From The Nation
As 2019 closed, the centrist pundits and politicians who make it their mission to police the Democratic Party were busy reanimating one of the oldest lies in the book. They were aiming at 2020, the year in which the party will nominate a candidate to take on the biggest liar in American politics: Donald Trump. To beat Trump, the centrists argued, Democrats must reject "purity tests."
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, luckily, has recognized this threat contained in the coded language about "purity tests" and countered it with a masterful defense of the politics of principle that will be essential to upend Trump and Trumpism. She finished the year arguing that Democrats must stand strong for their ideals in 2020, or they will run the risk of letting Trump frame the debate.
"For anyone who accuses us for instituting purity tests, it's called having values. It's called, giving a damn," the Democratic representative from New York told a cheering crowd of 14,000 at a December 21 rally for Bernie Sanders in Venice, California.
While at least one Sanders rival, Pete Buttigieg, has been busy decrying purity tests regarding issues and strategies, AOC has pushed back against a politics in which the parties are defined by the demands of big donors -- and the cautious policies they favor. "It's called having standards for your conduct to not be funded by billionaires but to be funded by the people," she said.
The wrestling over standards between progressives and centrists is real, and it can be healthy for a democracy. Unfortunately, the centrists who refuse to surrender their rigid grip on the Democratic Party -- especially when it comes to naming presidential contenders -- want Democrats to believe that the only way to tackle Trump, the man who has shredded every standard for electioneering and governing, is with a return to politics as usual. They imagine that it is possible to make politics great again. Their back-to-the-future approach, which is as dangerous as it is naive, suggests that the 2016 election was an aberration.