Democrats’ Anti-Wall Street Wing Just Won a Major Victory

(Bloomberg) -- The Democratic party’s anti-Wall Street wing won a major victory Tuesday.

New York voters denied longtime House Democratic Caucus chairman Joe Crowley an 11th term, instead backing 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic socialist and former organizer for Senator Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign.

"It’s time we acknowledge that not all Democrats are the same," Ocasio-Cortez said in her viral campaign announcement video.

She called for reviving the Glass-Steagall Act, the Depression era-law that kept investment banking and consumer lending separate for more than six decades until it was scrapped in 1999. Some lawmakers blame the repeal for contributing to the 2008 meltdown, an argument that Wall Street flatly rejects.

More broadly, Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign borrowed Sanders’s call for a "political revolution" and focused on policies popular with his core supporters: a federal jobs program, Medicare health coverage for all, tuition-free public college and an overhaul of campaign finance reform.

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As she campaigned for a district that includes Queens and part of the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez criticized luxury real estate developments for reducing the availability of affordable housing in New York. Crowley received about $310,000 from the real estate industry, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

Ocasio-Cortez has also rejected calls by House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi for a pay-as-you-go approach in which any spending increases would be covered by higher taxes or cuts in entitlement programs such as Social Security.

"The idea that we’re going to austerity ourselves into prosperity is so mistaken, and honestly I feel like one of the big problems we have is that, because Democrats don’t have a deep understanding of or degrees in economics," she told In These Times, a magazine that says it’s dedicated to advancing “economic justice.” "They allow Wall Street folks to roll in the door and think that they’re giving them an education. They’re not."

Her platform resonates with some core Democratic voters, and many of the party’s possible leaders have taken note. Several Democrats considered to be potential presidential candidates in 2020 have backed the idea of a federal jobs guarantee, and 16 Senate Democrats backed Sanders’s bill to expand Medicare to all U.S. residents. A similar bill in the House has 122 co-sponsors, including Crowley.

On immigration, however, Ocasio-Cortez joins a growing number of liberal Democrats who have gone further than most party members and called for abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement. During a debate with Crowley this month, Ocasio-Cortez called on him to adopt her stance to abolish the agency. Crowley, who described ICE as "fascist," didn’t join her call for its elimination.

"Simply abolishing the agency doesn’t take it out of the hands of Jeff Sessions or this president," Crowley said. "We know it’s about making change in Washington."

After the Trump administration shifted its policy to separate undocumented families arrested on the U.S.-Mexico border, ending the agency has become a rallying cry.

Senator Kamala Harris, a California Democrat often floated as a potential 2020 presidential candidate, said this month that it may need to be rethought.

"I think there’s no question that we’ve got to critically reexamine ICE," Harris said on MSNBC. "And we need to probably think about starting from scratch."

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