Because Democratic politicians are haunted by the ghost of Joe Crowley, the incumbent Ocasio-Cortez defeated (boldface mine):
August had been a challenge for the party’s rank-and-file, as activists and angry citizens back home browbeat them at town halls, grocery stores, and local events for the party’s unwillingness to impeach President Donald Trump. “We spent all summer getting the shit kicked out of us back home,” said one Democrat who received such treatment….
But there was a bigger problem, Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., told his colleagues that day. Raskin, the highest-ranking progressive on the periphery of leadership, is a constitutional attorney and had long been calling for impeachment on principle. But politics now mattered too, he argued, and the party’s passivity was causing real political pain for rank-and-file members of Congress, particularly those holding back support of impeachment to honor the party leadership’s opposition to it. In order to placate a small handful of frontliners — perhaps as few as seven or eight — the entire party was being dragged down and routinely humiliated by Trump’s contempt for the rule of law.
That grassroots anger was translating into primary challenges, he noted, and needlessly furious constituents. Rep. Cheri Bustos, the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and a champion of doing nothing when it came to Trump, had recently counted as many as 111 primaries, by far more than a typical cycle. The members without official primary challenges were by no means safe, either, as they might soon draw a challenge unless the trajectory of the politics changed. Freshman Lori Trahan from Massachusetts, for instance, came out for impeachment after Dan Koh, whom she beat in a primary by 147 votes in 2018, called on her to do so, with the clear threat that he may run again. The seats of upward of 200 Democrats were being put at risk to protect a handful of loud frontliners, Raskin argued, and it wasn’t obvious that the strategy was actually protecting them from anything. Grassroots activists were demobilizing, Democrats across the board were facing primary challenges, and somehow, someway, Democrats seemed to be losing, again, to Trump. Something had to give….
Patience also wore thin as the politics of passivity no longer seem to be benefiting even frontliners, as the demobilization of the Democratic base began to look like an existential electoral concern. And the arguments some frontliners were making on behalf of doing nothing had gotten increasingly strained. “It’s not hard at all to demand impeachment,” one argued to colleagues. “What actually takes courage is not demanding impeachment.”
The same frontliners who had been the most vocal against pursuing impeachment had also generally been the ones most hostile publicly and internally toward the Squad. As more of the caucus began to see passivity rather than radicalism as the party’s bigger problem, the caucus moved away from the idea that the Squad was going to be their death knell, and even some frontliners grew less patient with internal attacks on them.
I say this as a life-long Democrat, if they are not afraid of us, they will not respond to us. I wish we could appeal to the angels of their better nature, but the evidence to date for that strategy is not compelling. And it is possible to pressure them from the left, as Ocasio-Cortez has shown (and it is probably no small coincidence that Judiciary Committee Chairman Nadler became more aggressive about impeachment after he received primary challenges). Democratic politicians need our votes too, and on issues where our views are popular (and many of them are, despite conventional wisdom), we can push them in our direction.
We just have to be willing to do it.