After the 2020 census, the nation’s electoral districts will be redrawn and it’s a widely accepted fact that New York City will lose a seat, despite its growth since the 2010 census.
Ocasio-Cortez’s district is a thoroughly gerrymandered Democratic safe seat, which is why her primary challenge was effectively an early election: whomever holds the Democratic nomination in New York’s 14th automatically goes to Congress (which is how her predecessor Joe Crowley was “elected” ten times in a row).
New York’s districting is controlled by a powerful, secretive Democratic machine, the kind of Democratic establishment figures whom Ocasio-Cortez has been criticizing, and whose candidates Ocasio-Cortez has been helping to ouster through primary challenges, with the threat of more on the horizon for the 2020 elections.
Combine these three facts — an NYC seat being eliminated, a gerrymandered district, and the burning hatred of the Democratic establishment who control the district boundaries — and Ocasio-Cortez is right to be worried that her seat will be eliminated in two years.
Even though NY Dems would claim that this is just business as usual and nothing personal, the decision to eliminate Ocasio-Cortez’s seat would be intensely personal, and political. She has been a thorn in the side of the establishment since she got on the scene, and her short Congressional career has marked her out as someone who shouts the unutterable truths that no one was willing to mention in polite society, and that the tactic works. Ocasio-Cortez has shown herself to be willing to upend the “natural order” of politics and cost some very powerful people a lot of money, even turning them into pariahs for having accumulated that money in the first place, and she’s shown that she has a very good chance of succeeding.
The natural rebuttal is that Ocasio-Cortez’s incredible popularity and ability to galvanize public support is an asset that Democrats should welcome — but the reality is that the Democratic policies Ocasio-Cortez favors (an end to the hydrocarbon industries, clawing back inequality through steeply progressive taxes, ending corruption) are anethema to the Democratic establishment. The power-brokers in the Dems would rather that the Democratic party loses than that it win and do the things that Ocasio-Cortez wants it to do.
So yes, Ocasio-Cortez should be worried about a stab in the back from the Cuomoites and other New York Democratic machine figures. But as Aída Chávez notes on The Intercept: “Ocasio-Cortez could just run, and probably win, in any nearby New York City district the party may try to draw for her.” And if that wasn’t enough, she could always just primary Chuck Schumer and become a Senator.
Indeed, Ocasio-Cortez could just run, and probably win, in any nearby New York City district the party may try to draw for her. She noted that when it comes to future redistricting, she’s in a unique situation because her name recognition is so strong “that even when I won my primary in New York [District] 14, we won like a third ballot, a third-party primary in a different congressional district the same day.” And that was in November 2018, before an endless media cycle that has been all Ocasio-Cortez, all the time.
Moving her into a different district would pit her against another incumbent Democrat, and that Democrat has an incentive to avoid that race. ”Maybe some people wouldn’t want trouble for themselves,” she noted.
Another reason not to target Ocasio-Cortez would be Chuck Schumer. The Democratic Senate minority leader, and a major player in New York politics, is up for re-election in 2022. The commission redrawing the lines may be technically independent, but Schumer’s power is no secret. If Ocasio-Cortez were gerrymandered out of the House, she’d need something new to do — and primarying Schumer would be an obvious option on the table. That could make Schumer Ocasio-Cortez’s strongest advocate at the redistricting negotiating table.
New York Democrats Could Eliminate Ocasio-Cortez’s District After 2020 [Aída Chávez/The Intercept]
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