The Cortez curiosity

New York’s 14th Congressional District politics is a lot like the old Arkansas situation: Whoever prevails in the Democratic primary by default is the general election winner.

The 14th District’s seat is deep-sea blue through-and-through. The hapless and hopeless plight of Republican candidates in that district is illustrated best by the 2018 campaign finance report. Incumbent Joseph Crawley reported spending $5 million on his failed re-election bid in the primary. In the general election, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reported $1.7 million spent on her campaign.

The total reported amount spent by Anthony Pappas, the Republican candidate, was $2,500. He lost by 64 percentage points.

Except for a short stint during the Reagan era, the 14th District has been solidly Democratic since 1927. No Republican presidential candidate since 2000 has gotten more than 25 percent of the vote. The victory spreads have been extremely lopsided: 47 points for Gore, 49 points for Kerry, 57 and 63 points for Obama, and 57 points for Hillary Clinton.

If indeed Democrats trotted out a yellow dog in the 14th, it would beat Republicans like a drum.

Even though the district is populous (it includes part of the Bronx and Queens), Ocasio-Cortez only garnered 16,898 votes in the primary. For perspective, the mayor of Jonesboro won re-election with 11,465 votes.

New York seats 27 members in the U.S. House of Representatives, 21 of which are Democrats. Of New York Democrats who won election to the House in 2018, all but one were sent to Washington with more votes than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Each of the 435 U.S. House congressional districts represents an average of around 747,000 people. The average general election vote tally for Democratic winners in U.S. House races in New York was 156,650.

Ocasio-Cortez, aka AOC (a wishful subliminal nod to FDR and JFK, perhaps) polled only 110,318 votes in her district, which was listed with a population 691,813 in 2017. She polled fewer votes than three losing Republican candidates: John Faso in NY District 19, Claudia Tenney in District 22 and James Maxwell in District 25.

Nationwide, the average vote count for Democratic congressional candidates elected to the 116th Congress was more than 227,450.

To come to the House of Representatives with one of her party’s lowest voter support records isn’t, by itself, abnormal. Somebody has to be near the bottom in any counting of votes. The oddity is AOC’s darling status in the media and the Democratic Party.

Her upset victory in the primary was reported mainly in the context of timing and turnout: New York had moved its primaries to June, and subsequently AOC was essentially elected by only 7 percent of eligible voters. More than 80 percent in her district stayed home that day.

Her rather radical campaign thesis—even for NY’s immutably blue 14th District—got little news coverage. Many of her ideas have grown more extreme since her election.

The price tag for her Green New Deal has been estimated at $93 trillion. For reference, the annual federal budget is about $4 trillion.

Some GOP pundits hope AOC and her fringe who-cares-what-it-costs zealotry continue to gain support from the DNC. “With enemies like AOC,” wrote one, “who needs friends?”

But like the proverbial broken clock, even AOC isn’t wrong 100 percent of the time. Her Medicare-for-all proposal may not be the right solution, but it casts some fresh light on a longstanding problem. We need some innovative thinking for our health care, and in a brainstorm environment, there are no dumb ideas.

The only way to reduce health-care costs is to improve the nation’s health, physically and mentally. It’s expensive to supply the diagnosis, treatment and healing demands of a national population that excessively overeats, under-exercises, abuses alcohol and drugs, and commits violent crimes. There are always exceptions, but the rule is that health-conscious people who practice healthy living habits have fewer health problems.

What drives up health-care costs are chronic illnesses, many of which are tied directly to unhealthy habits and actions.

There will be no real “fix” to health-care affordability until its cost is reconnected to individual lifestyle choices. It’s not unfair to charge radically different health insurance prices to radically different people. Drivers who get tickets and have wrecks way more often than the average person have to pay way more for auto insurance.

Life insurance costs more for unhealthy and older people. Decisions and actions by homeowners involving size of their house, fire alarm and security system investments, and even their personal credit situations, all affect home insurance costs.

If the cost of car insurance was the same for all, regardless of driving history or age of car, would that be more fair?

Hardly. Even worse, it would disconnect liberty and free enterprise from individual initiative and responsibility. It would punish good drivers who are economical with their car purchases, and reward reckless drivers who overspend.

By all means, let’s have some revolutionary discussions about health-care insurance.

AOC’s got the socialist nanny-state angle covered. Who’s going to have the political courage to address individual responsibility and behaviors on the issue?


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