Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) called for new leadership to replace House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), in an interview with The Intercept aired on Wednesday.
The remarks represent Ocasio-Cortez’s most direct challenge to current Democratic congressional leadership, and come a month after Michigan representative Elissa Slotkin vowed not to support Pelosi for another term as House Speaker. Pelosi is the only candidate for the position, but with Democrats projected to win at most 226 House seats, Pelosi can only lose eight Democratic votes to remain Speaker.
“I do think that we need new leadership in the Democratic Party,” Ocasio-Cortez said on The Intercept’s podcast Intercepted. However, there aren’t any alternative candidates for House leadership positions because the party didn’t invest in “real grooming of a next generation of leadership.”
“The structural shifts of power in the House…concentrate power in party leadership of both parties, frankly, but in the Democratic Party leadership to such a degree that an individual member has far less power than they did 30, 40, 50 years ago,” Ocasio-Cortez said. This causes “really talented members of Congress that do come along” to leave for other ventures.
The New York representative also lamented that “the left isn’t really making a plan” for when Pelosi does eventually leave office.
“The hesitancy that I have is that I want to make sure that if we’re pointing people in a direction, that we have a plan. And my concern — and this I acknowledge as a failing, as something that we need to sort out — is that there isn’t a plan,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “How do we fill that vacuum? Because if you create that vacuum, there are so many nefarious forces at play to fill that vacuum with something even worse.”
House Democrats were disappointed this year after elections in which they expected to gain seats, but ended up losing at least nine seats. Former President Obama, Clyburn, and a number of moderate Democrats blamed the embrace of the “defund the police” slogan and “socialist” label by the party’s progressive wing for its election losses.
Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, has said attacks on “defund the police” and “socialism” amount to “racial resentment” attacks.