Oca­sio-Cortez mocks ‘big-tent’ Dems, must learn com­pro­mise

Orlando Sentinel - - OPINION - By Clarence Page

Can a po­lit­i­cal party be too in­clu­sive? Demo­cratic Rep. Alexan­dria Oca­sioCortez ap­par­ently thinks so.

In a lengthy New York mag­a­zine pro­file this week, the New York con­gress­woman re­sponded with a groan when asked what role she might play as a mem­ber of Congress if for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den is elected pres­i­dent.

“Oh God,” she said of the man who has been lead­ing the pack of her party’s hope­fuls in na­tional polls. “In any other coun­try, Joe Bi­den and I would not be in the same party, but in Amer­ica, we are.”

That may sound sar­cas­tic, but it also hap­pens to be true. That’s not a bad thing. It also hap­pens to be a very good rea­son for us Amer­i­cans to have a twoparty sys­tem.

But that’s not good enough for AOC and some oth­ers on the party’s left­pro­gres­sive wing.

She mocked the “big tent” strat­egy by which can­di­dates in both par­ties have tried to grow and di­ver­sify their voter ap­peal. “Democrats can be too big of a tent,” she said.

She even went so far as to sug­gest that the Con­gres­sional Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus ex­pel mem­bers who stray from the pro­gres­sives’ party line. Other Demo­cratic cau­cuses in Congress re­quire ap­pli­ca­tions, she said. But her wing will “let any­body who the cat dragged in call them­selves a pro­gres­sive,” she com­plained. “There’s no stan­dard.”

“Any­body who the cat dragged in?” Ah, the im­pa­tience of youth.

I think for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama had the right idea when he warned fel­low Democrats against ideologica­l “pu­rity tests.” Oca­sio-Cortez ap­par­ently thinks pu­rity tests are a fine idea.

For years I have en­cour­aged Repub­li­cans to broaden their reach and com­pete again for vot­ers of color and other con­stituen­cies that used to feel more wel­come in the party of Abra­ham Lin­coln. In­stead, we have seen the Grand Old Party’s ac­tivists es­ca­late their de­mo­niza­tion of “RINOs” — Repub­li­cans in Name Only — in their ranks. Now I am dis­ap­pointed to hear sim­i­lar ideologica­l pu­rity pro­moted on the left.

“DI­NOs?” I don’t think so.

But don’t get me wrong. Un­like some com­men­ta­tors, I don’t want to dis­like AOC. I think she brings a youth­ful en­ergy and ex­cite­ment to na­tional pol­i­tics on the left that pro­vides a much-needed coun­ter­bal­ance to the barn­storm­ing ex­trem­ism of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump on the right.

Un­for­tu­nately, she also brings with her ide­ol­ogy an all-or-noth­ing at­ti­tude that can get in the way of her achiev­ing her own goals. Even Sen. Bernie San­ders, whom she has en­dorsed for pres­i­dent, knows the value of com­pro­mise enough to vote with the Democrats in the Se­nate and run for pres­i­dent in their pri­maries.

For ex­am­ples of how ex­trem­ism can back­fire, she need look no fur­ther than her Repub­li­can col­leagues. The tea party move­ment rose up on the heels of Obama’s 2008 elec­tion with a zeal for spend­ing cuts — which all but evap­o­rated af­ter Trump’s elec­tion.

The fed­eral gov­ern­ment’s bud­get deficit bal­looned to nearly $1 tril­lion in 2019, the Trea­sury Depart­ment an­nounced in Oc­to­ber. That’s the fourth year in a row of deficit growth, de­spite a sus­tained run of eco­nomic growth. Ap­par­ently, deficit spend­ing is only a sin to Repub­li­cans in Congress when Demo­cratic pres­i­dents do it.

Oca­sio-Cortez bris­tled in the New York pro­file at the sug­ges­tion that her move­ment is fol­low­ing a tea party model. “For so long, when I first got in, peo­ple were like, ‘Oh, are you go­ing to ba­si­cally be a tea party of the left?’ ” she said. “And what peo­ple don’t re­al­ize is that there is a tea party of the left, but it’s on the right edges, the most con­ser­va­tive parts of the Demo­cratic Party.”

Yet, she ex­pressed frus­tra­tion that her fel­low Democrats haven’t been more can­did about that. “It’s like we’re not al­lowed to talk about it,” she said. “We’re not al­lowed to talk about any­thing wrong the Demo­cratic Party does. I think I have cre­ated more room for dis­sent, and we’re learn­ing to stretch our wings a lit­tle bit on the left.”

In­deed, but try to avoid get­ting them clipped. At the risk of sound­ing like the prag­matic old man that I am, I think Oca­sio-Cortez should learn from her fac­tion’s suc­cesses but avoid the haz­ards of over­reach.

As the left-pro­gres­sive Rev. Jesse Jack­son preached to fel­low Dems dur­ing his two pres­i­den­tial runs in the 1980s, “It takes two wings to fly” — a left wing and a right wing. Right on, Rev­erend. Right on!

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