Ocasio and DSA Take on the Democratic Machine

By Aaron T

From the moment I first saw Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speak at a Queens house party this past February, I knew that she was someone we needed to get behind. At our 2018 NYC-DSA Convention, delegates got a glimpse of the candidate our electoral working groups have been buzzing about for months, and that our Citywide Leadership Council had voted to endorse for U.S. Congress three weeks prior.

In her rousing convention speech, Alexandria earned a standing ovation with her fiery takedown of machine politics, her enthusiasm for DSA priorities like Medicare for All and, perhaps most memorably, her thoughtful and charming political analysis of Star Trek. Indeed, Alexandria’s deeply felt commitment to social justice comes through in every word she says. When she talks about the issues she cares about, such as like solving the affordable housing crisis, protecting immigrant families or dismantling mass incarceration, it’s clear that she is ready to fight tooth-and-nail for the working people of New York’s 14th Congressional district, which spans western Queens and the eastern Bronx.

The same cannot not be said of her opponent, Joe Crowley, a 19-year-incumbent and the boss of the Queens Democratic Party machine. Crowley was handed the Democratic line for his House seat 20 years ago when U.S. Rep. Tom Manton announced that he wasn’t running for re-election after the nominating process was closed. (That’s how things are done in Queens.) Since then, he’s voted for the Iraq War, the repeal of Glass-Steagall and the bank bailout, all while raising gobs of money from real estate developers and Wall Street firms. Combined with his deft use of patronage, this fundraising prowess has protected Crowley from facing a primary challenger since 2004.

DSA held a kickoff canvassing event on April 28. Nearly 40 volunteers, including several from Manhattan and Brooklyn, went door to door in Astoria. Julia Salazar, a Brooklyn DSA member who the Convention endorsed for NY State Senate District 18, campaigned with Alexandria that day. Alexandria plans to campaign with Julia in return.

Queens DSA is canvassing almost every day now in Astoria and occasionally in Jackson Heights. BUM members have been canvassing in the Bronx.

Best of all, voters are responding. A recently unemployed woman I met said Alexandria’s universal jobs guarantee spoke to her. Another voter said her number one political issue was keeping Millennials (that is, people like me) out of Astoria. When told Alexandria won’t take money from real estate developers, however, the voter agreed to vote for our candidate.

We’re under no illusions. Defeating one of New York’s most powerful politicians will be an uphill climb. But in a low-turnout district like NY CD-14, we only need to identify and turn out 15,000 people in the Democratic primary on June 26. Justice Democrats, NY People’s Action Network and many small neighborhood groups have joined this impressively people-powered campaign.

Every volunteer hour helps. Join us in knocking on doors, talking to our neighbors, phone banking and raising campaign funds, so we can elect a Democratic Socialist to Congress.

To campaign for Ocasio-Cortez with Queens DSA, click here. To campaign for her with BUM DSA, click here.