(Tom Toles)
Editorial cartoonist

So already, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the highest-wattage star in politics since Barack Obama, is a problem. The right kind of problem.

This consternation and worry were inevitable because of the inherent conflict between charismatic personalities and the lumbering machinery of legislative bureaucracy, and the inherent conflict between a mainstream political party in a mainstream political country, and someone who is out there closer to the political margin. But let’s unpack all of that a little bit.

What does a mainstream political party without young, vibrant star-power look like? It looks like Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi crowded together at an awkwardly undersized podium. Now I have a pretty high opinion of Pelosi and have said so before, but these two do not, shall we say, generate a lot of enthusiasm. And let me even put in a word for the lumbering machinery of legislative bureaucracy. At the end of the day, that’s what gets you the actual laws. And actual wins in difficult districts. And that’s not the difference between “Medicare for all” and Obamacare. That is usually the difference between something and nothing.

But now that I have labored my way through the to-be-sures, let’s look at Ocasio-Cortez. If nothing else, this New York Democrat conveys an American future. In politics, this is not nothing. In a dispirited, broken, spiraling-toward-apocalypse America, it is a lot. A Democratic Party that has been in intellectual retreat for 40 years needs a fresh relaunch, and you don’t accomplish a relaunch with plodding incrementalism.

Orcasio-Cortez also displays, despite all the scary hand-wringing about her policy inclinations, an unmistakably vibrant version of American optimism. The only thing she seems interested in tearing down are obstacles that stand between real American people and better lives. And as for those scary policy inclinations of hers?

They happen to be about dead-center for the New Deal Era that was built by the much-revered Greatest Generation, when government was understood by both parties to be a necessary part of a thriving, cohesive nation. And they also happen to be in the exact direction the Democratic Party and the United States needs to start making some vigorous progress toward.

Yes, it will be tricky to get Ocasio-Cortez synchronized into the party perfectly — and she won’t be. And thank goodness for that. She will be out there on the front line where they desperately need somebody. This is a problem the Democrats should have been praying for.

Read more:

Tom Toles: Democrats should focus on our crumbling infrastructure — the other one

Paul Waldman: Ocasio-Cortez is right. Democrats should talk about raising taxes on the rich.

Max Boot: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez shouldn’t approach her facts the way Trump does