Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Latina socialist, defeated top Democratic Congressman and notorious neoliberal Joe Crowley in the New York primary election. Activist Anoa Changa says this is a sign of the growing grassroots left-wing movement against corporate Dems and the DNC and DCCC
BEN NORTON: It’s The Real News. I’m Ben Norton.
On June 26 there were important midterm primaries in numerous states, including New York, Maryland, Colorado, Oklahoma, and Utah. And specifically in some of these states, like New York and Maryland, there was a massive upset that will actually change Democratic Party politics in this country, and could challenge some of the neoliberal corporate Wall Street-backed Democrats who have dominated the party.
Joining us to discuss this today is Anoa Changa. Anoa is an attorney and activist, and she’s the director of political advocacy for Progressive Army. She’s also the host of the podcast The Way with Anoa. Thanks for joining us.
ANOA CHANGA: Thanks for having me.
BEN NORTON: So one of the most shocking and amazing upsets we’ve seen is that in New York a 28-year-old Latina socialist named Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez actually defeated a very powerful Democrat, Joe Crowley, who is the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives. Joe Crowley, this is a corrupt neoliberal who has ties to Wall Street, and he also raised ten times more money than Ocasio-Cortez, but he still lost after she ran a grassroots campaign. Also, Ocasio-Cortez is a member of Democratic Socialists of America. So Anoa, I’m wondering if we could just start by talking about this amazing victory in New York.
ANOA CHANGA: Amazing is an understatement. I mean, I think people really vastly have undercounted the value of knocking on all the doors, right, and talking to voters about issues that matter, about issues that are affecting families, working folks, students. I mean, Alexandria took it to a different level, right. I mean, I heard reports of canvassers going up into buildings. Like, people usually avoid apartment buildings, but her staff was actually climbing stairs to knock on multiple doors instead of waiting for the elevator.
And this is the dedication and the importance and value of making sure people had a representative that was coming from [inaudible], that was representing issues that most resonate with them. You know, you hope that the support or that you like will win. But I was in awe last night watching the spread. You know, and it remained pretty constant, you know, till it was finally called that she won by double digits, that she won because she did what her opponents had never done. She actually talked to people directly about the issues that matter.
BEN NORTON: Yeah. And Joe Crowley, whom she was running against. This is the head of the Queens Democrats. Her district is in part of the Bronx and part of Queens. Ocasio-Cortez is, herself, from the Bronx. She’s Puerto Rican American. And what’s amazing about this is that Joe Crowley had run, sorry, had been in office for nearly 20 years and had not been contested. And he was actually disrespectful during the campaign. He organized a debate with Ocasio-Cortez, and he didn’t even show up to the debate. So I’m wondering if you could talk more about who Joe Crowley is, and why this is incredibly important, not just because Ocasio-Cortez ran an important grassroots campaign, but also because she’s unseating one of the most powerful Democrats.
ANOA CHANGA: Well, and he also had the backing of several of his colleagues. And we saw Congressman Ro Khanna kind of have to kind of walk back his endorsement, in a way, and do a dual endorsement.
But when you’re thinking about what took place in her district, and the extreme marginalization of her voice and a presence as a candidate in that race, right, he would say things like he knew what his district needed. This is someone who not only was one of the most powerful Democrats in the House, he does not listen or represent that actual district. It’s a district that’s 70 percent person of color, and it has never been represented by a person of color. I mean, he’s an out of touch Democrat that permanently resides in Virginia.
And this is a wake up call, because Crowley’s [inaudible] towards Alex’s challenge was, really embodies the Democrat’s hubris that we saw fail so miserably in 2016. You know, Pelosi’s statement about the race today is very disappointing, and just shows the really problematic nature of the Democratic Party as an entity. Sure there are bright spots here and there, and Alex is definitely one of them. But the established party itself has a huge problem accepting that change is coming. And change is the only way that we’re going to reclaim ground that was lost when Trump took office in 2016.
BEN NORTON: Yeah. Let’s talk more about the Democratic Party establishment. The DNC and the DCCC. These are institutions that during the 2016 presidential campaign intentionally sabotaged Bernie Sanders’ attempt to run for president. And we’ve also seen that in the midterm primaries in 2018, the DNC and DCCC have refused to endorse multiple progressive candidates. They’ve also refused to endorse many women who are running, and a record number of women are trying to run, although unfortunately many have not actually won these primaries. I’m wondering if you could talk about how the Democratic Party insitutions, these establishment, Wall Street-backed institutions, are preventing change in the party.
ANOA CHANGA: Well, to talk about another race in New York, we just saw Dana Balter up in, I think it’s New York’s 24th Congressional District, had an amazing win last night as well against an anti-choice DCCC-backed candidate. We’ve been seeing that type of ignorance for the issues that are actually supposed to be issues that the Democratic party cares about. [inaudible] DCCC decides to anoint as their candidate. They have backed candidate, like I said, in Dana Balter’s race, all across the country. But they were ignoring folks like [inaudible] Adams down in North Carolina. You have other folks like Lucy McBath, who’s running down here in Georgia. I mean, you even have, even though Stacey Abrams won her campaign last year resoundingly, I mean last month resoundingly, there was still a battle and a fight to get support from outside of establishment DNC groups to support her.
So we’re seeing this trend. It even goes back to when Kim Ellis ran for head of the California Democratic Party, even though black women particularly, but women of color as a whole and women in general are a backbone and mainstay [inaudible] politics and policy, they’re not getting [inaudible] and support when it comes to actually standing for the [inaudible] either in terms of running for office, or even as we’ve seen now, effectively [inaudible] that she needs to take a different tone in this conversation [inaudible].
There is a real [inaudible] with the DCCC and the DNC as well, in terms of the way they’re willing to rely on our labor and our voice and our work to get ahead, but when it comes to actually investing, but not just investing because we’re women or we’re black women, or [inaudible], but investing in the better candidate. Because many of these [inaudible] are not supporting the better candidate. They’re supporting the candidate they think can win, [inaudible] and donor values, which aren’t our values.
BEN NORTON: Well, unfortunately we’ll have to end our conversation early here. We Were joined by a Anoa Changa. Anoa is an attorney and activist, and the director of political advocacy for Progressive Army. Thanks for joining us, Anoa.
ANOA CHANGA: Thanks for having me.
BEN NORTON: For The Real News, I’m Ben Norton.