AMAC Exclusive – By Seamus Brennan
Announcing today that it is doubling down on accusing endangered Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) of making a “corrupt bargain” with the far-left progressive wing of the Democratic Party to avoid a primary challenge, a conservative Super PAC is raising a larger question about how Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-NY) own fears of primary challenges opened the floodgates to radicalism and endangered most Senate Democrats currently seeking reelection.
The TV spot features the headline “CORRUPT BARGAIN WITH EXTREMISTS” over an image of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and other members of the group of far-left left representatives dubbed “The Squad.” It calls on the Arizona press to defy the “corrupt national media” and end Kelly’s “free ride” on charges that, in order to avoid a primary challenge financed by Ocasio-Cortez and her billionaire allies, he toed the “liberal extremist” line in Congress. (The ad, which first aired on September 8, had doubled its airtime this week with both its unusual two-minute long-format original ad and a separate one-minute “chaser” or summary spot, in the same newscast on morning and nightly news in Phoenix.)
But while, as the ad suggests, the Democrats’ leftward lurch in recent years can be largely accredited to Ocasio-Cortez’s subtle primary threats, also important is her broader influence on Schumer and the entire Democratic Senate caucus—as seen when she famously did not rule out a 2022 primary challenge against the Senate Majority Leader. In the opinion of many, this led a frightened Schumer—who knew how many of his fellow New York Democrats have fallen to progressive challengers—to subsequently embrace the no-holds-barred extremism that has come to define the Democratic congressional agenda.
Thus, the ad’s use of the “corrupt bargain” accusation —which was also used in a late-August New York ad run by the same group, Frontiers of Freedom, targeting Schumer—seeks to exploit Schumer’s watershed failure to stand up to the primary threats against him and other senators, as well as his decision to force his colleagues to greenlight the Biden agenda, from inflationary spending to the federal takeover of elections.
“Republicans need to understand that this is the screen that cracks the code against Kelly and all other Senate Democrats,” said Frontiers of Freedom Action President George Landrith. “And the reason this cracks the code is that many people find it hard to believe that their home state senator or local representative could really be so left-wing, but once we give them an explanation for why it happened—that incumbents are terrified of a primary—they see the point. Polling shows that even if they like their senator, they will vote against him if they think they supported Biden’s and the Democrats’ agenda.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s significant influence over the direction of her party goes back further than just her primary threats, however, and can be traced to the 2020 impeachment of former President Donald Trump. Despite House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) initial hesitancy to introduce articles of impeachment in early 2019, Pelosi caved to Ocasio-Cortez’s demands and proceeded to—in the words of fellow “Squad” member Rashida Tlaib (D-MI)— “impeach this motherf*****.” Of course, in spite of Pelosi’s and Schumer’s preliminary resistance, they ultimately conceded to the radicals’ demands and thus began positioning the Democratic Party for its far-left congressional agenda.
In citing Kelly’s voting record on behalf of that very agenda, the two-minute ad labels him as Biden’s “key enabler,” noting that he votes with Biden 92 percent of the time and “cast the deciding vote on huge spending bills that cause shattering inflation and recession”—referring to the so-called “Inflation Reduction Act,” which economists predict will even further aggravate inflation and raise costs for Arizona families.
Additionally, the ad notes how attempts by the likes of Biden and Kelly to push a radical takeover of elections—as well as efforts by other Democrats to alter the makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Senate, American citizenship, and the Electoral College—represent a “scorched-earth, rule-or-ruin” attack on longstanding American democratic institutions.
“These are not 30-second attack ads that try to manipulate people,” Landrith said, “but heavily informative narrative ads that ask Mark Kelly when he will reject extremist liberal views and plans.”
“The reason Joe Biden and Democrats are trying to use the ‘extremist’ charge against Republicans is they realize it is their own biggest vulnerability,” Landrith said. “Mark Kelly is the perfect example of why a red wave is coming in states like Arizona. He wants to run as a moderate, but like every Senate Democrat, he is imperiled by his corrupt bargain with the left, which said in effect: ‘Don’t primary me and I will vote your way.’”
By drawing a direct line between the radicalism of Ocasio-Cortez (as well as other members of “The Squad”) and Kelly—who has long sought to brand himself as a political centrist—Landrith hopes his group’s TV blitz can help to make the midterm elections in Arizona and other states a referendum on the most extreme factions within the Democratic Party, which have increasingly come to represent the party more broadly.
And should Landrith and his group be successful, Democrats may soon find that the key moment of this midterm election cycle came and went when party leaders like Schumer and Pelosi elevated the goals of figures like Ocasio-Cortez and “The Squad” over the needs and values of the Americans who elected them.