Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and America’s Most Liberal Generation

Fortunately, Freedlander looks away long enough to offer a vivid report on the growing leftist infrastructure for which A.O.C.’s election...


Fortunately, Freedlander looks away long enough to offer a vivid report on the growing leftist infrastructure for which A.O.C.’s election in 2018 was merely one step on the anticipated road to a party and, perhaps, a nation transformed. He moves briskly from describing the people who initiated such electoral vehicles as Brand New Congress, Indivisible and Justice Democrats in the wake of Trump’s victory to upstart media outlets like The Intercept and Jacobin and the Young Turks podcast and on to the think tank Data for Progress. He explains how Sanders’s two presidential campaigns turned Democratic Socialists of America from a remnant of aging veterans of the 1960s New Left into a dynamo of close to 100,000 members. Inevitably, growth so rapid has also generated ideological skirmishes between more practical and more utopian comrades.

What binds together most activist members of this generation is a mixture of populist anger and political savoir-faire. On the one hand, they rage at the “big-money donors” and “establishment players” in the Democratic Party, who allegedly have stood in the way of measures to decrease economic inequality and reverse climate change. Yet they also reject the dogmatic, sectarian thinking that often plagued past leftists who, in Daniel Bell’s words, “could only act, and then inadequately, as the moral, but not political” force “in immoral society.”

In working to embed a growing social-democratic faction within one of America’s major parties, these activists have demonstrated a strategic realism that their progenitors in the old Socialist Party of Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas never possessed. After Sanders came close to winning the 2016 Democratic nomination, Freedlander writes, “leftists realized that if they wanted power, and if they wanted to enact the policies they purported to believe, they would need to engage in political fights, and more importantly, they would need to start winning them.”

Freedlander’s book is informative as an in-house account, yet it fails to take on the difficult but inescapable question of how the “A.O.C. generation” might actually “seize” power and “rewrite the rules.” Left-wing Democrats have built a solid constituency in deep blue districts and cosmopolitan cities. Most of their prominent figures are college-educated and take the virtues of cultural tolerance and racial justice for granted. Although Ocasio-Cortez was serving up drinks in a Manhattan bar when she decided to run for Congress, she grew up in a prosperous suburb, attended a good private university, writes poetry and spent her junior year in Niger, where she counseled expectant mothers and also learned how to sand surf. How will she and her allies persuade Americans who are wary of their background, their image or their ideas to warm up to their programs?

Michael Harrington, the influential socialist thinker and organizer who died in 1989, famously worked to create “the left wing of the possible.” Under President Biden, insurgent Democrats will have to decide what is and is not possible in a party they have nudged left on issues like union rights and climate change but that still must rise or fall with a coalition that includes both voters who admire Ocasio-Cortez and those who are willing to keep a coal-state centrist like Joe Manchin in the Senate.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and America’s Most Liberal Generation
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and America’s Most Liberal Generation
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