AOC vs. Chuck Schumer: A Battle for the Soul of the Democratic Party?

October 30, 2020 Topic: AOC Blog Brand: 2020 Election Tags: AOCAlexandria Ocasio-CortezChuck SchumerDemocratsGOP

AOC vs. Chuck Schumer: A Battle for the Soul of the Democratic Party?

There are some that say AOC could 'primary' the senate minority leader. But will it even happen in the first place? 

In recent months, rumors have been swirling about a potential 2022 Democratic intraparty battle in New York between Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer over his seat in the upper chamber. AOC would have much to offer and could make it a rough race, as the progressive congresswoman has been one of the most influential members on Capitol Hill, especially among younger voters.

What Is AOCs Plan? 

Three years into her congressional career, liberals and media outlets have buzzed about what’s next for Ocasio-Cortez. In a recent piece with Vanity Fair, the congresswoman addressed New York Senate, House leadership and presidential candidacy speculations when she said, “I don’t know if I’m really going to be staying in the House forever, or if I do stay in the House, what that would look like. I don’t see myself really staying where I’m at for the rest of my life.” 

“I don’t want to aspire to a quote-unquote higher position just for the sake of that title or just for the sake of having a different or higher position. I truly make an assessment to see if I can be more effective. And so, you know, I don’t know if I could necessarily be more effective in an administration, but, for me that’s always what the question comes down to,” she added.

Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t explicitly indicated that she is searching for Schumer’s Senate seat, but her raw talent and ability to rally young Americans into the political conversation has media outlets humming about her future. 

What Is Schumer's Plan? 

Her Democratic colleague, Schumer, 69, is “one of the most influential and powerful politicians in Washington.” He was elected to office in 1975 when he served as a New York State assemblyman and then assumed a seat in the House of Representatives for eighteen years. In 1998, Schumer was elected to the Senate where he’s spent time pursuing national issues, as well as staying laser-focused on local problems in New York.

According to Fox News, Schumer visits Brooklyn on weekends and often holds press conferences to deal with constituent issues. 

The minority leader ended March with almost $10 million in the bank and has been the driving engine for Democrats to resist GOP-dominated legislation in the Senate, especially during the coronavirus pandemic and boiled economic crisis.

AOC's Primary History: 

But it’s not a secret that Ocasio-Cortez -- the youngest congresswoman to enter Congress at age 29 -- brutally defeated former Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) in the 2018 primary race even when he was labeled as the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House and served for nearly two decades, marking his loss the most significant for a Democratic incumbent in ten years.

At the time, she was seen as an outspoken, progressive politician who fueled a campaign with an aggressive social media presence, as she advocated for proposals such as Medicare for All and abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. During her primary run, Ocasio-Cortez radically refused corporate PAC donations and was endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, and often argued that Crowley, a middle-aged, white male -- similar to Schumer -- couldn’t appeal to a diverse community.

Although far-left ideology in New York has fought to translate a local win like Ocasio-Cortez’s statewide -- when Hillary Clinton brutally swiped the state’s support against Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the 2016 presidential primary and how Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat that’s resisted the far-left, is serving his third term -- the 2020 Democratic primaries did indicate a changing political landscape for New York. Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), a 16-term incumbent, lost to Jamaal Bowman, a liberal, first-term candidate and middle school principal, by more than fourteen percent. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) won narrowly against Suraj Patel, a Democrat who’s more left of the incumbent. 

Ocasio-Cortez also decisively defeated her more ideologically-centered political opponent, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, a former CNBC anchor who was endorsed by the US Chamber of Commerce.

These liberal wins could indicate energy from the far-left that goes beyond Ocasio-Cortez and members of “the Squad” -- a group of progressive congresswomen in the House who landed in the national spotlight after the 2018 elections.

Why This Race Won't Happen: 

Experts, however, remain skeptical of Schumer facing a primary challenge against Ocasio-Cortez, noting that it could be the “last thing she’d want to do,” according to Jonathan Krasno, associate professor of political science at Binghamton University, said.

“The chance that she might consider it puts pressure on Schumer to head her off for no matter how confident he might be, he'd rather not take any risks at all. Or start a family squabble,” Krasno said. “For AOC, I've got to think the last thing she'd want to do is run and lose a Senate primary just as her political career is getting started. Maybe she makes a comeback, but she's doing well in the House and has a lot in front of her.”

Although she might be able to mobilize resources from supporters, especially from grassroots donations like Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez would face a striking battle against Schumer who has a significant presence in not only statewide politics, but also national politics. 

“Of course, he could look a bit like Joe Crowley...except that he's a better fit for N[ew] Y[ork] S[enate] than Crowley was for his House dist,” Krasno added.

Rachel Bucchino is a reporter at the National Interest. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report and The Hill.

Image: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., questions Postmaster General Louis DeJoy during the House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing titled "Protecting the Timely Delivery of Mail, Medicine, and Mail-in Ballots," in Rayburn House Office Building on Monday, August 24, 2020. Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS.