Last week’s congressional primaries in New York produced a stunner. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a literal card-carrying member of the Democratic Socialists of America, crushed a 10-term incumbent who had been a possible successor to Nancy Pelosi. There are actually 435 Democratic Socialists running for the House, but Ocasio-Cortez is the only one who admits it. So it’s tempting to laud her honesty. Or at least it was until a few days ago.
The Ocasio-Cortez campaign featured a poorly funded but scrappy newcomer describing herself as a “girl from the Bronx.” Alas, that last part was a bit of an omission. Ocasio-Cortez actually moved to wealthy Yorktown when she was five years of age, a detail that got lost in translation when the campaign printed flyers in English. After being called out, Ocasio-Cortez said this yesterday to the Daily Mail:
“At a young age, my entire extended family (aunts, grandparents, etc) chipped in on a down payment for a small home in Yorktown so I could go to public school there. My mom was as a house cleaner for other people in the town so we could get by.”
She thus conveyed an unintended message: school choice works — for those who have it. Ocasio-Cortez’s parents, along with her extended family, moved heaven and Earth for her to escape a crappy school in a crappy neighborhood so that she could attend a school that brought out her best and prepared her for success at Boston University.
Good for them, and good for her.
So what about single parents — often women and often immigrants — who want a better education for their children but don’t have an extended family to “chip in” for a home in a better district? And what about the many parents each year who recognize, as Ocasio-Cortez does, that “the zip code a child is born in determines much of their opportunity” and are so desperate to even the odds for their kids that they end up in the slammer for zip code fraud?
Ocasio-Cortez could be their champion. But she hasn’t been, because even after the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, los sindicatos, not la gente, are the Democrats’ shot callers. And while a third of those in teachers unions rely on charter schools, private schools, or homeschooling for their kids rather than the public schools in which they teach, their iron rule is “choice for me but not for thee” (unless, of course, the “choice” conversation drifts towards the subject of unborn children).
Someone with ambitions higher than the House should reconsider. There aren’t enough socialists to win the presidency — not yet at least. If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez worried less about wealthy white Bernie Bros and more about parents trying to choose their children’s schools — and their children’s destinies — she would likely find legions of supporters in unexpected places, far beyond the Bronx, and far beyond the hard-left of the Democratic Party.