By Alistair Farrow
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Democratic socialist unseats political establishment in New York in stunning victory

This article is over 5 years, 8 months old
Issue 2611
The Democratic Socialists of America are enjoying some electoral successes
The Democratic Socialists of America are enjoying some electoral successes (Pic: ufcw770/Flickr)

A major upset has rocked the US Democratic Party. Democratic Socialists of America-backed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a primary—an internal party election—against all the odds.

Her opponent, Joe Crowley, was one of the faces of party’s establishment.

That’s an understatement. Crowley spent almost £3 million on his campaign, Ocasio-Cortez spent just over £200,000.

Crowley’s sponsors included Google, Facebook, JP Morgan and Lockheed Martin. Ocasio-Cortez had no corporate donors—the average donation to her campaign was under £14.

The scale of the victory was stunning—57 percent to 42 percent—and shows the thirst for a change from business as usual.

The contest was for the Democratic nomination for contesting the 14th district of New York, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens, at the upcoming midterm elections in November. The district traditionally votes Democrat by around 85 percent so the rest of the process is largely formality.

“The message that we sent the world tonight is that it’s not okay to put donors before your community,” said Ocasio-Cortez after the results were announced.

Crowley was infamous for being an absentee representative, taking his position for granted. He had not been challenged in a primary contest since 2004. Under him the 14th District had the lowest turnout of any in the US. 

Instead he looked to the party establishment and became part of it. He was widely tipped to succeed Nancy Pelosi as the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. 

It was that image which voters rebelled against on Monday.

From teachers strikes, to 92 percent vote for action from hundreds of thousands of workers in the UPS delivery service and to the growing movement against Trump—the mood for change is palpable.


Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign tapped into the mood that almost won Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination for the 2016 presidential race. That’s partly down to the fact she worked on the Sanders campaign.

The victory comes despite the Democratic Party repeatedly letting people down.

Sanders defeat in the fight to become the candidate for the presidential election saw the establishment of the Democratic party try to tame the socialists who backed him.

Her policies are solidly social-democratic—£12 an hour for minimum wage, reform of the immigration system and cancelling fees for college and school.

In New York’s 14th district 70 percent of people are from an ethnic minority. 

Ocasio-Cortez spoke to the disgust at the deep racism in US society, which goes unchallenged by Democratic Party politicians who take black votes for granted. She has campaigned for the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

“I can’t name a single issue with roots in race that doesn’t have economic implications and I cannot think of a single economic issue that doesn’t have racial implications,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “The idea that we have to separate them out and choose one is a con.”

The fight for change can’t be limited to running for office, but Monday’s election result is yet another sign the mood for a fight against the ruling class is there

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