We all got a little window into each other’s souls (or lack thereof) this weekend with the news of Senator John McCain shuffling off this mortal coil. Though his political career and personal history have been thoroughly chronicled, it seemed everyone (especially Washington journalists who knew and adored him) felt compelled to share their sentiments about him, much of it saccharine-sweet digital nonsense.
Things took an interesting turn in the progressive-left regions of Facebook when new political superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted this out:
While everyone else was going berserk about a socialist offering high praise for a man who famously bombed the living daylights out of socialist Vietnam, my eye was caught by that middle sentence.
As a lifelong Rhode Islander, I have always had a front-row seat at the political circus known as the Kennedy family. For several terms, one of Teddy’s sons, the ne’er-do-well Patrick, was one of our Congressional representatives. (The fact that a Kennedy transplanted himself from the posh confines of Bah-stin to serve we peons in Providence perennially attracted ridicule from right-wingers.)
The Kennedy machine blended backroom compromises, cigars, and premium scotch (a tradition since Grandpa Joe imported it during Prohibition). The family brand is generally seen as progressive – i.e. anti-poverty, pro-choice – but Ted was an avid promoter of neoliberal favorites like deregulating aviation, telecom and trucking.
An internship in Ted’s office was a great career booster in government agencies and/or the Democratic Party. And it would seem from her Tweet about McCain that Ocasio-Cortez was well acquainted with the sausage-making procedurals of Washington lawmaking.
Ocasio-Cortez worked in Kennedy’s office from early 2008, when she was 19, until his death in the summer of 2009. Prior to that, she was active in the National Hispanic Institute’s Lorenzo de Zalvala Youth Legislative Session.
In the press she’s seen as someone who was radicalized by the Bernie Sanders campaign, but this is the resumé of someone who wanted to run for public office as a teenager. I’d even have to wonder if she joined DSA because she saw a wellspring for free interns and staff for a campaign she has been planning since the Dubya administration.
Certainly the “miracle primary victory” narrative is partly mythological horse shit. AOC had connections within the Democratic Party and would have been able to target a vulnerable but liberal district like Joe Crowley’s. (Yes, no matter what, he’s obviously way worse.) That’s the MO of a Kennedy operation top-to-bottom, I’ve watched them do it forever.
And with all due respect, Ocasio-Cortez’s position on health care doesn’t diverge much from her old boss’s package. Teddy was calling for single-payer Medicare in his 2006 book America Back on Track. Quite honestly, this is not so much socialism as it is New Deal/Great Society northern liberalism with a 21st century sheen.