Home News AOC has quietly backed off endorsing Democratic primary challengers

AOC has quietly backed off endorsing Democratic primary challengers

by Paul Goldberg
AOC has quietly backed off endorsing Democratic primary challengers

According to a new report from Politico Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is now backing off endorsing Democratic primary challengers that she views as more progressive than moderate Democrat incumbents.

Late February, AOC tied PAC Courage to Change announced their first round of endorsements.

Politico reports soon after her upset primary victory against a Democratic Party boss in 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez traveled to St. Louis to prove her victory wasn’t a one-off by campaigning for Cori Bush, who was similarly taking on a longtime Democratic congressman.

“What I’m asking for you to do is to support my sister, Cori Bush,” Ocasio-Cortez said at a rally. “It is so important what we did, we just came off of this win in New York, but people were trying to say, ‘It’s just one place.’”

Bush lost that race but is challenging Rep. William “Lacy” Clay again in an August primary. She has more money and higher name recognition, and earned the endorsement of Bernie Sanders. But Ocasio-Cortez isn’t helping Bush this time.

After her victory in 2018, Ocasio-Cortez encouraged progressives to follow in her footsteps and run for Congress with the backing of the left-wing group Justice Democrats, even if it meant taking on powerful incumbents. Sixteen months later, the Missouri primary isn’t the only one Ocasio-Cortez is steering clear of.

Of the half-dozen incumbent primary challengers Justice Democrats is backing this cycle, Ocasio-Cortez has endorsed just two. 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.

Ocasio-Cortez’s reluctance marks a break with the outsider tactics of the activist left, represented by groups like Justice Democrats. This election cycle, the organization is trying to boot not just conservative Democrats but also some liberal Democrats and to replace them with members who are more left-wing. In other words, to replicate what it pulled off against Rep. Joe Crowley in 2018 by recruiting Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez’s shift coincides with turnover among top aides in her congressional office — replacing some outspoken radicals with more traditional political professionals — along with a broader reckoning on the left on how to expand Sanders’ coalition after his failure to significantly do so in the presidential primary. Some progressives have questioned whether Sanders should have softened his anti-establishment rhetoric and tried to build bridges with mainstream Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 rather than betting big on turning out disaffected and first-time voters.

Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement moves are not a fluke but part of a larger change over the past several months. 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.

The changes have divided her supporters, with some lamenting she’s been co-opted in short order by the system — and others asserting she’s offering the left a more viable path toward sustained power.

Gone are her plans for a “corporate-free” caucus, modeled on the uncompromising tactics of the conservative Freedom Caucus. The goal then was to force leadership’s hand to go further left.

Read more here.

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