An iron rule governs mainstream-media political coverage: Even when Democrats are winning, they’re losing. So in the absence of a big upset win by Danny O’Connor over Troy Balderson in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District Tuesday night—the young Democrat trails by just 1,700 votes with thousands of provisional ballots to be counted, a clear rebuke to Republicans who outspent Democrats four to one in a district Trump carried by 11 points—the media has bad news for progressives: Democrats are dramatically divided, and their left flank is flailing.
At least five big articles have made that point in the last 24 hours: “Democratic Party’s liberal insurgency hits a wall in Midwest primaries,” The Washington Post declared. “The far left is losing,” U.S. News & World Report screamed. Politico hit the story twice, with “Down goes socialism” and “Bernie and his army are losing 2018.” CNN weighed in with “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s movement failed to deliver any stunners Tuesday night.”
All of these articles are themselves a correction to an earlier false media narrative: that the victory of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over Democratic stalwart Joe Crowley in a Queens-Bronx district heralded a radical makeover of the party in the image of Sanders and AOC, as she’s now affectionately known. That was silly: Ocasio-Cortez owed her victory to hard work; a clear, appealing message; a sharp, talented messenger; and the felony incompetence of the Democratic machine in Queens and the Bronx, which didn’t take the young socialist challenger’s bid seriously until it was too late. Her message offers hope to other young leftists primarying long-in-the-tooth, complacent Democrats in urban districts. But it tells us little about the future of the Democratic Party outside of two New York boroughs.
Nevertheless, that media narrative was enough to bait centrists into declaring war on Ocasio-Cortez. The irrelevant Joe Lieberman, who left the Democratic Party and endorsed John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008, urged Crowley to run against her on the Working Families line. Sensibly, Crowley declined; just as the left declined to be baited into debating Lieberman, and his effort to split his former party barely made a ripple in the political waters.