Things That Matter

AOC Said In Any Other Country She And Joe Biden Would Not Even Be In The Same Party

New York Magazine profiled the superstar progressive Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fondly known as AOC. The 30-year-old The Bronx native was not afraid to vent her frustrations with Vice President Joe Biden and the right-leaning centrists who seem to dominate the Democratic Party. 

AOC shared the same concern as many progressives: that centrists control the party at a crucial time for democracy and have a misguided approach to governing during a time when the Republican Party refuses to cooperate. 

AOC said she and Joe Biden don’t belong in the same political party.

When reporter David Freedlander asked her what she thought her place might be should Joe Biden become president, her response was candid, to say the least. 

“Oh God,” she said. “In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party, but in America, we are.”’

Freedlander describes AOC as the tenacious hopeful many estimated her to be. She sees no reason to comprise on her values and will fearlessly stand against what’s popular. Notably, in 2019, she was the only Democrat to vote against funding the government because that would mean funding ICE. This might seem like it should be the standard — a leader with a strong sense of justice — but in a representative government, it is more common for Democrats to acquiesce to popular sentiment (i.e. centrist and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi waiting for public approval to impeach the president, rather than what the law dictates). 

AOC feels these Democrats cave too easily on the demands of the more conservative members of the party.

“For so long, when I first got in, people were like, ‘Oh, are you going to basically be a tea party of the left?’ And what people don’t realize is that there is a tea party of the left, but it’s on the right edges, the most conservative parts of the Democratic Party,” the representative of the New York’s 14th district said.

AOC describes tension within the party with one side successfully attempting to pull it right, and the other side also quite successfully trying to pull it left (i.e. the rise of progressives like the Squad, Elizabeth Warren and AOC’s 2020 pick Bernie Sanders).  

“So the Democratic Party has a role to play in this problem, and it’s like we’re not allowed to talk about it. We’re not allowed to talk about anything wrong the Democratic Party does,” she said. “I think I have created more room for dissent, and we’re learning to stretch our wings a little bit on the left.” 

AOC says that she learned from her own experiences that fear has begun to dominate how politicians govern.

The freshman congresswoman recounted an incident where she wanted to sit in on a meeting in Pelosi’s office. It was about the Green New Deal, but other members of the squad chickened out at the last minute. AOC wasn’t sure if she should go? Would the move infuriate the eventual House Speaker? 

“I was terrified,” AOC told New York Magazine. “I learned a lot about how fear shapes the decisions of elected officials: ‘I know this could be bad, and this could make someone mad, and I don’t know exactly how they would drop the hammer on me or what hammers would be dropped.’ It felt like the right thing to do, and when you say that people think it’s a form of naïveté and that it’s childish, but I don’t think it was.”

Much of the conflict exists between the moderates and progressives because of what is at stake. While moderates appear more concerned with winning elections to expand the party’s power, according to AOC, progressives seem more concerned with policy-making. That means they aren’t afraid to challenge other incumbent Democrats in elections. However, Freedlander notes that moderates have challenged far more incumbents than progressives lately. 

Progressives are too threatening to some of the more seasoned Democrats.

“As a consequence of my victory, many people are inspired to run for office, and in a body where 70 percent of the seats are safe red or safe blue, that de facto means a lot more primaries,” she said. 

Dissent is a healthy party of democracy, that is why it is protected by the First Amendment. The differences between moderates and progressives can be good: healthy competition can breed better results. However, it can be confusing for voters when such a large spectrum of values and priorities exists within one party. The person who wants Sanders to win probably has little in common with a candidate like Biden. The massive disparity forces voters to either compromise their values or become apathetic. 

“Democrats can be too big of a tent,” AOC said summing up the issue.

But if there’s one way to change politics, it is by changing the attitudes of voters. AOC wants to get more people involved, and she wants to do it by making politics more understandable. 

“Politics should be pop because it should be consumable and accessible to everyday people,” she said. “I think that’s what populism is about.”

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