Politics & Policy

AOC Takes Aim at Party Leadership for Indulging Moderates: ‘Democrats Can Be Too Big of a Tent’

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during a town hall meeting in Queens, N.Y., April 27, 2019. (Jeenah Moon/Reuters)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) criticized the Democratic party for its tolerance of relative moderates, saying her own party has become “too big of a tent” in an interview published Monday.

“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,” Ocasio-Cortez told New York Magazine. “So the Democratic Party has a role to play in this problem, and it’s like we’re not allowed to talk about it.”

The freshman lawmaker also lashed out at party leadership for their intolerance of internal criticism, saying “we’re not allowed to talk about anything wrong the Democratic Party does.”

Ocasio-Cortez pointed to the reaction elicited by her 2018 election as proof that Democrats cater too often to conservative interests, and that the party’s progressive shift was helping Democrats learn “to stretch our wings a little bit on the left.”

She then bashed the Congressional Progressive Caucus, of which she is a member, for being overly permissive in allowing moderates to adopt the label, saying “they let anybody who the cat dragged in call themselves a progressive.”

In March, the New York Democrat threatened moderate colleagues during a caucus meeting, with her former spokesman saying Democrats “are putting themselves on a list” if they work with Republicans.

In the Monday profile, the self-identified socialist took aim at former Vice President Joe Biden, saying that she didn’t feel ideologically aligned with a potential Biden-run White House.

Last month, Biden criticized “bad judgement” in the media’s inflated coverage of the freshman representative, and suggested the Democrats had not moved as far to the left as Ocasio-Cortez advertised.

“In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party, but in America, we are,” Ocasio-Cortez, who along with other members of the “Squad” have endorsed fellow progressive Bernie Sanders for president, said.

Ocasio-Cortez also detailed clashes with party leadership over her role within the party, saying she was “frustrated” to get “singled out over and over again over a series of interviews by the Democratic leadership.” She also claimed “a lot of members think I’m like a Koch brother” for her alleged influence on elections.

She pointed to her insistence on proposing the Green New Deal in favor of other climate resolutions, arguing that “these very small incremental plans are a form of denialism.”

In April, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized Ocasio-Cortez’s progressive activism, saying that “whatever orientation they came to Congress with, they know that we have to hold the center.”

After her former chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti drew the ire of the Congressional Black Caucus for comparing moderate Democrats to 20th-century southern segregationists, Ocasio-Cortez met with Pelosi in a July meeting that “went very well,” according to the Speaker at the time. Chakrabarti, who admitted the Green New Deal was more about economics than climate, resigned soon after. His former boss criticized him for “divisive” comments” in the wake of his departure.

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