New report details how Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is learning to wield power in Congress — without burning it down
When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez appeared as a guest on “Late Night With Seth Meyers” earlier this month following Super Tuesday, host Meyers asked the New York City Democrat if she would support former Vice President Joe Biden if he receives the presidential nomination — and without hesitation, she responded that she would. AOC’s assertion signaled a willingness to help fellow Democrats who aren’t nearly as left-of-center as she is. And journalists Alex Thompson and Holly Otterbein, in an article for Politico, argue that in 2020, the 30-year-old congresswoman doesn’t appear to be adopting some of the most forceful tactics of the left wing that she is identified with.
Ocasio-Cortez herself is in the U.S. House of Representatives because of a primary challenge: in 2018, she defeated incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in a Democratic primary by running to his left and enjoyed a landslide victory over Republican nominee Anthony Pappas in the general election. But so far in 2020, Thompson and Otterbein report, AOC hasn’t been joining the progressive group Justice Democrats in taking on an abundance of Democratic incumbents.
“Of the half-dozen incumbent primary challengers Justice Democrats is backing this cycle, Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed just two,” the Politico journalists note. “Neither was a particularly risky move: both candidates — Jessica Cisneros in Texas and Marie Newman in Illinois — were taking on conservative Democrats who oppose abortion rights and later earned the support of several prominent national Democrats.”
This year, Thompson and Otterbein note, Justice Democrats have been “trying to boot not just conservative Democrats, but also, some liberal Democrats” and “replace them with members who are more left-wing.” But Ocasio-Cortez has been “reluctant” to join them.
“Ocasio-Cortez’ endorsement moves are not a fluke, but part of a larger change over the past several months,” Thompson and Otterbein report. “After her disruptive, burn-it-down early months in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez — who colleagues say is often conflict-averse in person — has increasingly been trying to work more within the system. She is building coalitions with fellow Democratic members and picking her fights more selectively.”
In the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed her mentor, Sen. Bernie Sanders. But when she told Meyers she would get behind Biden — now the frontrunner — if Sanders doesn’t receive the nomination, Ocasio-Cortez pragmatically asserted that the former vice president would be better than four more years of President Donald Trump (Sanders has said the same thing, making it clear that he will support Biden if he’s the nominee). And veteran Democratic strategist James Carville, who has been asserting that he doesn’t think Sanders is electable, told Politico that AOC appears to be embracing a big tent view of the Democratic Party.
Carville said of Ocasio-Cortez, “The Democratic Party is the party of coalitions, not a cult. I’ve observed her. I think she’s really talented, that she’s really smart. Maybe she is — I don’t speak for her — coming to the conclusion that she wants to be part of the coalition.”