New York. New York. “If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere” is becoming a problem among Rep. Ro Khanna’s bid to be the darling of progressives across the country.
When Khanna announced he would expand his progressive credential by joining the Justice Democrats last year, a group of progressive candidates espousing an alternative to business-as-usual Democrats, it set a course for removing doubt, primarily within his own district, that he is truly a progressive. Khanna became the first elected official to become a Justice Democrat.
Progressives are livid with Khanna’s endorsement of an establishment N.Y. congressman
But a turning point came last week, when Khanna did not endorse the Justice Democrat running in this Tuesday’s contentious New York primary against incumbent 14th District Rep. Joe Crowley.
On the same day as Khanna’s own primary victory on June 5, progressives howled when he tweeted an endorsement of Crowley over Justice Democrat candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. An online petition quickly called for the Justice Democrats to boot Khanna from their ranks.
Then, after an online furor commenced, Khanna offered support for both candidates, but not before a somewhat surreal conversation last Friday on Twitter between Khanna and actress and activist Susan Sarandon, in which he admitted not knowing anything about Ocasio-Cortez before endorsing Crowley.
Khanna may have felt offering fealty to Crowley will payoff later. Crowley is one of a small group of House Democrats often mentioned as replacements for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi if Democrats win back the House in November. In this scenario, Khanna’s horse-trading could potentially secure him a plum committee assignment next year.
Khanna also received blowback in May 2017 after joining the Justice Democrats with opponents slamming him for previously voicing support for Pelosi contiuing on as leader of the Democrats in the House over a number of progressive upstarts.
But in the near-term, Khanna’s misstep comes at a time when progressives, at least, within in his own 17th Congressional District, appear to be fully accepting his progressive platform, following a divisive election campaign in 2016 against former Rep. Mike Honda.
In the background of last week’s revolt by progressives against Khanna was an incident closer to home when his district director made a comment that could perceived as disparaging Honda. The comment made before the Fremont City Council on June 12 referenced Honda’s past House ethics investigation with a sneering tone.