A video published at YouTube on Friday 8 March is racking up the views. As of this writing on Sunday night it has more than 588,000. And it’s not a short video, by any means. It runs just over 23 minutes. It’s a bit of an investment. (The video is below.)
But people are watching it because it stitches together the information that has been coming out on the 2018 election cycle and the ascendancy of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and makes a case that the mainstream media won’t touch. The video’s case is that Ocasio-Cortez got picked to run in New York in a glorified casting call, and that she’s not an issues-oriented politician at all; she’s a personality (the narrator, Chris, who goes by “Mr. Reagan,” calls her an “actress”) now being steered by the radical organization that got her elected.
The organization, the Justice Democrats, has the goal of transforming the Democratic Party by fielding slates of candidates cycle after cycle until it has the leverage and momentum to effect a hostile takeover.
After the 2016 Hillary debacle, Justice Democrats was founded by Cenk Uygur (of The Young Turks) and several others: former Bernie campaign workers, the latter of whom are still with the organization although Uygur resigned from it just over a year ago. They ran their first list of candidates in 2018. Their hand-picked candidates didn’t do all that well; AOC is the only one in that category who won in the general election. Their endorsed candidates (i.e., people who were running anyway, and got the Justice Democrats’ endorsement) did somewhat better, although no better than those of the rival group Our Revolution, another organization formed to back far-left candidates.
However, Justice Democrats has an advantage over Our Revolution in this face-off. Readers who’ve been following the funding shenanigans of Ocasio-Cortez and her chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, will recognize promptly what that advantage is, if they go to the Third Way site at the link above. Two of the three far-left PACs listed – Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress – are operated by the same people.
The former Bernie workers who run Justice Democrats include founders Chakrabarti, Zach Exley, and Corbin Trent. Those three, along with Alexandra Rojas (now the director of Justice Democrats), also operate Brand New Congress. Wins for either group thus serve the radical-takeover goals of the same people.
But an interesting aspect of the “Mr. Reagan” video is that it puts that in perspective for us by developing the case that Ocasio-Cortez was recruited via a sort of “casting call” to be a prototype Justice Democrats candidate. She came in without an electoral politics background and with no political experience, other than reportedly joining the pipeline protest at Standing Rock for a brief period.
So it’s certainly informative that the first thing such a candidate did was get embedded in the funding mechanism.
You can decide for yourself how compelling Mr. Reagan’s case is. He presents a lot of the same evidence we’ve seen from other sources about Justice Democrats and its operatives. He has good clips from Uygur’s The Young Turks in which the radical purpose of Justice Democrats is discussed. The clips clarify that a takeover of the Democratic Party is, in fact, what the goal is. Here is the video:
For those who aren’t sure quite what to believe about the “casting call” characterization, I suggest watching this Justice Democrats video, starting in particular at the 2:00 mark. In a conversation with Chakrabarti, Rojas, and Trent, Ocasio-Cortez describes how her brother nominated her for the Justice Democrats vetting process, and she went through a series of what were basically auditions, until she was selected to go to Kentucky for what the theater world would call a “reading.” Justice Democrats apparently called it a “summit.”
It was in that process that AOC was selected to be Justice Democrats’ candidate for NY-14. There’s some fluff in the video about how she felt after the 2016 election and why she embraced the opportunity offered by Justice Democrats. But it’s clear from what she says, as well as how the narrator, Alexandra Rojas, describes it, that Justice Democrats went looking for her through a political audition process.
Mr. Reagan is an aspiring screenwriter (see a video interview with him here), and naturally sees that through the prism of cinema as a “casting call.” The rest of us might not immediately use that expression. But it fits.
Another piece of evidence comes from an early 2017 article in The Verge about Justice Democrats, which outlines the original call for candidate nominations; i.e., the call AOC’s brother responded to by submitting his sister’s name.
On their website, Justice Democrats is soliciting nominations directly from supporters, and have so far received over 8,000 potential candidates. Many of these nominees, who may also be nominated by a team of Justice Democrats researchers, have little experience in the political process.
“They may be civil engineers, they may be activists, they may be nurses, they may be librarians or teachers or principals, but they don’t necessarily have the skills to run a winning campaign,” Trent said. Chakrabarti says they’re looking for people with a good “life record,” such as participating in various forms of activism, or just being well-liked community members.
The call for nominations was a real, no-kidding thing.
There’s a lot of talk in emotive language about feelings and aspirations that goes with all this. In the Justice Democrats video, Ocasio-Cortez speaks of what it means to her to be a “movement candidate”; i.e., someone who is running as the front-woman for an organized movement that starts out with a platform, rolling on its own moving train, and wants potential candidates to jump on.
But being a “movement candidate” has another meaning for politics. The meaning is that the movement owns you. In the hierarchy of beholdenness, the movement trumps the constituents in your district.
That is exactly what the Justice Democrats (and Brand New Congress) have in mind. They’re using a classic method of taking over an existing political party.
And wanting people with little experience and no skills fits nicely with a radical movement’s goal of owning its candidates.
Note a couple of things about political money in all this. One is that the money is pretty funny, as the serial revelations about campaign finance in the Ocasio-Cortez campaign indicate. There are other red flags in her congressional office, such as the senior staffers who are being paid well below the normal salary level: an arrangement that conveniently enables them to escape the financial scrutiny that would automatically kick in if they were being paid more. (Chakrabarti, now AOC’s chief of staff, is one of those senior staffers.)
But that’s not the only peculiarity of Justice Democrats’ record with money. Another is seen in complaints from 2018 that Justice Democrats was effectively requiring existing candidates to buy the Justice Democrats endorsement, if they wanted to have it for campaign purposes. If Justice Democrats got in and pitched for your fundraising efforts, 95% of the resulting take reportedly went to Justice Democrats.
That made Justice Democrats less a PAC to promote candidates than a sort of heavy-handed franchise operation, in it for the money. Fundraising “for candidates” turns out to be a way to generate a lot of cash that you can’t otherwise persuade the public to send your direction.
But that’s similar to what Hillary Clinton’s campaign organization did to the state Democratic parties in the 2016 election cycle. Donna Brazile recounted a pattern like it in her book about running the DNC in the latter half of 2016, after Debbie Wasserman-Schultz stepped down. Clinton’s modus operandi for political power seemed to center on controlling the money spigot – and she left the party divided politically and spent to the bone after the 2016 election.
The Democratic Party has never really recovered from that brutal civil war over party direction, finances, and control. From what I can tell, the Justice Democrats not only learned from that, but saw opportunity in a party whose traditional basis for funding was in disarray. In such circumstances, you don’t have to be the richest challenger to build leverage.
The Justice Democrats, however, aren’t the only ones trying to take over the Democratic Party. Big donors on the Democracy Alliance list (like Tom Steyer and perennial suspect George Soros) have similar aspirations. Soros isn’t a potential candidate for anything; Steyer continues to make noises about maybe being one himself. But both of them are spending billions on gaining control of key levers in Democratic politics – if with an emphasis somewhat different from that of Justice Democrats.
Where does Justice Democrats’ money come from? According to their books, from a whole lot of small donors. That may be the case. But I’ve never seen so many people who don’t list an occupation be able to donate $1,000, $2,000, or $5,000 in a campaign cycle. If I had the impressive imagination of an anti-Trump conspiracy theorist, I’d suspect The Russians of flying in pallets of cash so Americans on public assistance could donate to Justice Democrats.
Justice Democrats has the nomination process underway again for the 2020 election. Submit your names here. Mr. Reagan’s video presents a rather alarming picture, especially for those who haven’t been following this closely. If you have been paying attention, you know he’s speaking on the basis of actual evidence. But he has sharpened and focused the picture of what’s going on to clarify what this is: an emerging power grab.
If the pattern of revolutions holds, we may have narrow-eyed concern about Justice Democrats today. But it’s what would come in behind them – and most likely devour them – that we should really be worried about.