Side Note

Ocasio-Cortez sees potential for a Freedom Caucus of the left

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the socialist organizer and politician who unseated 19-year congressman Joe Crowley in a primary in her Bronx district last month, is considering pushing for a progressive voting bloc in the U.S. House that would back left-leaning legislation.

That’s reminiscent of the 31-person House Freedom Caucus, which has helped to usher in the retirement of former House speaker John Boehner and has used its influence to torpedo legislation like the American Health Care Act, Paul Ryan’s proposed Obamacare replacement last March.

Though a progressive caucus already exists in the House — the 78-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, which was founded in 1991 — it is far less cohesive and less militant than the Freedom Caucus. During the Obamacare debate in 2009, for instance, progressive House members who insisted they would only support the legislation if it included a public insurance option all relented by the final vote.

In an interview with Jacobin, Ocasio-Cortez said “there’s potential” for creating a progressive bloc in the House that can be more aggressive about left-leaning legislation. “The thing that gives a caucus power is that they can operate as a bloc vote to get things done. Even if you can carve out a sub-caucus of the Progressive Caucus, a smaller bloc but one that operates as a bloc, then you can generate real power,” Ocasio-Cortez said. The key is to find a group of progressives who will always vote together, no matter the costs: “The thing that gives the Freedom Caucus power is not their size but their cohesion.”

But according to The Intercept, which interviewed several members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus about the possibility of a Freedom Caucus for the left, “progressives, even those at the edge of the party’s spectrum, are much less willing to shoot the hostage than ultra-conservatives.” Because government action is essential to progressive ideology, progressives are much less willing to accept the price of inaction than hardcore conservatives who are set on curbing government however possible.