The victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over House Speaker-in-Waiting Joe Crowley in Tuesday’s Democratic primary in New York’s 14th Congressional District, located in Queens, with a small portion in the Bronx, was nothing less than a political earthquake. It was totally unforeseen by the New York City political pundit class. Yet perhaps it should not have been.
In one sense, the outcome was the quintessential example of the American political tradition of change in the ethnicity of the elected Congressional representative resulting from changing ethnic demographics of the district. The Fourteenth District had for decades been a majority Irish-American district. Joe Crowley, an Irish-American, reflected this ethnicity of his district.
Today, the New York 14th Congressional District is an overwhelmingly Hispanic District. The Archie Bunker district is now the Jennifer Lopez district. Crowley’s refusal to appear at a debate with Ocasio-Cortez was viewed as a slap in the face to his constituents. The election of a Hispanic Congressional representative from that district is a healthy and salutary development.
Yet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez personally is a Democratic Party disaster, both nationally and in New Jersey.
She represents two growing trends among Progressive Democrats: 1) An outspoken anti-Israel advocacy; and 2) Support for abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). At a time of escalating unpopularity of Donald Trump as a result of his cruel and inhumane immigration policies and his disastrous trade wars, identification of the Democratic Party with these two trends threaten the party’s growing favorable prospects in the 2018 Congressional elections.
And in New Jersey, the question must be asked: Will incumbent US Senator Bob Menendez, who has been a pro-Israel stalwart and Democratic House challengers Mikie Sherrill, Tom Malinowski, and Andy Kim repudiate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Otherwise, they put at substantial risk financial and voting support from the New Jersey Jewish community.
Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez is a proud member of a virulently anti-Israel organization, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). This is an organization that strongly advocates doing economic damage to Israel by supporting the infamous Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
The irony is that the founders of DSA, while not uncritical of certain Israeli policies, were for the most part strong supporters of Israel. Two examples of such pro-Israel DSA founders stand out: Michael Harrington, author of The Other America, and Irving Howe, author of World of Our Fathers. Today’s Democratic Socialists are not your grandfather’s Democratic Socialists. Hateful anti-Israel Linda Sarsour is a more venerated figure among today’s DSA members than the late Golda Meir.
As for Ocasio-Cortez’s advocacy of the abolition of ICE, nothing could be more counterproductive from the standpoint of those of us in both political parties who favor a liberalized immigration policy for refugees seeking asylum from violence and political oppression.
I lost a quarter of my extended family in Poland during the Holocaust. Relatives of mine were barred from America due to the anti-Semitism of FDR’s Assistant Secretary of State Breckinridge Long. Accordingly, I have favored open borders for refugees from violence and political oppression, although not for immigrants not endangered in their countries of origin and simply seeking enhanced economic opportunity in America.
Yet such a limited open borders policy must be accompanied by careful vetting in order to ensure that security risks and criminals not be admitted to America. The abolition of ICE would make such vetting impossible.
The advocacy of the abolition of ICE by a growing number of Progressive Democratic Congressional members and candidates like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a most welcome development in Donald Trump’s White House. It gives plausible false legitimacy to Trump’s bigoted and xenophobic message that the Democrats favor open borders but are weak on crime. This demagogic message may enable the Republicans to retain Congressional control.
Today, both mainstream and Progressive Democrats are literally falling over themselves in order to laud the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. They fail to realize that she is a symbol of far leftist trends in the Progressive Democrat movement that may reduce the Democratic Party to long-term minority party status.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission under former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman.