Outsize attention has been paid to outlier Democrats making outrageous remarks. They are a small handful of House Democrats, though you’d never know it, given all their headlines.
The dominant names — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota — are newly elected “women of color.” Fine, but they also ran in districts wildly favorable to Democrats, districts that in 2018 would have chosen whatever Democrat was on the ballot.
Today few would care much about what they think had other kinds of Democrats not delivered their party a House majority. These were the real Democratic heroes of the 2018 midterms.
In Georgia, Democrat Lucy McBath took the congressional seat once occupied by Newt Gingrich. This is where the great Democratic hope Jon Ossoff lost to Republican Karen Handel in a 2017 special election. It’s a district that leaned Republican by 8 points, according to The Cook Political Report.
Also a “woman of color,” McBath won running on gun control plus the economy and education. A former flight attendant for Delta, she lost a son to gun violence at the hands of a white man at a gas station. Her genius shone in presenting the concept of social justice to suburban voters. “This isn’t kids protesting in the street with signs,” one male supporter, an African- American lawyer, said. “This is a middle-aged black woman talking about her lived experience.”
Democrats gained 40 seats in the House, in part because Ben McAdams in Utah, Kendra Horn in Oklahoma and Joe Cunningham in South Carolina took districts that favored the Republican Party by double digits. In fact, 30 of their newly elected were in Republican leaning districts.
In routinely pushing highly controversial policies, Jayapal doesn’t seem to understand why more Democrats don’t heel to her commands. She was never too keen on immigration enforcement, but she jumped overboard with a call to pay reparations to families separated at the border. The separation policy is indeed brutish. Immigrants, including those without papers, deserve humane treatment. But sending checks to people who entered illegally? Her district may tilt plus-33 Democratic, but, you know, most Democrats want secure borders.
The lefties threatening incumbent Democrats not on their program should know this: They, too, can be primaried. They should also know that many Democrats, including very liberal ones, are growing tired of radical attacks on other Democrats. (Many remain bitter over Bernie Sanders’s savage trashing of Hillary Clinton long after she was the obvious Democratic presidential nominee.)
Ocasio-Cortez has far more charm than Jayapal and Omar, but her district, encompassing parts of Queens and the Bronx, is not so worshipful of her as many in the media think. Her posing happily with actress Susan Sarandon — who backed spoiler Jill Stein in 2016 and said she was glad Trump defeated Clinton — has turned a good number of stomachs.
When Omar apologized for using anti-Semitic tropes, Ocasio- Cortez defended her for saying she was sorry and for having other approved views. That might have passed had she not, shortly before, exchanged love tweets with British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, much criticized for tolerating — and perhaps sharing — anti-Semitic sentiments within his party.
But how powerful is AOC’s influence really? Do note that in the 2018 Democratic primary for New York governor, Ocasio-Cortez backed actress Cynthia Nixon over the incumbent, Andrew Cuomo. Nixon lost by 30 points in AOC’s own progressive district.
Radical Democrats have a right to believe as they do. But if they persist in threatening mainstream Democrats who thrive outside cozy left-wing bubbles, they will learn that patience within the party is finite. Never mind Fox News. The time for Democrats to do their own pushback has come.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at email@example.com.