Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Official Portrait.
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Franmarie Metzler; U.S. House Office of Photography, Author: Franmarie Metzler; U.S. House Office of Photography) Details Source DMCA
After defying the odds and defeating corporate opponents on Tuesday, the strong progressives Jamaal Bowman and Mondaire Jones are headed to Congress from New York -- and there's no way it would be happening if they hadn't been willing and able to put up a fight in Democratic primaries. The same was true in 2018 with the election of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar and Ayanna Pressley as they beat the party establishment.
After three decades of contributing mightily to the blight of congressional militarism, Rep. Eliot Engel couldn't be rescued by the high-profile endorsements of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Nor could Engel be saved by the eleventh-hour support of Hillary Clinton.
Other Democratic incumbents are being challenged by progressives in difficult and inspiring campaigns: intent on doing what, according to conventional political wisdom, can't be done.
While the Republican Party has given "faith" a bad name, Barack Obama did the same for "audacity" and "hope." Being an ally of the military-industrial complex and corporate power isn't audacious or particularly hopeful. But progressives need plenty of audacious hope and insistence that political organizing must include insurgent election campaigns.
The obstacles are enormous. That's usually true of social change worth fighting for.
In the electoral arena, the goal is not only about winning elections. It's also about replacing the top-down weight of entrenched politicians with the bottom-up power of grassroots activism. A current example is the effort by progressive activists in California to make Congressman Ro Khanna the chair of the state's delegation for the Democratic National Convention, instead of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
That would be appropriate. Khanna was a national co-chair for the 2020 campaign of Bernie Sanders, who won the state's presidential primary by a margin of 8 percent over Joe Biden.
If raw political power is the metric, Newsom has a clear advantage in the lead-up to a decisive statewide "virtual meeting" of national-convention delegates set for Sunday. But in recent days, 130 Sanders delegates (including me) from congressional districts across the state -- 90 percent of all such Sanders delegates -- have signed a statement calling for Khanna to be the delegation chair.
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