The victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over long-time Democratic congressman Joe Crowley of New York inspired some hysterical punditry. We were told that the 28,000 people who voted in a district of more than 600,000 had decided the fate of the political universe. Ocasio-Cortez, in this telling, heralds the coming of Democratic-Socialist, multiracial, female-dominated America. The 28-year-old bartender and community activist is the Democrat of the future — according to no less an authority than the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. And in a polarized media climate, with hyperbolic insinuations of “civil war” and calls for the harassment of political opponents, one is tempted to believe that romanticism and extremism grow ever stronger.
I remain skeptical. For one thing, New York politics is sort of the equivalent of the Las Vegas party scene — what happens there tends to stay there. Crowley was boring and out-of-touch; Ocasio-Cortez is appealing and a tireless campaigner. Her picture of democratic socialism is all rainbows and unicorns, platitudes and aspirations. And the numbers involved in the primary were so small that randomness has to have played some part in her 4,000-vote win. Ocasio-Cortez is neither a threat to America nor to the American right. But she is representative of the transformation of the American left.