A Message To Democrats: Do Not Engage In The Circular Firing Squad (Video)

Here we are, exactly one year from the Iowa caucuses, the kickoff to the presidential race, and Democratic hopefuls are lining up to take on Donald Trump.

As of this writing, there are seven Democrats officially running.

More are assured, potentially crowding the field as Republicans did three years ago.

The past few years we have seen the political landscape shift in ways it has not in decades.

Vt. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ historic primary challenge against Hillary Clinton proved the term “Democratic Socialism” isn’t the Boogie Man Cold War-era propaganda has always made it out to seem.

Because of Sen. Sanders, Medicare-for-all has become codified in the Democratic party platform, as has free college tuition, climate change mitigation, criminal justice reform, campaign finance reform, and other issues that previously either got passing mention or no mention at all.

Sen. Sanders proved Americans overwhelmingly favor progressive positions on issues that most affect them, that those positions are not “radical,” but are, in fact, those that defined the Democratic party from the 1930s to the 1990s before the Reaganomics corporate takeover.

His political revolution called for regular Americans from all walks of life to ingratiate themselves in a process from which they had been previously shut out.

This ushered in a new wave of progressive candidates, many of whom were elected this November to state, local, and federal government.

However, change rarely comes easily.

Despite the hegemony beginning to weaken, there are still those inside the Democratic establishment holding on to the cozy corporate status quo, and see these “insurgent” progressives as “subversive.”

The most obvious example is New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who rocked the establishment in last summer’s congressional primary when she defeated incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez came into the House this month showing us she was not merely making noise to win her seat.

Even before being sworn in, she staged a well-publicized sit-in outside then-incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in effort to coax Pelosi to support the “Green New Deal” policy.

CBS conspicuously did not give the new House Democrat an opportunity to talk about this, HR 1, or her progressive agenda in her 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper last month.

Instead, Cooper encouraged her to trash Trump, asking her (after making sure he got in the “Democratic Socialist” label) if she thinks the president is a racist.

Her first week in office, Ocasio-Cortez upset Democratic leaders and some fellow progressives when she tweeted her opposition to the Democratic rules package, arguing it would hurt liberal priorities like Medicare-for-all.

Ocasio-Cortez is a young, outspoken progressive Democratic Socialist who organized for Sen. Sanders’ presidential campaign, speaking out against less-than-progressive incumbent Democrats.

And for that, some of her fellow Democrats feel she must go.

There is already chatter about recruiting a primary challenger to run against her.

One lawmaker, speaking anonymously stated:

“What I have recommended to the New York delegation is that you find her a primary opponent and make her a one-term congressperson. You’ve got numerous council people and state legislators who’ve been waiting 20 years for that seat. I’m sure they can find numerous people who want that seat in that district.”

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) denied the rumor, responding:

“I don’t think that is something the New York delegation would contemplate. As you can see, we are totally united behind each other. The New York delegation sticks together.”

Ocasio-Cortez was recently accused of calling for a primary challenger to take on fellow New Yorker Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a charge Ocasio-Cortez denies.

Jefferies commented:

“I haven’t seen a primary candidate emerge, so I assume when she denied it, she was correct that there was nothing to it.”

A recent Politico piece articulated the frustration Democratic lawmakers nonetheless are with the 29-year-old congresswoman.

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) stated:

“I’m sure Ms. Cortez means well, but there’s almost an outstanding rule: Don’t attack your own people. We just don’t need sniping in our Democratic Caucus.”

This sounds like damning with faint praise.

Nonetheless, he is right.

This is the time for Democrats to unify, not take positions in a circular firing squad as many did during the 2016 presidential cycle that saw the Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton camps undermining one another.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez may be rocking the boat a bit in ways it needs to be rocked, but she is anything but subversive.

Ocasio-Cortez supported Nancy Pelosi’s speakership as infighting from conservative Democrats dogged the new majority coming into Congress.

And colleagues agree Ocasio-Cortez is cooperative.

Rep. Meeks commented:

 “I can only tell you that the times I’ve spoken to her, and at the times she’s been at the New York delegation meetings, she’s been cooperative and wants to be a team player. That’s what she said, so you gotta take her at her word until something changes.”

At this time next year there are bound to be quite a few congressional colleagues (and some not-so-congressional) taking shots at one another to distinguish themselves for the nomination.

We are all team blue. Some are bluer than others, but sniping only makes us appear fragmented. We are supposed to be the party of ideas. Let’s put those ideas together so we can get that god-awful current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue skulking back to his Manhattan penthouse ASAP.

Or prison, which would be even better.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, Liberal Nation Rising, and Medium.