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Ocasio-Cortez Vs. The Conditioners

I gotta say it: sure sounds like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is right about this biannual “bipartisan” Harvard orientation for incoming Congressional freshmen:

On Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez criticized the event for including four corporate CEOs but no labor leaders or activists to talk to the new members. Barra, the GM CEO, attended a “discussion with business leaders” at which she was joined by Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, the pharmaceutical manufacturer, and Dennis Muilenburg, chair and CEO of Boeing.

Mark Gearan, director of the Harvard Institute of Politics, confirmed in an interview that no labor leaders were represented on panel discussions.

“Lobbyists are here. Goldman Sachs is here,” Ocasio-Cortez said on Twitter, a reference to panelist Gary Cohn, a former Goldman Sachs executive and top economic adviser to President Trump. “Where‘s labor? Activists? Frontline community leaders?

Here’s how Harvard bills the event, which has been happening at the start of every new Congress since 1972:

The biennial program will be held December 4-6, 2018 in collaboration with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and Congressional Institute.

Our program is unique. The agenda is designed to ensure thoughtful bipartisan discussions on a variety of public policy issues. Experts and practitioners from a wide range of backgrounds will cover topics including the federal budget process, key issues in domestic and foreign policy, Congressional reform and current issues related to technology. The program also provides guidance on a host of practical issues including: setting up and staffing congressional offices; best practices for media relations; and managing family/work life balance. Members will also have an opportunity to visit and tour the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

Huh. Sounds like the “bipartisan discussions” are in part about conditioning incoming members of Congress into an establishment view of politics and political possibility. This “wide range of backgrounds” excludes right-of-center equivalents to Ocasio-Cortez’s missing labor union leaders and activists. There’s a full list of the program and speakers at the bottom of this Slate story.  There were some good speakers on the program, to be sure — but Ocasio-Cortez’s point is not that the speakers were bad. It’s that the roster was narrow.

To be clear, I don’t think this is a liberal vs. conservative thing. Notice that one of the collaborators is the neoconservative think tank AEI. I think this is more a matter of an establishment vs. outsider thing. If Ocasio-Cortez is right — and I suspect she is — this seminar is less about educating incomers to the ways of life and work on Capitol Hill and more about conditioning incomers to think inside the establishment’s box.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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