Ocasio-Cortez’s Attacks on Democrats Have Party Scrambling for Damage Control

New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks with reporters after participating in a town hall with Kerri Evelyn Harris, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Delaware, Friday, Aug. 31, 2018, at the University of Delaware in Newark, Del. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
PENNY STARR

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became an overnight sensation when she unseated longtime New York House Democrat Joe Crowley, but now she is causing tension in the establishment wing of the party and some are seeking ways to put a damper on her anti-establishment agenda.

Ocasio-Cortez, 29 and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, has been slamming both the GOP and Democrats on social media, including on Twitter, where she has 2.2 million followers.

Politico reported on the effort to rein in Ocasio-Cortez, described by some 20 Democrat lawmakers and aides as “part carrot, part stick: Some lawmakers with ties to Ocasio-Cortez are hoping to coax her into using her star power to unite Democrats and turn her fire on Republicans. Others simultaneously warn Ocasio-Cortez is destined for a lonely, ineffectual career in Congress if she continues to treat her own party as the enemy.”

“I’m sure Ms. Cortez means well, but there’s almost an outstanding rule: Don’t attack your own people,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO). “We just don’t need sniping in our Democratic Caucus.”

Politico reported: 

Incumbent Democrats are most annoyed by Ocasio-Cortez’s threat to back primary opponents against members of their ranks she deems too moderate. But their frustration goes beyond that: Democratic leaders are upset that she railed against their new set of House rules on Twitter the first week of the new Congress. Rank and file are peeved that there’s a grassroots movement to try to win her a top committee post they feel she doesn’t deserve.

Even some progressives who admire AOC, as she’s nicknamed, told Politico that they worry she’s not using her notoriety effectively.

“She needs to decide: Does she want to be an effective legislator or just continue being a Twitter star?” said an anonymous House Democrat in the Politico report, who said he agrees with her radical ideology.

“There’s a difference between being an activist and a lawmaker in Congress,” the source said.

Politico noted that Ocasio-Cortez’s star power includes being better known by millions of Americans than longtime House Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi and John Lewis.

One House member who is trying to mentor Ocasio-Cortez on how to get along and get ahead in Washington is Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), according to Politico.

They both unseated a fellow Democrat and share Puerto Rican roots.

“In private conversations with Ocasio-Cortez over the past few months, Velázquez counseled Ocasio-Cortez against targeting her Democratic colleagues in future elections,” Politico reported. 

“Washington is a political animal where a lot of the work that you want to accomplish depends on relationships within the Democratic Caucus,” Velázquez said. “The honeymoon between the voters that you represent and yourself could be a short one. People want to see results.”

Politico rounded up comments from other House Democrats:

“I think she needs to give herself an opportunity to know her colleagues and to give herself a sense of the chemistry of the body before passing judgment on anyone or anything,” Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) said.

“She’s new here, feeling her way around,” Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR) said. “She doesn’t understand how the place works yet.”

The Politico report said some Democrats compare Ocasio-Cortez’ prolific use of Twitter to President Trump’s regular posts on social media.

“Just as congressional Republicans constantly withhold criticism of the president out of fear he’ll unleash a tweet at them, some Democrats have done the same with Ocasio-Cortez,” Politico reported.

“People are afraid of her,” said one senior Democratic aide.

Follow Penny Starr on Twitter

.