I arrived just as Cynthia Nixon started a TV hit, the camera’s bright lights blazing through the doors of the Park Billiards Bar and Cafe. In a dimly lit pool hall in the Bronx, the Sex and the City star turned New York gubernatorial candidate was basking in a surprise political victory alongside regulars from the leftist podcast Chapo Trap House, several reporters from The Intercept, some of the Democratic Party’s biggest critics, and — most importantly — a galaxy of leftist activists from organizations like the Democratic Socialists of America.
They were all there to celebrate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28 year-old Bronx native whose victory over longtime incumbent Joe Crowley had just rocked the political world. Her upset win had left the pundit class breathless and prognosticating about the future of the Democratic Party, but progressives in the Bronx were downing shots and ordering buckets of Coronas. They didn’t need to discuss the future of the party because they’d already seen it for months, canvassing across the Bronx and Queens. They knew Ocasio-Cortez’s unique magnetism and raw political talent. They’d featured her on their podcasts and websites. They’d knocked on doors and phone banked for her campaign, creating the movement that downed Crowley’s once-mighty “Queens machine” — and the national democratic establishment he represented.
That night, their candidate became a national media star. One of the most exciting Democrats to enter the national political arena since Barack Obama walked onto the stage at the 2004 Democratic Convention and proclaimed there was no red America or blue America. Fourteen years and one Donald Trump later, there’s obviously a red America and a blue America, and Ocasio-Cortez speaks for the bluest corners of the country, clearly and with force.