I’ve touched on this before, but it bears repeating: AOC is the new Obama, where her role is to demotivate “progressives” from exploring alternatives to Democrats. Her image is much more radical than her agenda.
The current divisions among Democrats are illuminating. As part of that fight, The Atlantic published an uninentional expose. The target audience is centrist Biden types, not leftists. Definitely not leftists.
In the essay, Ben Judah starts by framing things as a matter of age and strategy, not racism:
The Democrats are experiencing a clash of generations. As in all such clashes, each side see the other as delusional. When the millennial left looks at the establishment, it sees leaders senescent with decades in the house, blindly clinging to bipartisan civility that no longer exists, unable to see men like Mitch McConnell as their opponents and not their colleagues, and seeing white voters as the only path to victory in 2020. The millennials see themselves as the realists here.
The Boomer establishment thinks the opposite, rubbishing the frustrations of the millennials as naive follies. They see the Squad—the name the four freshman congresswomen endorsed by the Justice Democrats, all progressive women of color, have chosen for themselves—on a trajectory that loses the party the white voters it needs to win in 2020. Dismissing talk that minority turnout can make the difference, they want these young representatives to know their place and quiet down.
Basically, everyone agrees about common sense except white people afraid of losing their racist friends.
This is a highly suspicious life trajectory for me:
In this fight, Saikat Chakrabarti’s wunderkind biography has been turned against him, especially by moderates who have typically favored a softly-softly approach to Silicon Valley. Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff grew up in Fort Worth, Texas, and spent his youth doing calculator competitions before working at a hedge fund and then a series of start-ups in San Francisco. Perhaps that made him a tempting target for Pelosi, as Big Tech replaces Big Oil as the left’s most-hated industry. But after making his fortune, Chakrabarti rejected Silicon Valley’s ideology in favor of backing antitrust reform and tax increases—volunteering for Sanders in 2015. This is when his generational insurgency began.
Someone with that background isn’t going to do something radical without a serious come-to-Jesus moment. His peer group was hedge fund and start-up people for a long time. It probably rubbed off.
It’s funny that the centrists operate based on knowing the current Two Minutes’ Hate target in the media. Oil is out, tech is in!
What exactly has Chakrabarti rejected about the Californian ideology? The concerns listed are still business concerns: taxes and monopolies. Undoing stupid Republican tax cuts and wanting modern tech industry regulations is supposed to be the stuff of “insurgency.”
But if the strategy isn’t novel, what about the policies the Justice Democrats are advancing?
This is less red than meets the eye. In Europe and across the rest of the Anglophone world, virtually no one would see “Medicare For All” as radicalism. Not only do British Conservatives and German Christian Democrats support public health care, but the Green New Deal-vision of state-led investment reminds me of the politics of my mid-century conservatives heroes, including Harold Macmillan or Charles de Gaulle. And, further back, even Alexander Hamilton.
In fact, I find it very hard to pin the caricature of Chakrabarti the radical leftist—a “revolutionary” according to Henry Olson in The Washington Post—to the actual Chakrabarti. Labelling the new left radical socialists is lazy. But several moderate Democrats, are doing just that, including Representative Henry Cuellar from Texas, who is currently facing a Justice Democrats primary challenge. “I think they’re not Democrats quite honestly,” he said on Fox News. “They’re socialists.”
There you have it. AOC’s flagship Green New Deal is actually conservative but presented as socialism. I was alive (if young) for the fall of the USSR. My interest in philosophy exposed me to radical politics before 9/11. I remember the 1999 WTO Riots, and I remember the crackdown on protest during the Bush years. I remember the world’s largest ever global demonstrations failing to prevent the second Iraq war. Demonstrations were organized by the far-left fringe: anarchists and tankies. I remember how much people blamed Bush on Nader, killing the prospects of a leftist third party for a long time. I remember when environmentalists and animal rights activists were setting things on fire.
Ben Judah is 31, 5 years younger than me. All the reference points he listed for millennials were post-9/11. I was born in 1982, class of 2001 itself, so I guess that makes me a xennial? The point is, people much younger than me have no living memory of the actual Marxist left. For them, Sanders and AOC are socialism.
It bears repeating: AOC’s flagship policy is described as “socialism” in public and “conservative” by Democrats who know what they’re talking about. This quite effectively preempts the actual leftist vanguard. Real socialists are robbed of the power of self-definition, and the boundaries of the political spectrum are shifted entirely to the right. It’s an important achievement, and it only took a tiny Squad to achieve.
The effect is the same as Orwell’s Newspeak: the inability to articulate alternatives. It would be impossible to prevent leftism on the internet entirely, so the way to throw something down the memory hole is to manipulate people’s attention. It’s conquest by graph theory, not censorship. It’s all about social media, where you can plot social connections as a graph (network of nodes). There’s an entire branch of math devoted to graphs, and a whole science of quantifying things like social influence. The social network is a data structure, for which a great many algorithms are available. Someone with the data and resources can easily come up with effective strategies for spreading memes through the network. It doesn’t matter if the left exists, if nobody looks at it.
But what Ocasio-Cortez’s office likes to call “the Green New Deal ideology” is something more contemporary. Instead of reaching for 20th-century crutches, moderates should take the time to study—or at least read—the titles of the core texts posted to the website of New Consensus, the policy shop spun off by the Justice Democrats, to understand how Chakrabarti and his cohort actually think.
Books by Mervyn King, the former governor of the Bank of England, the Financial Times columnist Martin Wolf, and the historian (and my Hudson Institute colleague) Arthur Herman rub shoulders with the work of contemporary left-wing economists Mariana Mazzucato, Ha-Joon Chang, Ann Pettifor, and Stephanie Kelton. This is not Jeremy Corbyn’s bookshelf.
The caricature gets even worse when it comes to migration. Too many people who should know better have bought into the Tucker Carlson charge that the members of the millennial left want “open borders,” including Bret Stephens at The New York Times, who characterized them as advocating “nearly unlimited immigration.” But this isn’t the case.
Wanting to abolish ICE is not the same as wanting to abolish the border. What they want is to make it less violent. That thinking is shaped by what groups like the ACLU, United We Dream, the Immigration Defense Project, and Make the Road are advocating. Their long-term future goal—if you listen—is an America which is actively increasing immigration, pulling in the workers needed for a booming, reindustrializing, techifying America.
Tech industry likes immigration. News at 11. If Hillary Clinton’s inspiration was the head of a bank and a WSJ columnist, she’d be rightfully called out for the bad associations. Here we have a Democrat complaining that her neoliberal cred is being overlooked.
Note that centrists and the far right BOTH benefit from presenting AOC as the far left. For the Democrats, it serves the functions described above. For Republicans, it gives their base something to stay angry and afraid about. In other words, the centrists and the Republicans have shared information goals. It’s unsurprising, since their defining trait is a desire to work with Republicans.
AOC represents a layer of misdirection. Traditionally, Democrats take money from large donors and spend it on consultants. The “progressive” strategy is to fund campaigns with small donations for grassroots underdog cred, while the rich control the agenda by funding think tanks.