Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, had a moment recently worth examination.
Fighting for the Working Class?
The progressive icon, who I have often criticized as being more celebrity than legislator/more mainstream than progressive, retweeted a tweet from Senator Marco Rubio.
“The railways and workers should go back and negotiate a deal that the workers, not just the union bosses, will accept,” Rubio tweeted. “I will not vote to impose a deal that doesn’t have the support of the rail workers.”
AOC retweeted Rubio’s tweet, adding “glad we are on the same page [regarding] railworkers’ paid sick days.”
The exchange speaks directly to the ongoing situation with railroad workers. (In which the Biden administration leaned on federal labor laws to avert a strike.) But the exchange also speaks more deeply to the fact that the two major parties are squaring off over the working class.
Democrats Lost the Working Class?
For a generation, guarding the working class was strictly within the purview of the left. The formula worked for all associated. The American working class was the envy of modern economies everywhere. In the U.S., the working class enjoyed wages and job security like nowhere else.
Working class ascension, is at the very heart of “The American Dream” after all. The arrangement was beneficial to the Democrats, too, who vigilantly guarded working-class interests; the Democrats, in turn, enjoyed a sizeable bloc of voters who, generally speaking, made DNC candidates viable.
But Democrats abandoned the formula, recalibrating to accommodate the interests of the professional-managerial class, allowing the New Deal to shrivel up and die, allowing the working class to shrivel up and die.
The result has been a working class that is amenable to Republican messaging. Indeed, much of the working class has migrated to the GOP. But the bloc remains contested – as the Rubio-AOC exchange contests.
It seems both parties are capable of saying what the working class wants to hear. The question now will be whether they can provide what the working class needs. The railroad situation provides a test of mettle for those professing to uphold the interests of the working class, chief amongst them AOC.
The AOC Test
AOC has done an excellent job at marketing herself as a progressive, as the champion of workers everywhere. She often says or tweets the right thing. But when it comes time to actually vote, she wavers.
For example, when she first entered office, she vowed not to vote for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House – yet AOC promptly voted for Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.
AOC vowed not to keep sending unconditional aid to Israel – yet AOC promptly voted to send more aid to Israel. Famously, she wore a “Tax the Rich” dress to the Met Gala. The irony behind the fact that she was wearing a custom dress to the Met Gala was jarring.
The Republicans, who sense an opening, and are posturing (i.e., Rubio with his tweet) are a formidable threat to Democrats hoping to reclaim working-class trust.
For one, Republicans dispense with all the woke nonsense, which Democrats have constructed their entire worldview around. Why that’s a problem for Democrats is that the woke worldview is very much an outgrowth of discrete academic curriculums and is accordingly a staple of the professional-managerial class – not the working class.
The HR departments around the country espousing the woke worldview are in elite universities, left-leaning think tanks, and corporations. Not working-class establishments. I don’t think DEI initiatives or racial commemoration months are a big priority with working-class cats, like, say, the railroad workers who are currently fighting for increased sick leave.
And second, the working class is wary of the left’s open-border talk. The working-class values protectionist trade policies – which have come to be more closely associated with the GOP. Open borders threaten the working class’s job security. At least, that’s what many believe. The political calculus remains the same: people will vote in their economic interests roughly every time.
Anyways, the race for the working class is on. The winner may well shape U.S. politics for the next generation.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. He lives in Oregon and listens to Dokken.