Democratic Socialist heroine Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (previously) is heading to Congress this fall, and though she's promised not to blow up the Democratic party when she gets there, she's not going to let the pro-finance establishment roll over her.
She's floated the idea of creating a sub-caucus of bloc-voting progressive Democrats who'll discipline the party leadership and prevent them from selling us out. Though it has some parallels to the far-right Freedom Caucus, there's an important difference: the Freedom Caucus is committed to proving that governments don't work, so shutting down the government serves their agenda. That would not be true of a progressive Democratic caucus.
The problem — if it can be called one — is that progressives, even those at the edge of the party’s spectrum, are much less willing to shoot the hostage than ultra-conservatives, a point made by multiple members of the CPC who The Intercept spoke to about the Ocasio-Cortez idea. Ideologically, conservatives who broadly oppose government spending, or the government in general — it is, according to Ronald Reagan, “the problem” — have less of an issue with shutting down the government or rejecting legislation. Republicans tend to look to roll things back, while Democrats, in the ideal, are trying to build things up. And very few Democrats are willing to reject a small amount of progress because it isn’t enough.
In 2009, for example, several dozen Democrats signed a letter saying that they wouldn’t support any version of health care reform that didn’t include a “robust” public health insurance option. By drawing a line in the sand, they drew the attention of leadership and the White House and were able to extract concessions (such as the legal ability for a state to move forward with a single-payer system if it chose). But the final version of the Affordable Care Act did not include a public option, and every member who had signed the letter voted for it anyway. Given a binary choice between voting “no” and voting to expand Medicaid, expand coverage broadly, and implement the other reforms of the Affordable Care Act, it would have taken a rare progressive to vote “no.” Leadership knows that, which makes progressive threats fundamentally less credible than conservative ones.
Ocasio-Cortez Floats a “Sub-Caucus” of Progressives Willing to Vote Together as a Bloc [Ryan Grim/The Intercept]