April 16, 2020

Sorry, AOC — Democrats Don’t Want Democratic Socialism
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is demanding concessions from Joe Biden. It’s a thought. Why haven’t others hit on this strategy? Perhaps Walter Mondale should have used the results of the 1984 election to influence Ronald Reagan’s agenda, and why didn’t John McCain leverage his strong second-place finish in 2008 as to nudge the Obama administration? Come to think of it, maybe Thanos should get the Avengers to concede that half the people he killed must stay dead.Ocasio-Cortez is still new to this game, so she may not understand the basics of politics yet, but: You don’t get to change stuff when you lose. Especially when you get trounced. The Social Democrat/Democratic Socialist agenda will have to wait for another election cycle. AOC’s pick for the presidency not only lost, he got creamed. Bernie Sanders had every possible advantage going into March -- a string of primary victories, energetic supporters, excellent fund-raising, a perception that he was the favorite, and a lackluster opponent who picked through his sentences like a blind cripple trying to find his way across a minefield -- and then he disintegrated. Far from being the heroic standard-bearer for a bold new era in progressivism, Sanders was such a disastrous candidate he got nuked by a guy who barely has enough energy left to comb his fake hair.Undeterred by total humiliation, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez turned to Politico the other day to lay down the law for Joe Biden. Lowering Medicare's eligibility age to 60 is not “going to be enough for us,” she said, warning that Biden’s Democratic party is “going to have to pursue a much more ambitious health care policy.” Or else what? Like Elizabeth Warren, like Bernie Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez has already said she’s going to support Biden in November. Not that the votes of Ocasio-Cortez types figure to be dispositive in an election in which the swing votes everyone is looking to harvest are the ones in the white working class in the upper Midwest. Ocasio-Cortez also declared she wants concessions on climate-change policy, immigration, and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico? She might as well state that Biden has to come through for Queens and Bronx voters if he knows what’s good for him.Ocasio-Cortez’s patent lack of enthusiasm for Biden is illustrative of a real problem, though. During the primary season, Biden’s fundraising was atrocious and the enthusiasm level of his crowds ranged from tepid to somnolent. But charisma is non-transferable, as the last Democratic presidential candidate learned to her chagrin. Proximity to Bill Clinton for 45 years didn’t make Hillary Clinton more appealing. Even if Biden does everything Ocasio-Cortez wants, she won’t be able to transfer her youthful socialist zing to him. With or without AOC beating a drum for him, Biden is not going to excite marginal supporters and young folk the way Barack Obama did. As Biden gets confused about what office he’s running for and puts out campaign videos that have the kind of audience draw of the average middle-school talent show, his campaign certainly needs all the defibrillation it can get. But the candidate has been around long enough to know that when you’re in a general election, you pivot to the center. Maybe voters in Pennsylvania will forget Biden called for no new fracking, maybe he’ll abandon that position as untenable in a COVID-wracked economy. What he seems unlikely to do is announce a major swing left on climate change. Biden’s memory may not be as strong as it used to be, but he probably remembers as far back as last month, when extremist positions were proven unpopular even among Democratic primary voters. Biden is not about to turn into Bernie Sanders, not that he is even capable of turning himself into a mad prophet of socialism.As is typical of a generation that would rather file a formal HR complaint than inform a colleague she has a concern to discuss, Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t even talked to Biden, fancying herself going over his head. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Has Never Spoken to Joe Biden. Here’s What She Would Say,” ran a New York Times headline. And what is she saying? In essence, it’s: “Embrace my defeated ideology and my personal unpopularity.” Actual AOC remark: Biden “didn’t win because of policy — I don’t think he won because of his agenda, he won because of different factors. In state after state after state, Democratic voters support a progressive agenda.”So the people want an agenda far to the left of what they actually voted for, in state after state? It’s a shame that Democratic primary voters are holding the country back, but until AOC figures out a way to cut voters out of the equation, she’ll just have to live with their choices. As for Biden, he’s probably too dumb and too afraid of appearing out of touch with young folks to grasp that Ocasio-Cortez is teeing up a Sister Souljah moment for him. But simply ignoring one annoying and unpopular congresswoman is a perfectly valid option.
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