Searching for the Next AOC
The 'Justice Democrats' announce their latest endorsements for Congress.
Justice Democrats (JD), the leftist organization that helped elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Congress last year, has announced its three latest endorsements for the 2020 elections to the House of Representatives: Alex Morse and Morgan Harper as primary challengers to Democratic incumbents Richard Neal (Massachusetts) and Joyce Beatty (Ohio), and Kara Eastman as a primary challenger to Republican incumbent Don Bacon (Nebraska). All three of JD's candidates – including Eastman, the nominal Republican – are leftists/socialists, as evidenced by JD's assertion that “we are honored to endorse these three candidates as part of a new generation of Democrats who will fight for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, free college, and ending mass incarceration and deportation.”
Launched in Los Angeles on January 23, 2017, Justice Democrats is a federal political action committee aligned with the Democratic Party. The group was co-founded by several individuals who had been either supporters or staffers of Senator Bernie Sanders’ failed presidential campaign of 2016. These included: Cenk Uygur of the online news program The Young Turks; longtime Democrat operative Zack Exley; Saikat Chakrabarti, who would go on to become a key advisor and aide to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez; Alexandra Rojas (national digital field director of Sanders’ campaign); Corbin Trent (founder of “Tennessee for Bernie Sanders”); and Kyle Kulinski, the host and producer of the YouTube show Secular Talk. All except Kulinski had also been co-founders (in 2016) of the pro-Democrat organization Brand New Congress (BNC).
In contrast to BNC’s unusually ambitious goal of replacing all 435 U.S. House Members with political novices, JD deemed it wiser to support some incumbent Democrats and to direct its efforts chiefly toward unseating: (a) only those Democrats whose politics were unacceptably centrist, and (b) as many Republicans as possible. Over time, JD reasoned, this approach would help “change the Democratic Party from the inside out” by moving it ever farther to the political left.
JD believes that: (a) “racism and xenophobia have always been part of our country’s history”; (b) “African Americans and Latinos in particular, and people of color generally, have been targets in our nation’s continued assault against their rights, liberties, and humanity”; and (c) “a truth and reconciliation commission [should be empaneled] to investigate the generational harms caused by slavery and Jim Crow and [to] propose remedies.”
In 2017, JD launched a recruiting campaign whereby it held auditions for potential candidates who could run for various U.S. Congressional seats on its leftist political platform in the 2018 midterm elections. All told, more than 10,000 names were submitted to JD for consideration. One of those names was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Bronx bartender who was recommended to JD by her brother Gabriel. Upon meeting the young woman, JD perceived her to be someone whose charisma and persona could be harnessed very effectively for political purposes. Thus the organization made Ocasio-Cortez its top priority for the 2018 midterms. Toward that end, JD scripted and produced her campaign videos, while also coordinating all of her fundraising, social media, and voter mobilization activities.
In December 2017, both Cenk Uygur and JD’s treasurer, David Koller, resigned from the organization after it was learned that they each had authored blogposts in the early 2000s containing language that was degrading to women.
By February 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had joined Saikat Chakrabarti as a member of of JD’s board of directors.
All told, JD in 2018 endorsed 78 Democratic congressional candidates and recruited 12 to run for office, serving as a political consulting firm for those dozen. Ocasio-Cortez was the only one of the 12 recruits who went on to win her general election, though six additional JD-endorsed candidates — three incumbents and three freshmen — were also elected to the U.S House. Those six were: Ro Khanna, Raul Grijalva, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and Pramila Jayapal. Among the more noteworthy candidates who received JD’s support but failed to win their respective elections were Ben Jealous and Abdul El-Sayed.
To secure JD’s endorsement and support, candidates are required to openly embrace the organization’s political platform. Key planks of that platform include the following:
- Enact a Green New Deal, environmental legislation whose mission is to rapidly eliminate all fossil-fuel use from the U.S. economy; create a basic income program and a federal jobs guarantee that would provide a “living wage” to every person who wants one; implement a government-run, single-payer health care system called “Medicare For All”; and replace free-market capitalism with a socialist framework.
- Invest “trillions” of dollars in “rebuilding our crumbling roads, bridges, schools, levees, airports, etc.”
- “Mak[e] the top 1% [of earners] and multinational corporations pay their fair share” of taxes.
- Provide free education for everyone attending public colleges and trade schools.
- Increase expenditures for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, which already consume, in aggregate, 62% of the federal budget.
- Ensure paid vacation time, sick time, family leave, and childcare services for all American workers.
- “Protect women’s rights” by supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act, repealing the Hyde Amendment (which bars the use of public money to fund abortions), and “oppos[ing] Republican cuts to Planned Parenthood.”
- Enact “sweeping and comprehensive policy changes” to a criminal-justice system that “currently targets Black and Brown people” with “inappropriate policing practices” and “unjust mass incarceration.”
- “Invest more in jobs and education, less in jails and incarceration.”
- End “the racist War on Drugs” that “has torn families apart all across our country” and disproportionately harms the black community.
- Abolish capital punishment, an “indefensible” practice that too often “puts innocent people to death.
- Place “a ban on assault weapons” (semi-automatic weapons) and “high-capacity magazines.”
- Secure the “voting rights” of “every American citizen” by eliminating Voter ID laws allegedly designed “to disenfranchise [poor and nonwhite] voting blocks who have traditionally supported Democrats.”
- Abolish the federal Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, which “has turned into a state-funded terror group that regularly violates basic human rights.”
- Implement “comprehensive immigration reform” that ensures a “path to citizenship” for millions of illegal aliens.
- “Support the movement to provide statehood for Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico” – places whose residents overwhelmingly support Democrats over Republicans – “in order to bring balance to the increasingly skewed Senate.”
In summation, JD's objective is to make the Democratic Party ever-more radical in its positions and agendas, while simultaneously infiltrating the Republican Party with candidates who will help to push it leftward as well.