When Kyle Kulinski, Cenk Uygur, Saikat Chakrabarti and Zack Exley founded the Justice Democrats, I’m willing to bet that neither of them imagined that they and the people currently running the organisation would become the proprietors of a whorehouse, but over the years that is exactly what has happened. In the days since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shocked the Democratic establishment by unseating long-time New York congressman Joe Crowley, it has become eminently clear that the DSA-backed “democratic socialist” has turned out to be no different to a corporate neoliberal Democrat, just that she ostensibly supports universal healthcare.
At the start she seemed like a promising progressive politician, running a campaign primarily centred on economic issues such as universal healthcare, a federal jobs guarantee, restoring the Glass-Steagall Act, and housing as a human right. Shortly after being elected to Congress, she joined a movement of young environmental activists in a sit-in outside the office of then-House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi, hoping to pressure her to adopt a progressive agenda for addressing climate change.
While that seemed promising at the time, in the past two years alone she has proven herself a loyal ally of the Democratic Party establishment. For starters, she waited until October to finally endorse Bernie Sanders for president, and after he surrendered, she joined him in campaigning for a Biden victory under the assumption that she and her fellow progressives are actually capable of shifting a Biden administration to the left (an assumption that even Bernie Sanders is finding increasingly untenable). Even before the primaries ended, she was showing signs of selling out to the establishment. As early as February she remarked that she could tolerate a public option system, saying “is that a nightmare? I don’t think so”.
Worst of all is how her attitude towards Nancy Pelosi has changed since that November day in 2018 when she actually had a spine. Since then she has proven to be, for the most part, utterly obsequious to the Speaker of the House currently running for re-election to the post. Before the election, she said nothing as Pelosi repeatedly denied a stimulus deal, even as millions of Americans will be consigned to unprecedented economic hardship without it, because she would rather that than allow Trump to score a political victory that would carry him to re-election. Only after the election with Biden now certain to be the next President is she now willing to work with Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) to get a good deal.
Most recently, after progressive activists Jimmy Dore and Justin Jackson called on her and the rest of the progressives in Congress to withhold their votes for Speakership unless Pelosi brings a vote on Medicare for All to the House floor, AOC rejected their calls, claiming that too many Democrats in Congress would be opposed to it and that the people asking her to do this haven’t thought about what they’d do after being defeated. If this is reason enough for her to roll over and surrender the fight before it even began, what makes any of the online left think she is remotely capable of achieving democratic socialism, real or fake?
Quite simply, AOC is the political equivalent of a prostitute. She will sell herself out to the highest bidder, as well as selling out the entire left, if it gives her the best chance of advancing her career in the short-term. For all her talk about how she supposedly represents the working class, in actual fact she merely represents herself and her selfish interests just like almost all politicians, whether Democratic or Republican, and you can see this in how much time she spends cultivating a social media personality. That in itself is an extension of her narcissism and career-climbing instincts.
Even if we grant the possibility that she is serious in her beliefs and simply concluded that this is all necessary in order to advance a progressive agenda, unfortunately for her Washington is filled with political Johns carrying venereal diseases. If you spend enough time dealing with them, you’ll eventually become infected with the mindset of the establishment, which passes through the capital like a viral strain. Before you know it, an idealistic young politician with dreams of changing the world will soon find themselves voting like one of the very old dinosaurs they thought they were opposing, hence why AOC has consistently followed the neo-conservative line on Venezuela. The only real difference between her and Pelosi at this point is that while Pelosi flaunts her ice cream stash, AOC tells you that growing cauliflower is “colonial”, and that we should all grow yucca plants instead.
What we are seeing from AOC in my view reflects a trend where US politicians who say they are progressive or left-wing turn out to be anything but that when they are sworn into office. The “squad” in particular have developed quite a successful grift: they appeal primarily to liberals who will vote on the basis of skin colour, they can convince people that they will actually fight for left-wing policies, and then when they don’t, they can simply concentrate on liberal culture war agitation and barely any one of the liberal progressives they need to support them will actually criticise them because they can’t bring themselves to say anything mean about the fair women of colour.
They are a clear example of intersectional identity politics in practice, in the sense that their identity is an effective shield that allows them to escape criticism. Look at Ilhan Omar, Democratic Congresswoman from Minnesota, for instance. Not long after she was elected she showed promise, openly criticising the influence of AIPAC on US foreign policy and challenging Trump’s Reaganite ambassador for Elliot Abrams on his role in the Iran-Contra scandal and his support for numerous right-wing CIA-backed dictatorships in Central America. Nowadays, apart from her views on Israel-Palestine, she is more or less another standard Democrat who endorsed Joe Biden (much faster than AOC I might add), meanwhile she uses her status as a Somalian Muslim immigrant as a shield from criticism, which is how she mostly escapes progressive/left scrutiny for various statements which actually qualify as anti-Semitic. If a white man said that Israel had “hypnotised the world” and claimed Trump’s travel ban is “what Israel is implementing”, the progressive left would immediately call him out for peddling anti-Semitic canards, but because she is a Muslim and an ethnic minority woman, they leap to her defence.
The other two members of “the squad” showed much less promise. Immediately after being sworn in as Congresswoman from Michigan, Rashida Tlaib joined the neo-con Russiagate chorus calling for the impeachment of Donald Trump on spurious charges, and during her career she has weaponised identity politics in her support for abortion, decrying the “white men trying to force women to not have the right to seek legal abortions” (nobody tell her that the governor of Alabama is a woman). Sure enough, she would call on voters to support Joe Biden. Finally we have Ayanna Pressley, Congresswoman from Massachusetts. She similarly bought into the Russiagate nonsense in calling for Trump’s impeachment, and during the primaries she supported Elizabeth Warren, acting as one of her most prominent surrogates. Later she proudly became the first member of the squad to campaign for Joe Biden.
Is it any wonder why establishmentarian liberals fawn over “the squad” so much? It’s because in fact they are willing to whore themselves out to the Democratic establishment, selling out the left for their own selfish gains and so that they can win the approval of corporate liberal media outlets. The fact that half of them were members of and endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America shows exactly what kind of liberal enterprise the DSA has turned out to be, as I suspected it might be back in 2018.
Some progressives have come to the defence of AOC. For instance Briahna Joy Gray, who otherwise is one of the good progressives and agrees that the squad should withhold their speakership vote, went on The Katie Halper Show and dismissed the idea that there is little to no distinction between the progressive Democrats and the corporate Democrats. Unfortunately for her, they in fact have a stable relationship with the Democratic establishment as its youth wing. While neoliberal fossils such as Biden and Pelosi appeal to older voters with liberal platitudes and appeals to moderation, these new liberals mobilise younger voters to support the same elite by promising “radical” economic policies, flaunting and weaponising their identity, pandering to ultraliberal cultural politics, peddling apocalyptic climate change predictions, and becoming social media influencers.
Because they were never socialists, democratic or otherwise, and nor were they even remotely muscular in their social-democratic politics, they were always fated to be a mere appendage to the Democratic Party, and now that they have served their purpose in helping Joe Biden get elected, the Democratic establishment will continue to ignore their feeble demands and sidelining them at every turn until election time comes, and AOC and “the squad” will continue serving their masters in selling out the left for a pittance, because they would much rather line their pockets with enough money to buy fancy clothes and hock ridiculously expensive merchandise than fight for the working class people who elected them.