Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical left and Islamic terrorism.
After the ’10 census, New York lost two congressional seats. Overpriced, lacking any growth industries except tourism and community organizing, the state just couldn’t keep up with the rest of the country.
New York had been bleeding congressional seats since the rise of the suburbs. After the massacre of ’10, its congressional delegation was the smallest since 1823. And it’ll lose more seats after the next census.
But the ’10 massacre also forced Rep. Joe Crowley out of the 7th Congressional District and into the 14th. The 7th became a gerrymandered a district built like a Frankenstein’s monster out of parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens that had nothing geographically in common except Puerto Rican populations who will keep voting for Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a Democrat, until the city sinks beneath the waves.
Crowley, who is paler than birch trees, had no shot at the new 7th. But he settled down comfortably in the 14th, winning 70% of the vote by just showing up, without the fuss of a primary challenge. While representing a Hispanic district in Queens, he was allegedly living comfortably in Arlington, Virginia.
That was never going to last.
New York City’s working class white population is an endangered species. If you’re not on welfare or earning well in the six figures, you can’t afford to live there. Crowley’s district was 46% Hispanic. It had the second highest share of Latino voters in New York. The machine pol was living on borrowed time.
It’s hard to imagine a more vulnerable politician than doughy Joe, the echo of a 19th century political establishment of barstools and crony government jobs, used to winning ¾ of the vote in safe districts and who had forgotten how to compete in an election (if he ever knew how) facing a Hispanic district.
Of course that’s not the story you see in the media.
Instead the media thrills to its own fake news of how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the “girl from the Bronx”, a Socialist candidate and “giant-slayer”, impossibly defeated Rep. Crowley. And that’s accompanied by analysis of how her victory is proof of the inevitable triumph of Socialism. The media has even begun trying to ‘Obamaize’ her with stories about her brand of lipstick selling out.
The fake news narrative has nothing to do with the truth about Cortez and the reality of the 14th.
The simple truth is that the Democratic Socialists of America and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez put in time and money into a district that the Democrats hadn’t bothered to protect because Republicans couldn’t win it. The secret to Cortez’s victory wasn’t socialism. It was her last name.
Nor is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “girl from the Bronx”. She’s the daughter of an architect from a pricey suburb in Westchester County. Her father, a Pratt Institute grad, was a founder of KOR which stood for Kirschenbaum & Ocasio-Roman Architects. The Ocasio (rather than the Kirschenbaum) part of the name meant that it operated as a “certified minority business enterprise” which came with assorted privileges.
MBEs are able to cut in line and get all sorts of lucrative government contracts. All it takes is having a minority grandfather and your company is entitled to drink from a river of government cash flowing only to MBE companies. And if your ancestry is whiter than that of Senator Elizabeth Warren, you can always find a minority partner and then let the good times roll. At the expense of the working tax-paying stiffs.
After her father cashed in on affirmative action while living in Westchester County, his daughter cashed in her minority card in a New York City election even though she has far more in common with the white hipster Bernie Sanders supporters who provided the muscle for her campaign than any of the minorities living in a housing project in Queens or the Bronx. But that’s also why the media loves Cortez.
She’s one of them: a suburban leftist with a bio consisting of studying International Relations at Boston U, working on immigration issues for Ted Kennedy, serving as the National Hispanic Institute’s Social Entrepreneur in Residence, producing a web series, shuttling between trendy lefty protests and founding what appears to a defunct social justice publishing house.
This isn’t the biography of an urban minority politician, but an upscale lefty hipster drifting after college from one activist gig to another, developing the contacts that put her in the right place at the right time. These are the bios of ten thousand professional lefties who infest the non-profit sector. They’re all angry, self-righteous and interchangeable. The minorities among them hail from wealthy areas.
And like all upscale lefties, they love putting on as much working class cred as they can get away with.
The media is using Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to push the Democrats even further to the left. But her victory is no argument for socialism. It is evidence that the left can win an election if the turnout is really low and a Hispanic district is being represented by a boring white Democrat who lives in Virginia. Since the 14th is a minority district, Cortez will probably be able to hold on to it until she’s older than Maxine Waters. Or unless the coming redistricting after New York loses more seats changes its racial composition. And Cortez and her Socialism will go down hard in an Asian or African-American district.
The unspeakable truth is that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn’t win because of her views but because the Democrats have created a political racial tribalism that is as bad as that of any third world country.
It’s not Socialism that will send Cortez to Congress. It’s racism.
The 14th district has the second highest share of Latino voters in New York. The 13th has the highest. Before Crowley bit the dust, Rep. Rangel, an elder statesman of the Congressional Black Caucus, barely survived a 2012 challenge by Adriano Espaillat, a Dominican former illegal alien, when his Harlem district’s racial demographics shifted. Frantic efforts were made to dig up Rangel’s “Latino roots.” Rangel finally eked out a victory by a little over 1,000 votes. He didn’t show up in 2016. And Espaillat beat Rangel’s chosen African-American successor but not after some embarrassing race-baiting by both sides.
Nobody in the 13th or 14th needs Socialism. They’re already living it. Their phones, food, education, medical care, transportation and, their jobs (if they have them) all come from the government.
The 14th dumped the old white guy for the same reason that the 13th dumped the old black guy. They were the wrong color. And the 13th, 14th, and the other multicultural voting districts of Dem strongholds can’t be satisfied with getting their free phones from a political representative of another race.
The media has been marketing Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as the new Obama. And that’s what she is. Her lesson isn’t that socialism works. The details of her politics were as incidental to the voters of the 14th as Obama’s policies were to his most dedicated base. It’s that racism works. Just ask a Democrat.