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Whither AOC?

Updated: Apr 14, 2021

by Thomas Neuburger

One of the defining marks of the current divide among Democratic Party supporters is what to expect from Party elected officials.

The "practicalists" (I'll explain that term in a moment) celebrate the transition from Trump and Republican destruction, see optimistic promise in Biden's tentative populism, and experience an almost existential relief at their deliverance. This group is dancing in the streets.

Don't take the latter effect lightly: A great many people felt traumatized to their bones by Trump and his era, and whether or not that feeling was shared by you and your own friends, it's nonetheless real for others and informs their reaction to everything that has followed. I suspect the practicalists — those starved for delivery from Republican rule — form the majority of the Party electorate.

The "idealists" (so called by the so-called practicalists) feel relief at release from the Trumpian grip, but not so much that they can calm their fear of the next neoliberal president, however kinder and gentler (even than the last one) he may prove to be.

The "practicalists," of course, are of a first-thing-first frame of mind, or so they see themselves. "First, we get rid of Republicans," they say. "Then we secure the gate from renewed assault." And only afterward do they look at the rubble of the world and start to rebuild in earnest. For these good people, any rebuilding at all is reason for joy and celebration. And Biden is indeed rebuilding ... sort of.

For "praticalists," any inadequacy in the plan for moving forward is fully offset by the fact of motion itself. After years of retreat and decay, it's easy to understand the present reversal's appeal, even if small.

The so-called "idealists," on the other hand, see little to like in an energy plan that will not end the dominance of fossil fuel in the lifetime of anyone living; see nothing to cheer in the prospect of a lengthened Afghan War, continued diplomatic assault against Syria and Iran, and the constant coddling of Israeli apartheid and torture of its Palestinian neighbors and citizens; and cannot bring themselves to relax as the nation settles into rule by a man whose campaign slogan was "Nothing will fundamentally change."

Candidate Biden to donors: "Not to worry. Nothing will fundamentally change."

The most important word in that slogan — "Nothing will fundamentally change" — is not the first or the last. It's the word "fundamentally."

Whatever Biden agrees to, whatever wonderful (or better-than-Trump) improvements he makes to our common condition, he nonetheless assures us that the people who own us today will own us tomorrow; that those who caused the problems we face now will not be pushed aside so others can fix them; and most importantly, that the men and women he serves, who feed first and mainly on money, will not go hungry.

These "idealists" want more than a week's salvation from Republican misrule. They want salvation for all of the rest of their lives from Democratic misrule as well. In fact, they see themselves as the actual practicalists in the story, since it's certainly practical to want your infant children to live adult lives in the least bad climate-battered world we can give them.

Our children won't praise dead Democrats for saving them from dead Republicans; but they will certainly hate us all for turning half of surviving Americans into starving refugees, dying at the fences that protect the more-fortunate Canadians, and the other half into servants of the despotic rich, who will long since have abandoned anyone they don't need to a lonely fate.

How do we know the despotic rich will do that? Because they're doing it now in far less drastic circumstances.

Why Did AOC Donate to the Campaigns of Corporate Democrats?

Which brings us to the growing battle over the direction being taken by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC). Not the news that corporate Democrats are refusing or returning the campaign cash she gave them — the news about her giving her money to corporate Democrats in the first place.

The three Democrats named in the Politico piece linked above, those whose campaigns AOC tried to support, are Conor Lamb, a man who thinks the $15 minimum wage is too high, New Dem Carolyn Bourdeaux, and Elissa Slotkin, an ex-CIA national security hawk who "rejects Medicare For All" in favor of improving the ACA and the never-going-to appear (and easily gamed if it does) "public option." As Howie Klein put it, all are part of "the Republican wing of the Democratic Party" and all are members of the notoriously pro-corporate "Problem Solvers Caucus."

Why on earth is Alexandria Occasio-Cortez, a genuine hero of the people, supporting — with money given personally to her — the pro-corporate Democrats her supporters roundly despise? The answer from her defenders, well-meaning but sometimes tetchy, is "So we can make sure that Democrats keep control of government...stupid! Because, you know, job one is Republicans."

Thus the divide. On a scale of one to the-next-eight-years or so, how important is it that Democrats keep control of government? On that scale, very, of course.

But on a scale of one to your-surviving-grandchildren-living-like-feral-rats, how important is it that Conor Lamb keep his seat so he can vote with Republicans to his heart's content? I'll let you decide for yourself.

As to AOC her own self, where is she headed? She's certainly seems to be moving in a practicalist direction. Though she started her official career leading a sit-in outside Nancy Pelosi's office — an act her supporters loved her for — she's now giving her donors' money to the worst members of the Democratic caucus. And as the clip above shows, she's dancing like Democrats do around Israeli genocide.

She's obviously changed her stripes. But into what?


(I've launched a Substack site to greet the post-Trump era, the age in which the aggregated Democratic Party will show what it's made of. You can get more information here and here. If you decide to sign up — it's free — my thanks to you!)

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