Jon Ossoff isn't known as a progressive firebrand, or as much of a mercurial character more generally. But he may have just offered a glimpse of the future of the Democratic Party in another way. One feature of the new generation of stars on the left like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is that they now how to land a punch. There is a penalty for coming at them with bad-faith bullshit in a way that there was not—is not—with the older generations of Democrats. In the worst cases, the party elders are hopped up on pipe dreams of Third Way Bipartisan Compromise and, relatedly, a kind of primal fear of the ghost of Ronald Reagan. They've found 1984 very difficult to forget. There are exceptions in the older ranks—Ed Markey comes to mind—but this flinching impulse has often been inherited by the Gen X Democrats as well. It has not made it into the DNA of the AOCs of the world. Or, it seems, the Jon Ossoffs. They'll hit you in the jaw.
Ossoff, a former Democratic operative and current executive at an investigative journalism outfit, hit the national scene in 2017 when he narrowly lost a special election to fill the seat in Georgia's Sixth Congressional District vacated by Republican Tom Price, who'd gone to serve as President Trump's first Secretary of Health and Human Services. (Price quickly vacated that role, too, amid a cloud of ethics scandals—a feature of the current administration.) It was the most expensive congressional race in history, as Democrats poured their earliest Resistance hopes into his determinedly centrist campaign. Now he's up against Senator David Perdue, a Republican trying to hold onto his seat amid insider-trading allegations and other ethics questions by yelling that Ossoff has "a radical socialist agenda." At their second debate on Wednesday night, Ossoff hit him in the jaw.
Seriously, this is the most West Wing moment I’ve ever seen in real life. Just brutal. pic.twitter.com/C2LeZefbZl
— Joshua Holland 🔥 (@JoshuaHol) October 29, 2020
"It's not just that you're a crook, Senator..."
It's about time Democrats stopped cowering in the corner, mewing that they aren't socialists, actually. Plus, this line of attack has the benefit of being true. There is quite a bit of reason to think that Perdue is crooked. (Not unlike his cousin, Sonny, currently facing ethics questions of his own in his role as Secretary of Agriculture, having faced similar allegations when he was governor of Georgia.) The senator is also undoubtedly committed, like the rest of his party, to destroying the Affordable Care Act and its protections for people with pre-existing conditions. During a pandemic. Also, the Republican bills to replace those protections after Republican state attorneys general—backed by the Trump administration—try to get the bill thrown out by the Supreme Court just after Election Day are riddled with holes. And Perdue has been part of the miserable COVID-19 response from the federal government. It's all true.
The Grand Old Party of today might be the inevitable ideological spawn of Ronald Reagan's Republican Party, in all its anti-intellectualism and unreason and racial grievance and extreme splinter Protestantism, but this ain't Ronald Reagan's America anymore. The demographics are changing, the country's needs are changing, the way we live and work and communicate is changing. In many cases, these changes suck in new and exciting ways. But the time has come for one of our political parties to step forward and make the affirmative case for the state to play a role in shaping our economy and our society in this new world. (Ossoff, it should be said, probably has some work to do on this front.) The magic of free markets have left us with exploding inequality, successive years of falling life expectancy, rampant monopolization and consolidation of corporate power, collapsing public faith in our institutions, and a planet that's growing increasingly inhospitable to human civilization as we know it.
It is up to the Democrats to become that party. The Republican Party is, at present, beyond all redemption. The Republican currently occupying the other Georgia Senate seat, Kelly Loeffler, also faced an insider-trading probe, but moreover, she is a plutocrat drone so devoid of vision and charisma that she's turned to playing footsie with QAnon to try to get to a runoff in her own race. Her main Republican opponent in that jungle-style special election is Doug Collins, whose closing pitch includes rolling out endorsements from a Justice League of dunces from the Fox News Cinematic Universe. The kind of people still willing to operate in Republican politics are not the kind of people who are going to lead us out of this world-historical peril we're in. There is no choice here, really, unless Democrats fail to step forward and make their case—forcefully, without compromise, and, if necessary, with righteous venom.
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