joe Crowley’s 42 percent. But it is also true that only 13 per cent of registered voters turned out to vote, which means that Ocasio-Cortez got 57 percent of 13 percent of the votes.
Thus, in actual numbers, only 27,744 out of a possible 214,750 votes were cast, with Ocasio-Cortez receiving 15,897 to Crowley’s 11,761. The bottom line, of course, is that almost 80 percent of the voters of the 14th CD were not heard from.
In other words, the election result does not necessarily reflect a huge shift to the left amongst Democrats, even if it is increasingly being portrayed as such. In our view, Sen. Schumer needs to try to see to it that his party’s leftward lurch is checked and not be allowed to assume a life of its own. A tall order, perhaps. But that’s why people stand up when he enters a room.