Politico, February 4, 2019
Maybe you’ve heard the warning: The country is beset by a menace. A fringe conservative minority is holding Congress hostage, extracting radical policy concessions over the will of the majority. And it’s leading the nation to fiscal, environmental and moral ruin.
Maybe you haven’t heard this part: These dangerous conservatives are Democrats.
“I am talking about the radical conservatives in the Democratic Party,” said Saikat Chakrabarti. “That’s who we need to counter. It’s the same across any number of issues—pay-as-you-go, free college, “Medicare for all.” These are all enormously popular in the party, but they don’t pass because of the radical conservatives who are holding the party hostage.”
Not long ago, this would have been an outlier position even among American liberals. Today, it’s the organizing principle of a newly empowered segment of the Democratic Party, one with a foothold in the new Congress.
Chakrabarti is chief of staff to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the closest thing to a new celebrity Congress has had in years—a 29-year-old former activist and bartender who, on the most recent Martin Luther King Day, sat on the same New York stage as the rapper Common, Black Panther director Ryan Coogler and MacArthur “genius award” winner Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Although it’s Ocasio-Cortez who gets all the headlines, she arguably wouldn’t be in Congress in the first place without the group Chakrabarti founded: Justice Democrats, a new, central player in the ongoing war for the soul of the Democratic Party. It was the Justice Democrats who recruited her in a quixotic campaign early on, providing a neophyte candidate with enough infrastructure to take down a party leader. And it is the Justice Democrats who see Ocasio-Cortez as just the opening act in an astonishingly ambitious plan to do nothing less than re-imagine liberal politics in America—and do it by whatever means necessary.
If that requires knocking out well-known elected officials and replacing them with more radical newcomers, so be it. And if it ends up ripping apart the Democratic Party in the process—well, that might be the idea.
“There is going to be a war within the party. We are going to lean into it,” said Waleed Shahid, the group’s spokesman. ...
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