Well before her historic Democratic primary victory on Tuesday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rightfully noted that she already is a pioneer.
“Ocasio2018 has created a cascade of firsts: Alexandria is the first NY-14 Democratic challenger in a generation; the first NY-14 candidate to run without any lobbyist money in modern history; and the first woman of color to *ever* run in NY-14 (a district that’s 70 percent people of color),” her campaign boasted.
“This is just a taste of what we can accomplish when everyday people come together,” she said way back in April.
On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens and Bronx) got more than a taste of the unabashed Ocasio-Cortez movement: the 56-year-old, 10-term incumbent was forced to choke down a gallon of defeat. He then faced the mother of all political hangovers on Wednesday morning.
And he deserved it.
A quick, thoroughly unscientific autopsy of this election revealed that this was not about white vs. Latina, or old vs. young, or even establishment vs. the proverbial upstart outsider. This campaign really came down to respect—for the opponent AND the constituents.
It was painfully obvious throughout the race that Crowley didn’t think much of Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old political rookie. Yes, she worked in the late U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office and fervently supported the presidential ambitions of fellow socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016; but that pales in comparison to Crowley, who learned at the knee of Queens kingmaker Tom Manton and has been in the House since 1999.
Crowley saw Ocasio-Cortez as a mere bump in the road on his way to a rousing reelection in November. He seemed never to take her seriously. Just look at his actions. He avoided debating Ocasio-Cortez until he absolutely had to. His putrid performance in said contest revealed why he had been ducking the underdog for so long.
However, it is the debates that he chose not to attend that perhaps sealed Crowley’s fate. Last week, he skipped a debate—Crowley’s second such no-show in the primary campaign—and sent a surrogate instead. Former City Councilwoman Annabel Palma sat in for the congressman.
No. We’re not kidding. (A Crowley spokesperson blamed scheduling conflicts for the absence.)
“Indeed, the snubs should be galling not only to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Mr. Crowley’s constituents in New York’s 14th Congressional District, in Queens and the Bronx,” The New York Times editorial board wrote, “but also to anyone who cares about the democratic process.”
If Crowley fancied himself a party leader, especially in this bizarre political Age of Trump, why not lead by example? It’s a pretty simple premise: Show up. Your fresh-faced, inexperienced challenger did just that. Over and over and over again.
Did he not deem Ocasio-Cortez worthy of his time? Did Crowley not deem the voters—his CONSTITUENTS—worthy of his time?
Who knows? We’re left with myriad questions, no answers, and new representation in the 14th CD.
Because the incumbent didn’t care.
Say it ain’t so, Joe.


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