Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez AOC
© Yana Paskova/Bloomberg News
Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, April 17.


Pragmatists like Pelosi, not radicals like Omar and Ocasio-Cortez, are the party's real leaders.


To judge by Twitter and cable news, the Democratic Party has become a raging leftist cult of socialists hell-bent on transforming the U.S. into Venezuela. But what if that's wrong and the media are wildly misrepresenting the party, which remains quite moderate?

The reasons are simple. Right-leaning media like to lavish the lion's share of coverage on the radicals of the Democratic Party - to paint the entirety of their opposition as out-of-step cry-bully socialists. But the left-leaning media bear responsibility as well. The same journalists who decry "alternative facts" seize on every Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Ilhan Omar tidbit with Gollum-like zeal.

Yet it's not clear that the social-media warriors they've elevated to pop-star status are the least bit representative of the party. As Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota told Politico: "Suddenly an entire party is being branded by the perspectives of two of its members, who represent 1% of the caucus." The rest of the Democratic freshmen are less visible not only due to clickbait bias but because they are busy creating legislation or holding town halls in their districts - that is, doing their jobs.

In the midterms, the gains that won the Democrats a majority were driven by quieter pragmatists in suburban and exurban districts. Candidates backed by the mainstream pro-business New Democrat Coalition won 33 of the 40 House seats that flipped from red to blue. Compare that with the Justice Democrats and the Sanders-esque Our Revolution, who didn't manage to convert one seat. As for the messaging, the Third Way informs us: "No Democrat in a majority-making competitive district ran even one ad on free college, a federal jobs guarantee, expanding Social Security, or a passing a nationwide $15 . . . minimum wage."

Yet many Americans remain worried that the Democrats are readying to Make America Unrecognizable, and the party shares some of the blame. They've hardly shouted themselves hoarse decrying socialism and have let it hinder the pragmatic idealists among them. If Democrats want the privilege of governing, they need to assert more effectively the values that center the party in every sense of the word.

There are encouraging signs. Take the realistic legislation proposed by the caucus since taking the majority. House Resolution 1 targets corruption, H.R. 2 focuses on infrastructure, and H.R. 3 aims to reduce prescription drug prices. The sole gun-control bill, H.R. 8, is a bipartisan initiative requiring violent-history checks for buyers, a policy supported by 92% of Americans and 69% of National Rifle Association members.

On the flip side, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez's overreaching Green New Deal was dealt a devastating blow by the Senate, falling on a 57-0 procedural vote. This dead end certainly was noticed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Despite Republicans' hysterical depiction of Mrs. Pelosi as a horsewoman of the San Franciscopocalypse, she has increasingly held the reasonable middle. Recall her dismissive comments on the "green dream, or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is." More recently she mused, "While there are people who have a large number of Twitter followers, what's important is that we have large numbers of votes on the floor of the house." That's a rather substantial assertion of the pragmatic bottom line.

As we look to 2020, voters would do well to note the passionate moderate voices ascending, such as Mayor Pete Buttigieg, skillfully laying out the case for "democratic capitalism," or Sen. Amy Klobuchar, informing a college audience that everyone doesn't get a free four-year ride.

By no means does "moderate" mean "without passion." Steel is tempered so that it can bend without breaking. At a moment when it seems America's national identity is at risk of being fractured, we should admire the fiery Senate-floor retort of Sen. Michael Bennet, who decried the broken legislative system. What this moment requires is neither radical virtue-signaling nor stay-the-course complacency, but passion wedded to achievable purpose. Voters would do well to tune out the latest Twitter notification and pay attention to how the Democrats actually vote.

Mr. Hurwitz is author of the "Orphan X" thriller novels. He has advised some of the politicians mentioned above informally and without payment. Mr. Peterson is a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and author of "12 Rules for Living: An Antidote to Chaos."