Ten-term congressman Joe Crowley was defeated in shocking fashion in New York's 14th congressional district Tuesday night. The veteran Democrat was beaten soundly by fresh-faced 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic Socialist. She beat Crowley by 15 points. It was the Democrats' Eric Cantor moment.
We can't stress enough how surprising the result was. Crowley was even considered as a worthy contender to run against Nancy Pelosi for speaker. Ocasio-Cortez shocked some experts "by even getting on the ballot."
A Joe Crowley loss would roil the race for the next speaker if Dems take House. With a narrow majority, Pelosi would have a hard time staying on, and whether Hoyer could become speaker is another question. Crowley was seen as a logical successor. If he loses, all bets are off— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 27, 2018
Out of nowhere comes Ocasio-Cortez, who deftly used Crowley's establishment status against him. She had just one-tenth of the funds the incumbent had at his disposal, yet her radical progressive agenda clearly paid off. She has called for abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, and tuition-free public colleges. She's being described as the future of the Democratic Party. Yet, Tuesday was still a surprise and it suggests Democrats do not all see the future the same. There's the establishment wing, and there's the Ocasio-Cortez crowd.
Ocasio-Cortez is part of a number of young women of color who are challenging establishment incumbents in the Democratic Party. A third-generation New Yorker whose family has roots in Puerto Rico, Ocasio-Cortez looks a lot more like the constituents in the very diverse 14th District than Crowley, a 56-year-old white man. The optics of the race, then, also reflect a battle for the future of party leadership: Who is better equipped to represent the largely working-class and non-white Americans in the 14th, and in places like it all over the country?
The schism suggests there's a quiet identity crisis occurring in the Democratic Party, according to CNN reporter Jeff Zeleny.
The stunning defeat of @JoeCrowleyNY is a fresh reminder that one of the biggest political stories (getting far less attention than it deserves, with Trump consuming so much oxygen) is the major identity crisis underway inside the Democratic Party.— Jeff Zeleny (@jeffzeleny) June 27, 2018
But what about the unity tour?