Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made Democratic political history on Tuesday when she defeated incumbent Representative Joe Crowley (D-NY) in New York’s 14th Congressional District primaries. What does this mean? In short, she whooped establishment’s rear-end. Ocasio-Cortez is not a career politician. A 28-year old Latina and self-identified Socialist, the party nominee ran a grassroots campaign against a 10-term Democratic boss…and won. Born and raised in the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez grew up in a working class family and followed political aspirations. Having worked in the office of Senator Ted Kennedy and as an organizer for Bernie Sanders’ Presidential bid, Ocasio-Cortez has a strong record of left-wing advocacy.
Like many millenials pushing for positive change, she supplemented her activism and community organizing with a service job: bartending. Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign emphasized her roots in her community. Her grassroots campaign took her door-to-door, rain, shine, or snow. She told CNN she sought voters that she felt her opponent had become disconnected from: “young people… communities of color, people who speak English as a second language, working class people, people with two jobs that are usually too ‘busy’ to vote.” Despite running with 1/10th of the campaign funds her candidate had, these votes won her a historical nomination. “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office”, she says in her campaign ad. “It’s time to fight for a New York that working families can afford… It’s time we acknowledge that not all Democrats are the same. That a Democrat who takes corporate money, profits off foreclosure, doesn’t live here, doesn’t send his kids to our schools, doesn’t drink our water or breathe our air cannot possibly represent us…It’s time for one of us”.
Ocasio-Cortez is amongst a slew of Democratic progressive women, many of color, championing their way to political office. In Connecticut, Eva Bermudez-Zimmerman is running a valiant campaign against party favorite Susan Bysiewicz for Lieutenant Governor. The 40% of delegate votes she earned at the Democratic State Convention landed her on the primary ballot in August; she had announced her bid only two days prior. An activist, organizer, and millenial Latina, Eva Bermudez-Zimmerman runs on a progressive platform prioritizing healthcare reform, incentivizing youth to stay in Connecticut, and advocating for small business owners and working-class families. The dividing trend in the Democratic party of Hillary vs. Bernie, establishment vs. reform, is made more stark by many of these “New Blue” female candidates.
“The deficit is looming, but it shouldn’t be on the backs of working class people”, Bermudez-Zimmerman assured voters in Danbury, CT in June. She encouraged attendees of the Danbury event to speak to unaffiliated voters and motivate their turnout at the August 14th primaries. Our Revolution, a Bernie-affiliated political organization committed to meeting the needs of working class families, endorsed both Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Eva Bermudez-Zimmerman. Eva’s endorsement was the first the organization has issued in a state-wide Connecticut race. While her opponent may have more traditional political experience, Bysiewicz faces much of the same criticism that Hillary Clinton did in her 2016 Presidential campaign. Despite sharing a stance in favor of a 15-dollar minimum wage and paid family leave, Bysiewicz doesn’t have Bermudez-Zimmerman fresh face, passion, and relatability: “We have representation, but what is that representation if they don’t have someone in their corner? In November, when I win, you’re going to have someone going to bat for you”.
In Massachusetts’s 7th Congressional District, Boston Councilwoman Ayanna Pressley wages a similar campaign against incumbent Democrat Mike Capuano. She told NPR she is running for Congress because “Growing income inequality, systemic racism, gentrification, displacement, civil rights, democracy, planet are being eroded and threatened every day…I have a resolve about at a time in our country when democracy is being dismantled, that we should be preserving and affirming democracy, and that is about choice. And I think I’ve earned the right to run.”
Following Ocasio-Cortez’s success, Pressley’s bid has been invigorated. Her campaign site has had a 56% increase in viewers and Ocasio-Cortez has publicly encouraged Massachusetts to “vote her in next”. The pair share similar platforms. Both are proponents of a 15-dollar minimum wage, paid family leave, and a new progressive tagline: abolish ICE. Pressley released a statement on Twitter elaborating on her position to defund ICE. “Our immigration system is fundamentally broken and ICE’s role in supporting the existing system – including separating families seeking refuge in the United States and conducting indiscriminate deportation raids in our communities – is creating an atmosphere of toxic fear and mistrust in immigrant communities,” she declared. A growing number of progressive Democrats assert that the agency is fundamentally flawed, corrupt, and subject to inefficient Federal oversight. Candidates like Pressley are actively seeking the abolishment of Enforcement and Removal functions. Other ICE functions, such as investigations into human trafficking, would be taken up by the DOJ or other institutional bodies.
Three progressive candidates, three historical races, three opportunities to elect the women leading the “new blue”. Will Midterms yield the House to Democrats? The Economist currently estimates that they have a 70% chance, expecting Dems to claim a 13-seat majority. Ocasio-Cortez, Bermudez-Zimmerman, and Pressley indicate the Blue Wave is Coming.