Last night a very bright political unknown named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez soundly defeated Joe Crowley, a 10-term member of Congress, in their New York primary elections and President Trump — who many have said would sail to re-election in 2020 thanks to rosy economic pictures and troubling social ones — may find himself detoured by it, even headed toward Waterloo.
Not a great deal is yet known about Ocasio-Cortez; last night on Twitter more than one member of the news media said they would need to make a quick study of her. Those obsessed with identity-politics will run ledes announcing her sex and heritage as a big part of her story. Perhaps they are, but I’m more interested in what I read in Wikipedia last night. Her entry has already doubled in size, this morning:
As a high school student, she won second prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, with a microbiology research project. As a result, MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory named a large asteroid after her, 23238 Ocasio-Cortez. […] After she graduated from Boston University in 2011, she moved back to the Bronx and supported her mother by bartending at Flats Fix taqueria in Union Square, Manhattan, and working as a waitress. She also got a job as an educator in the nonprofit National Hispanic Institute.
She worked as an organizer for Bernie Sanders in his 2016 presidential campaign.
So, she is a very smart young woman, and a Democratic Socialist, and — given the Democratic stronghold in the primary she just won — she willbe seated in the next Congress. If you have not seen her campaign video, take a look:
I have to admit, I rather like the shake up Ocasio-Cortez is bringing to our political theater, but I am not sure that the Democratic Party will love it, at least not at first. I’m also pretty sure that President Trump, who (as usual) found the biggest story of the evening and inserted himself into it, won’t be chortling about it as we head into 2020. I’ll explain why, but first a few observations:
1) Both the press and the Democrats must be grateful today for this victory by Ocasio-Cortez because it is subject-changer that helps get Maxine Waters’ call for confrontation — something that very likely will not poll well — out of the headlines, and will take eyes away from the first of what will surely be many tough GOP videos leading into November. It gives the press a breather from the wall-to-wall border stories, means they can continue to ignore this very bad story they don’t want to touch, and permits a break from the constant need to have to sigh, “Yes, yes, the Obama administration detained children and families too…” to the “whatabout” crowd.
2) Ocasio-Cortez’s victory signals and end, finally, to the Democratic Old Guard. Dianne Feinstein is 85 years old. Nancy Pelosi is 78. Steny Hoyer and Maxine Waters are both 79. Bernie Sanders is 76. Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren are relative youngsters among the Democrats, at 70 and 69 years old, respectively. Not to be “age-ist” but I have heard more than one Gen-Xer or Millennial say “when will they finally retire, stop clinging to power and give someone else a turn?” It’s a fair question, and the irony is not lost upon them that the very people who once chanted “Don’t trust anyone over 30” and wanted the world to step aside for their ascendance seem unwilling to do it, themselves. Power is addictive, after all, especially when — as with all of the people named above — you’ve got plenty of money, so power is the only thing that holds allure.
3) This is the end — for now — of the “professional politicians”. It’s the dismantling of the Democratic machine, too, which gave every politician his/her turn in due season. Because power is addictive, it is probably a a very good thing to see. I think we’re going to continue to see elections being won by fewer FDR’s and more Harry S Trumans — Business people, entertainers, community organizers and even sports figures — as we divest ourselves of people who have spent their entire lives in politics, growing comfortable, secure and yes, rich. Amazingly rich. Of course, once these newly elected mavericks seek reelection, they’ll become comfortable, entrenched, secure, etc. Unavoidable without term limits.
4) The media can finally pivot away from propping up the mediocre Kamala Harris as the next great Democratic hope as they turn toward Ocasio, fall in love with her, and — subsequently — with other new bright lights who will emerge and (unusually) force them to keep up, because the press is as comfortable and entrenched as the Democratic Old Guard, so this will shake them a bit, too. Hopefully in a good way.
5) Finally, for Trump, this is a game-changer. Up to now, he has been able to play “shiny silver object” to the more squirrely and obsessed members of the press who hate him so much that they can’t look away from him. Case in point: last night, the Ocasio-Cortez upset was barely absorbed before Vox was showing an article not on her win, but on Trump’s predictably trollish tweet about it.
Trump’s tweet was absurd. The need to instantly write about it was also absurd.
President Trump lives in the press’ heads, and they’ve unable to evict him; because that’s true, he owns them. Every single news cycle, no matter what the story, it all comes down to Trump, Trump, Trump. A press that falls in love with Ocasio-Cortez and her “movement” is a press that may finally stop rising to every cup of chum he throws into their waters — that may stop dialing every Trumpian burp and hiccup to not just 11, but 13. If that happens, Trump’s whole game will need to change, and I’m not sure he can quickly move away from a trolling technique that has been so successful, and has kept his name so visible, visible, visible at all times.
A press that is not constantly talking about him, that is rendering him less relevant, that is not identifying everything in the world as being centered around Trump and opposing every breath he takes? That may just be his Waterloo.