Conservative media outlets and right-wing figures had trouble processing New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s primary win Wednesday morning.
Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Democratic socialist, ran on a platform of Medicare for all, tuition-free higher education, criminal justice reform, and called for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency to be abolished. On Tuesday evening, she beat out incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) for the state’s 14th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
She faces off with Republican Anthony Pappas in the general election this November.
Wednesday morning, conservative media figures across the board appeared both shell-shocked and upset by Ocasio-Cortez’s primary victory.
“I don’t just question the patriotism of the ‘abolish ICE’ movement. I question their sanity, and the danger I see is that it’s become a mainstream view,” said Michelle Malkin, host of Conservative Review’s Michelle Malkin Investigates, during an interview on Fox & Friends.
Referring to the recent round of protests against members of the Trump administration over their support of the president’s family separation policy, Malkin said, “Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democrat Socialists of America. This is the same group that organized the protests against [Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen] at the restaurant. These are shrieking radicals who oppose any immigration enforcement. It’s not just that they want to reduce the 20,000 workforce of ICE or reform it somehow. They want to abolish it. That is clear.”
Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo shared similar views during a Fox News panel Wednesday morning, claiming radical progressives had hijacked the Democratic Party.
“I think it’s really important to take a look at what happened in the Democratic party,” she said. “This huge upset ousting Crowley — you wonder if this is actually furthering the Democratic Party even further left. I mean, I feel this party has been hijacked by the extreme left, and I think that has been the issue with a lot of upsets and the debate going on. If this is portending to further further movements to the left, I think the party is in trouble.”
Former CNN contributor and current national GOP spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany echoed those comments, speaking with Fox Business host Stuart Varney.
“This is stunning. The Democratic Party hidden agenda has always been socialism — open borders, college for all, things that we know don’t work,” she said. “It’s been the hidden agenda. Last night, it became the central rallying cry. It’s amazing that they’re so transparent in their motives to become Europe and to become a socialist country.”
McEnany posted similar thoughts on her personal Twitter account as well, writing, “Socialism used to be the hidden agenda of the Democratic party. Now, it is their campaign rallying cry!”
Ocasio-Cortez, for her part, claims her views aren’t all that extreme. During an interview with NPR’s Morning Edition Wednesday morning, following her primary victory, she explained her stance on ICE, saying,
What we’re basically saying is that the structure of ICE — in a similar manner as the structure of the Patriot Act — is kind of built on a scaffolding of questionable civil liberties infringement and abuse. So what we’re really talking about is re-imagining immigration to be humane, and in a way that is transparent and accountable.
In an earlier interview with Vogue Monday, Ocasio-Cortez noted that Democratic socialism at its core bears little resemblance to the movement conservatives have described using fear-mongering talking points.
“When we talk about the word socialism, I think what it really means is just democratic participation in our economic dignity, and our economic, social, and racial dignity,” she said. “It is about direct representation and people actually having power and stake over their economic and social wellness, at the end of the day. To me, what socialism means is to guarantee a basic level of dignity.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign was largely based on those same ideals, painting herself as a candidate of the people who brought a unique viewpoint to an otherwise stale Democratic platform.
“Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office,” she said in a popular campaign video back in May, describing herself as a working-class New Yorker. “I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family…. I was born in place where your zipcode determines your destiny.”
She added, “After 20 years of the same representation, we have to ask, ‘Who has New York been changing for?… It’s clear that these changes haven’t been for us, and we deserve a champion. It’s time to fight for a New York that working families can afford.”
That message apparently resonated with voters. As ThinkProgress reported Tuesday night, Oscasio-Cortez’s margin of victory on election night was so large, she claimed victory over Crowley’s campaign before any major media outlet had called the race. “We beat a machine with a movement,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez faces her Republican challenger on November 6. She is almost guaranteed to win: the district has gone to a Democrat in the last nine elections.