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What the AOC learned from Trump

More conventional Democrats wouldn’t say it the way she says it — and the way she says it often makes people cringe — but much of what the supposedly radical AOC thinks isn’t so radical.

This paradox makes AOC’s conversation with editor David Remnick a useful exposition to illuminate a larger dynamic that obscures the Democratic Party. One of the central narratives of the Biden presidency is his difficulty in keeping a party plagued by wide and sometimes unbridgeable chasms between left and center, between establishment forces and insurgents.

This story is not false. But it’s just in a much narrower way than is usually portrayed.

What separates AOC and its allies from others in the party is above all a theory of power: how to acquire it, how to use it, how to keep it. It’s a difference based on a cultural mindset about how politics should look, sound and feel. It is a much less ideological difference than it seems.

Yes, it’s true that the AOC and others on the Democratic left want to spend more money — in some cases a lot more — on bolstering militant government than more conservative Democrats. But such programmatic differences almost never have existential implications for a party or society at large. Different sides can simply split the difference. If a team doesn’t like where the difference was split this year, they can try again next year to split it more favorably.

These kinds of divisions are different in nature from the core values ​​issues that for generations have divided the Democratic Party. When Biden was first elected to the Senate in 1972, there were many in the party leadership who lamented the end of racial segregation. When Pelosi was first elected to the House in 1987, the party had many elected officials who believed abortion should be banned. Even when the 32-year-old AOC reached voting age in 2007, the party had many people (like Barack Obama, at the time) who opposed a federal right to same-sex marriage.

But we can’t imagine the fact that the opposing factions among Democrats on Capitol Hill can’t stand each other. They truly believe that the misguided people on the other side will weaken the party, give the initiative to the Trump-led Republican Party, and seriously threaten the future of the country in the marketplace. What’s the use of screaming?

AOC opens the window for a response when she says what she’s witnessing in Congress is “outrageous, every day.” What surprises me is that it never ceases to scandalize. Whoa – what did she see? Maybe lawmakers are taking bribes or trading votes for drugs in the House?

No, in fact, she describes how many of her fellow Democrats were willing to separate the passage of infrastructure legislation instead of tying it to the more ambitious proposals of Biden’s “Build Back Better” plan. She and other progressives wanted to keep them linked and insist on passing everything. They lost the argument and, by their lights, were right. A $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill was passed — “significant,” but “much smaller” than actual needs — and, so far, little else. She poked fun at how Biden believed ‘he could talk with [Sen. Joe] Manchin and bring him with you.

It’s perhaps a bit deflating when AOC promises outrageous revelations but instead talks about differences over political strategy and legislative tactics. But she’s onto something big — a fundamental divide in the mindset of Democrats.

The lesson many Democrats have learned from watching two Republican former presidents — Donald Trump and George W. Bush, who both took office under contested circumstances with a minority of the popular vote — is that political realities can be shaped by a confident proclamation. Power can be seized by an equally sure assertion of itself. They did so in the name of what the left saw as an obscure agenda that favored racists and the wealthy. There’s no reason progressives can’t do this in the name of an informed agenda — and awaken a solid majority that would be there if only people were presented with sharp rather than fuzzy choices.

Meanwhile, these same people see the last two Democratic presidents – Obama and Bill Clinton – squandering their opportunities and disappointing their natural supporters by constant calibration and pretending that we are still in the 1970s, and that the political game as the establishment plays it is still somehow level.

The Bush-Trump model is based on mobilization natural allies. The Clinton-Obama model is based on a failed effort to persuasion of a shrinking group of people attracted to a cautious, middle-of-the-road policy. This is why the AOC in the New Yorker urged Biden to forget about congressional approval and simply write off student loan debt by executive order. (She didn’t stop after her death to explain why such action is “entirely within her power legally” or why this policy is genuinely progressive, since recipients of higher education typically have higher lifetime incomes than the average taxpayer.)

Such details are almost irrelevant. The fault line between persuasion and mobilization is probably the biggest remaining divide in both parties — Republicans no less than Democrats.

As she evangelizes for one side of that argument, AOC doesn’t just face moderate opponents like fellow Democrat Josh Gottheimer (NJ). She also faces Obama. As she calls Biden’s win on public works infrastructure small and disappointing, the former president lectured Democratic lawmakers the other day, according to Newsof “taking the wins you can get” and that “there’s no point in complaining about what you can’t change”.

Rather than whine, AOC told Remnick that she fantasizes “all the time” about getting out of electoral politics and acting on her values ​​in more meaningful ways. “My day-to-day job is frustrating,” she says, adding, “I ate shit as a waitress and bartender, and I eat shit as a congressman.”

Any student of elections might hope that she will not resign but stay to test her policies beyond New York’s 14th congressional district. The Democratic left has fantasized about a candidate capable of breaking conventional strategies and mobilizing all the way to the presidency since George McGovern and as recently as Bernie Sanders. Someone will try the old experience for a new generation.

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