U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12) was reëlected as House Speaker on 3 January 2021. Her speakership was the target of a pressure politics campaign launched by comedian Jimmy Dore in a bid to compel a floor vote for Medicare For All. The campaign revealed how self-described progressives placed their loyalty to Speaker Pelosi before their commitment to a single-payer, universal healthcare system, even during a deadly pandemic. C-Span (Screen Shot) (Fair Use)

AOC, DSA try to move beyond unexpected social media fracas that challenged their progressive credentials, tested their loyalty to Pelosi over Medicare For All

Letter From New York

AOC, DSA mum after #ForceTheVote Twitter hashtag campaign failed to compel the Squad from extracting a promised vote for Medicare For All from incoming Speaker Pelosi.

By Progress New York Staff

The darlings of New York’s progressive wing of the Democratic Party, U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY 14) and the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, are keeping silent one week after they were unmasked for having put their loyalty to party leaders ahead of forcing a House vote on the Medicare for All Act of 2019 (H.R. 1384) during the Coronavirus pandemic.

For weeks leading up to the 3 January 2021 election of U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA 12) as House speaker, comedian and YouTube political commentator Jimmy Dore began producing videos of his YouTube talk show, demanding that self-styled Congressional progressives in the Democratic Party withhold their votes for U.S. Rep. Pelosi as House speaker until she promised a floor vote on the Medicare For All bill. Mr. Dore’s idea began to gain steam late in November by forcing progressive House members, including from the Squad, to reveal who they answered to : average citizens, who supported Medicare For All, or corporate donors. Next, he highlighted the ineffectiveness of U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI 2), the then-co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus. On or about the same time, he challenged U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez to force a vote for the Medicare For All bill, too.

During Mr. Dore’s campaign, Twitter became ablaze. Despite the Twitter trending of both Mr. Dore’s name and the hashtag that came to represent his campaign, #ForceTheVote, no Squad member voted against U.S. Rep. Pelosi’s speakership. When corporate media announced U.S. Rep. Pelosi’s election as House speaker, those news reports largely ignored Mr. Dore’s campaign.

For this report, U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and the New York City chapter of the DSA did not answer media requests before a press deadline.

Before winning election in 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez got a lot of mileage out of then U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY 14) skipping a public debate. Before her first term was up, it was U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez's turn to skip the public debate over the fight for Medicare For All. (Fair Use)

To obfuscate for AOC, the DSA had to ignore its own pressure guide to force a vote on Medicare For All.

During Mr. Dore’s social media campaign over YouTube and Twitter, he used U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s own words against her by quoting a tweet in which she wrote, “The whole point of protesting is to make ppl uncomfortable,” adding of critics of pressure politics campaigns, “To folks who complain protest demands make others uncomfortable… that’s the point.”

In response to Mr. Dore’s pressure politics campaign in support of Medicare For All, U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez described criticism she began receiving as “violence.” For their part, DSA members began to promote the one-house bill for expanded healthcare in New York State, known as the New York Health Act, which is allegedly blocked from passage by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY).

The DSA’s deliberate attempts to confuse the public reached the point where the Democratic Party’s honey pot for activists was revealed by Mr. Dore to be ignoring its own pressure guide to support Medicare For All, which stated, “A floor vote in the House will force representatives to finally reveal whether they’re on the side of healthcare profiteers or the side of the working class.”

After U.S. Rep. Pelosi was elected House speaker, Mr. Dore and others began referring to the Squad as the #FraudSquad.

At a protest, the artist and YouTube political commentator Suzannah B. Troy dressed in costume as then New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Chelsea), who faced criticism from activists over political betrayals made in exchange for access to then-billionaire Mayor Michael Bloomberg (R-NYC).

Pressure politics campaign can succeed, but they face obstruction and undermining by establishment interests.

Mr. Dore’s pressure politics campaign against U.S. Rep. Pelosi was not her first. When she was last House speaker, U.S. Rep. Pelosi buckled under a direct action campaign spearheaded by former U.S. Army Lt. Daniel Choi, who, with a group of activists, engaged in civil disobedience in front of the White House and in the offices of Speaker Pelosi until then-President Barack Obama (D) eventually permitted a legislative repeal of the U.S. Armed Services’ discriminatory policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Lt. Choi and others faced criticism from the establishment LGBTQ groups commonly derided as Gay, Inc.

In New York State, many LGBTQ civil rights activists have credited the up-or-down vote for marriage equality, which was lost in the New York State Senate in 2009, as a rallying point for activism that within weeks led to a civil disobedience protest by a newly-formed activism group, Queer Rising, which sparked the final organising streak to pass the marriage equality bill in New York. The failed 2009 vote also led to election losses for several New York State Senators, who had voted down same-sex marriage. Before eventual passage of the marriage equality bill in New York, Gov. Cuomo, who has been described in the past to be homophobic, took control of the final legislative lobbying for the bill, so that he could take sole credit for its passage.

In the wake of the social media maelstrom for Medicare For All, U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was described as a hypocrite. For its part, the DSA faced criticism from Danny Haiphong, a contributing editor to Black Agenda Report, that the DSA was encumbered by its refusal to deal with the baggage of sectarian politics that plagues New York City activism circles. Elsewhere, the DSA faced criticism that it was a clone of, albeit perhaps a step up from, the Working Families Party. The drag queen and recording artist Lady Bunny on Twitter questioned whether the motives to block a vote on Medicare For All had to do with corporation donations that the Democratic Party receives from insurance companies.

As President-elect Joseph Biden (D) is set to take back the helm of Washington from right-wing conservatives, some activists in New York City are left to wonder whether U.S. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez may be undergoing the quickest transformation from a progressive operative to establishment Democrat since the career of Christine Quinn.

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