Ocasio-Cortez won’t be on 2020 ballot, but many of her radical ideas will

February 10, 2019

Democratic-socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY) will be too young to run in the next presidential race herself. But that isn’t holding up the freshman congresswoman’s extreme political agenda.

“[I]n a way, AOC will be on the ballot in 2020 — because her ideas are all over the place, including, ‘70 percent top income tax rate,’ ‘Green New Deal,’ and ‘Medicare for All,’ to name just three,” wrote Fox News contributor and former Reagan administration official James P. Pinkerton.

The new radical left

It isn’t the party leadership or election frontrunners who will be establishing the Democratic agenda moving forward. Instead, Pinkerton argues, “activists and ideologues will be shaping the issues ‘race track’ on which the Democrats will be running.”

Following the groundbreaking election of President Donald Trump, Democrats found themselves suffering from an acute identity crisis. However, they are emerging from this political doghouse by embracing the hard-left politics of the millennial voter, personified by none other than Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez, often referred to by her nickname, AOC, catapulted to the forefront of the Democratic Party in 2018 by upsetting incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley in a shocking primary. Emerging victorious from the general election, AOC has since worn the term “radical” like a badge of honor by promising to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, forgive student loan debt, provide free public housing and education, and institute a single-payer healthcare system.

Speaking with CNN’s Jake Tapper, AOC had no clue how she would pay for this $40 trillion claptrap proposal. Nonetheless, leading legislators from a Democratic Party obsessed with defeating President Trump in 2020 have embraced many of Ocasio-Cortez’s ill-conceived reforms.

A radical field of candidates

Nursing presidential ambitions, Sens. Cory Booker (NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Kamala Harris (Calif.), and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) recently endorsed AOC’s radical Green New Deal — an environmental resolution so fundamentally flawed that congressional staffers have already had to edit its contents multiple times in the face of withering criticism.

Pinkerton also points to the left’s recent marriage to universal healthcare reform as an example of Ocasio-Cortez’s hardline policies finding a place within the mainstream Democratic Party establishment. “The same Sens. Harris, Gillibrand, and Warren have endorsed [Medicare for All], as well as, needless to say, the granddaddy of democratic socialism, Sen. Bernie Sanders,” he wrote.

“The Democrats have moved from seeking to manage and champion the nation’s growing immigrant diversity to seeming to champion immigrant rights over American citizens,” wrote Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg in an analysis of the 2016 election.

Indeed, the 2018 midterms occasioned the rise of other radical Democrats, as well. Islamist Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan weren’t just the first Muslim women to occupy a congressional office, they were first lawmakers to openly champion the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.

The end result, according to Pinkerton, is that “Democrats are at risk of AOC-ization.” He predicts that the “giddy eagerness to embrace the latest lefty causes” among Democrats will “risk making their ’20 nominee unelectable.”  

Pinkerton may be on to something. An NBC/Wall Street Journal Poll asked a random selection of voters in both 2016 and 2018 whether Democratic and Republican candidates “are generally in the mainstream of most Americans’ thinking, or are generally out of step with most Americans’ thinking.”

Democratic candidates believed to be “in the mainstream” fell from 48 percent to 33 percent between 2016 and 2018. Meanwhile, Republicans considered mainstream remained roughly the same, dropping slightly from 59 percent to 56 percent two years later.

Ever leftward

To explain the left’s pendulous, post-2016 swing to the left, Pinkerton envisions a cyclical political process, wherein both Democrats and Republicans respond to electoral defeat by radicalizing. After Richard Nixon failed to take the White House in 1960, for instance, Republicans responded four years later by choosing a radical conservative visionary in Barry Goldwater.

Similarly, when Hubert Humphrey, the Democrat’s establishment candidate, lost in 1968, the left answered four years later by running the anti-establishment Sen. George McGovern. “If Hillary Clinton, the establishment favorite, lost in ’16, then, for the cyclical reasons we have seen, an anti-establishment Democrat is likely to win the nomination in ’20,” Pinkerton concluded.

However, according to this political calculus, the activist candidate is always a “general-election loser.” As Josh Kraushaar of the National Journal explains, the Democrat’s “top 2020 presidential hopefuls are embracing socialist-minded economic policy, from a Green New Deal to single-payer health insurance.  It’s playing right into the president’s hands.”

In fact, another liberal Democrat described the field of radical leftist candidates as “an out-of-control roller coaster going 100 miles-per-hour,” completely lacking a “functioning brake.” Surely, Republicans are enjoying the ride.


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Benjamin Baird

Benjamin Baird is a senior staff writer for the Conservative Institute. He is a veteran infantryman of Iraq and Afghanistan with over 1000 days in combat and holds a degree in Middle Eastern studies from the American Military University. Ben is Writing Fellow at the Middle East Forum and has written for dozens of conservative publications, including The Daily Caller, American Spectator, American Thinker, New English Review and Jewish News Syndicate.