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AOC Blasts the Democratic Party as ‘Center-Conservative’

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking at the Women's March in NYC, 2019.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking at the Women's March in NYC, 2019. (Photo: Dimitri Rodriguez)

At an MLK event in New York City, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gave another reminder of the battle waging inside of the Democratic Party to move it further left.

“We don’t have a left party in the United States. The Democratic Party is not a left party. The Democratic Party is a center or a center-conservative party.”

Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made this statement in a long interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates at the MLK Now 2020 event in New York.

It’s another reminder of the stark difference between the popular first-term representative from New York and the Democratic establishment including Speaker of the House and head of the Democratic Caucus Nancy Pelosi. And it’s a division that is likely to fundamentally change the party for years to come.

Since her 2018 surprise victory against 10-term Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley in her district’s Democratic primary, Ocasio-Cortez has been on a meteoric rise and been one of the most visible Democratic politicians. But as her popularity has grown, Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic Party have not always been supportive of Ocasio-Cortez and her political allies.

For Ocasio-Cortez, her differences with Pelosi largely stem from ideological and strategic differences. On Democratic politicians, she continued, “there are a lot of true believers in [the idea] that we can capitalism our way out of poverty in the Democratic Party, if anything that’s probably the majority.”

Ocasio-Cortez alongside new representatives Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, and the more established Senator Bernie Sanders represent a shift in the direction of the Democratic Party.

Unlike the mass mobilization of President Barack Obama’s 2008 election win, the Sanders campaign has positioned itself to keep the pressure on the Democratic Party to shift its views ideologically regardless of winning the Party’s nomination.

In Ocasio-Cortez’s case, this manifests itself in refusing to pay dues to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), and instead electing to start her own PAC in order to send fundraising dollars directly to tight 2020 races. Her gripe mainly lies in several DCCC policies that limit the funding of primary challenges to incumbent Democrats. Instead, Ocasio-Cortez is attempting to use her fundraising to elect Democrats more in-line with her political views and give a more grass-roots politics a chance.

Her new PAC told HuffPost that they raised over $69,000 in their first weekend to go along with another $100,000 Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign pulled in. However, the Congressional Progressive Caucus announced it does not plan to follow suit and instead plans to continue to pay their DCCC dues.

At the MLK event, the New York Representative offered some insight into her reasoning behind being combative with the Democratic Party on election strategy. When asked by Coates how she thinks the Party views activism, she said, “I think they view it as a nuisance…many of them view it as annoying and that they don’t understand the inside. I think people are protesting precisely because they understand the inside.”

Her comments harken to one 2019’s most viral political moments when youth activists from the Sunrise Movement, an environmental group, were rudely greeted by long-serving Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein.

About six months ago, the feud between Speaker Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez culminated with Ocasio-Cortez accusing Pelosi of “singling out” newly-elected women of color. Her comments came after Pelosi referred to Ocasio-Cortez and “The Squad” in the New York Times as “all these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world, but they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

While Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez have traded barbs, Pelosi continues to pitch for unity between Democrats in the face of the 2020 election. The prospect of four more years of President Donald Trump has shored up Pelosi’s defense for a call for unity, but the surging Sanders presidential campaign and Ocasio-Cortez’s opposition to the leadership in her party nonetheless displays a growing rift.

The 2020 Democratic presidential primary will have an impact on the direction of the Democratic Party, but Ocasio-Cortez has proven so far that fighting against the establishment of the DNC and House leadership is a popular route with the people.

Alec Pronk

Alec is a freelance writer with an interest in both geopolitics and American domestic issues. He finished his Master's degree with a critical focus on government counterterrorism policies.

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