Last night’s victory by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in which she ousted Representative Joseph Crowley, a longstanding figure of the Democratic Party, has sparked a renewed discussion about the new Democratic platform. Perhaps more importantly, it’s shifted the discussion from “how can we beat Republicans?” to “how can we improve our own Party?”
The daily fights against Trump’s bigoted presidential agenda have understandably left Democratic strongholds weary. We expend so much energy refuting Trump’s lies and advocating for his victims that our own platform gets washed away in the process. The pressure to win, to take back the House and protect the pillars of American democracy, can eclipse our own hopes for the party as a whole. What Ms. Ocasio-Cortez managed to do was to remind us that, no matter how dark our climate may seem, there is hope for a better future. In a recent interview, she said, “What I see is that the Democratic Party takes working class communities for granted, they take people of color for granted and they just assume that we’re going to turn out no matter how bland or half-stepping these proposals are.” With honesty and pluck, Ocasio-Cortez reminded us that, not only does our country have to do better, but our party does as well.
This victory shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s the age old story that is the basis for countless Democratic victories: a young face springs forth from the diversity our Party fails to represent, scrapping their way to the top because they have a message that rings pure and true. It worked for a first term Senator named Barack Obama and it has worked here. So does it matter that this victory was over the number 4 House Democrat, not some crusty relic of the Republican Party?
In fact, it matters a tremendous amount. A race between two Democrats allows for some desperately needed introspection. Because we’re on the same side in the grand scheme of our agenda, we therefore can allow ourselves to pause and examine our Party’s shortcomings. It’s like an exercise in emotional growth, a competition against ourselves in which we cannot lose. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez represents not only a rising blue tide to combat the Trump administration but a rising tide within the Democratic Party itself. Her victory signals that our Party is continuing to evolve, even during this time of greatest uncertainty. She gives me hope for the Party, as much hope as if she had won over a Republican, because her victory shows that our capacity for growth may well be limitless. We are working towards a Democratic Party for all, one that truly represents every race, religion, identity, and creed our country has to offer. If we have to fight members of our own party to reach that goal, then we should do so with grace and understanding, as she did. There was no loss for Democrats last night, only a move towards a more inclusive, representative Party for all.