During the start of new House member orientation Tuesday, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez once again stole the spotlight.
The 29-year-old representative-elect and architect of one of the most shocking primary election upsets ever joined protesters in the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to demand action on climate change. The self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist railed against Amazon after the corporate titan announced plans to open offices near her deep blue Queens, N.Y., district. Fox News plastered her face on segments warning about the dangers of a "radical" agenda.
At the same time, a less well-known group of freshman Democrats descended on Washington after the party won a House majority in last week's midterm elections. The candidates who flipped at least 35 GOP-held districts include women who spent time in the military and CIA and a former NFL player. Many of those candidates adopted some liberal positions, but ran as pragmatists committed to working across the aisle, if necessary, to reduce health care costs, protect the social safety net and boost wages, among other priorities.
When the group of fresh faces takes office in January, it will set up another debate about just what the party should do with its power — and what voters want in the era of President Donald Trump.
Unabashed liberals including Ocasio-Cortez grabbed headlines across the country by winning a handful of blue House districts and running neck and neck with the GOP in statewide races in Florida, Georgia and Texas. Activists cheered progress by candidates who endorsed some form of free public college, expanded access to Medicare or a minimum wage increase. Republicans led by Trump, in turn, used these candidates to try to stoke alarm that Democrats would lead the country to socialism and ruin.
"Remember, [Pelosi] also has a new group coming in that is much more left, that many have identified as socialism. One of the newest members went to [Pelosi's] office not to sit down and meet with her, but to join the protesters," incoming House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told CNBC's "Squawk Box" on Thursday morning, referencing Ocasio-Cortez. "That is a little crazy."