The Story Too Many Reporters Are Missing in the Democratic Primary Results

Without a doubt, the most important story to emerge so far from the Democratic primaries is that women are running in record numbers, they’re doing it their own way, and they’re winning. Embedded within that story is the fact that many of them are women of color.

You sure wouldn’t know that from most of the coverage about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s defeat of incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley yesterday. For example:

James Hohmann:

The Democratic civil war, which has been raging in proxy battles across the country since Hillary Clinton struggled to fend off Bernie Sanders two years ago, claimed the scalp Tuesday of the No. 4 in House leadership — who very plausibly might have become the speaker next year.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — a 28-year-old activist who organized for Bernie in 2016, identifies as a socialist and was a bartender just last year — toppled New York Rep. Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent who chairs the House Democratic Caucus and controls the political machine in Queens.

It was not just the most surprising result across the seven states that held primaries yesterday but the biggest upset of 2018 thus far. It foreshadows fights to come over what it means to be a Democrat in the age of President Trump.

New York Times:

Her victory is a stunning illustration of the energy on the left this year, and an echo of the Republican primaries in 2014 that saw another aspiring speaker of the House, Eric Cantor of Virginia, felled by an upstart on the right.

In a world where white patriarchy wasn’t the lens through which we viewed most political events, the stories might have been about a Puerto Rican woman who, up until nine months ago was tending a bar at a Mexican restaurant, won a primary in a district that is 47 percent Hispanic, 11.4 percent African American, and 16.5 percent Asian against a white male incumbent. But instead, the four excerpts above from major national media outlets were written by white men who demonstrated that the old bias still holds in many circles.

Take a look at how the candidate herself responded when asked questions that tried to put her in the frame constructed by the media these days.

It is true that Ocasio-Cortez ran on medicare for all, tuition-free public college, a federal jobs guarantee, and criminal justice reform. Those are all things that will be discussed among Democrats when/if they take back control of Congress. As I’ve suggested for a while now, the Democratic Party is blessed with a plethora of ideas for how to reach their shared goals around equal opportunity for all. That is what diversity looks like and no one should mistake it for a Democratic civil war.

Whether it’s a Puerto Rican woman representing the Bronx and Queens or a Native American woman representing the people in the first congressional district of New Mexico, the truth is that the Democratic Party is changing in much the same way the country is changing, while the Republicans are attempting to tap into the fears associated with the demise of white patriarchy. That is the story a lot of reporters missed in covering this race.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.