Report: College students see Ocasio-Cortez, not Pelosi, as the face of today’s Democrat party

March 19, 2019

The Democrat party has a new face, and it isn’t Nancy Pelosi’s, according to a younger generation of liberals.

A reporter for Campus Reform asked students at Georgetown University whom they perceive to be the leader of the party, Pelosi (D-CA) or Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez (D-NY), and the answers did not stray far from common stereotypes about millennials and socialism, with most favoring the latter.

Young Dems flocking to AOC over Pelosi?

AOC’s shock primary victory over 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley brought expectations that a radical wave would soon wash over the party, and midterm elections indeed brought a freshman class of younger, radical Democrats. Despite her inexperience, AOC has attracted a massive social media following through which she wields outsized influence on the political dialogue. The ideas she champions, such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, have become fixtures of political debate.

Some say that Pelosi is losing control of her party to the likes of Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez as she struggles to unite her caucus amid divisions between moderates and radicals on socialism, impeachment, and an anti-Semitism controversy that embroiled the party for several weeks. Following in the tradition of conservative reporters asking college students for their opinions on socialism, Campus Reform dispatched journalist Cabot Phillips to a college campus to hear from students about whom they think is really in control of the party.

Toting cut-outs of Pelosi and AOC’s faces on sticks, Phillips asked students which leader they see as the face of the party, and most opted for the latter, with some describing her as “fresh,” “new,” “stronger,” and “taking the party in a new direction.” Others noted that AOC’s rise reflects a new current in politics that is dominant on campuses.

One or two students said it was “unfortunate” that AOC is the new face of the party, while another said although not many people are receptive to AOC’s democratic socialism label, the party is nevertheless moving in that direction. However, a few students said that they still think Pelosi has things under control, with one saying AOC is “too extreme” to represent the party.

Watch below:

Socialism ascendant

A stereotype of millennials is that they’re sanguine about socialism, and polls have found this to be true. Socialism is more popular with the younger electorate than with voters possessing more direct memories of the Cold War. An Axios survey found that half of Millennials and Generation Z would “prefer to live in a socialist country.”

That embrace carries over into support of socialism-aligned candidates like Ocasio-Cortez. A recent Gallup poll found that the public has negative views of AOC, but she is popular with Democrats, and up five points with adults 18 to 34. Her favorability dips to -9 in the 35 to 54 age category and -22 among those 55 and older.

Exhaustion with the party’s old guard has led to occasional calls to replace Pelosi and veteran leaders with fresh faces, but an attempt by the radical left to deny Pelosi the speakership faltered. Pelosi sailed through to reclaim the speaker’s gavel in January, and initially her rule seemed unchallenged during a government shutdown battle with Trump.

However, cracks have begun to show as AOC’s celebrity has continued to rise, and just months into her first term in Congress she is setting the party’s national agenda. Pelosi has done what she can to distance herself from Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and impeachment, all ideas championed by the younger radicals in her party, but there is little doubt the fringe is leaving its mark. Pelosi also buckled to pressure from AOC and other radical Democrats in the controversy over anti-Semitic remarks by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN).

Pelosi and AOC represent sharply different ideologies and trajectories for the Democratic party: Pelosi is a nearly 80-year old Washington veteran, widely respected even by her enemies for her ability to game the system, whose brand of progressivism pales in comparison to the kind of college theory-driven radical leftism championed by the likes of the 29-year old former bartender from the Bronx. While Pelosi has long been a favorite enemy of the right, her brand of politics is moderate — and prudent — compared with the bare-knuckled, extreme politics of AOC, with its thinly sketched, extremely expensive proposals to address inequality and climate change.

So, is Pelosi old news? Perhaps not yet, but things certainly look like they’re moving in that direction.

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Matthew Boose

Matthew Boose is a staff writer for Conservative Institute. He has a Bachelor's degree from Stony Brook University and has contributed to The Daily Caller and The Stony Brook Press.