Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party”

“Democrats can be too big of a tent,” Ocasio-Cortez said, criticizing the party's alleged acquiescence of moderates

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published January 7, 2020 11:00AM (EST)

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Getty/Mandel Ngan)
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Getty/Mandel Ngan)

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., said in an interview published on Monday that the Democratic Party “can be too big of a tent,” adding that she and former Vice President Joe Biden would not be members of the same political party in any other country.

Ocasio-Cortez lamented in a New York Magazine profile that the Democratic Party is “too acquiescent” of the demands of moderate members who flipped red districts in 2018 as the party won back the House of Representatives. The freshman congresswoman took credit for amplifying more progressive voices since coming to Washington.

“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,” she told the outlet. “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. I think I have created more room for dissent, and we’re learning to stretch our wings a little bit on the left.”

Ocasio-Cortez urged the Congressional Progressive Caucus to start kicking people out if they break with the party line.

“They let anybody who the cat dragged in call themselves a progressive,” she claimed. "There's no standard."

The freshman from New York added that “Democrats can be too big of a tent,” as well.

Asked how she envisioned her role in the Congress if Biden wins the presidency, Ocasio-Cortez responded with a groan.

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

Ocasio-Cortez clarified on Twitter that her criticism was aimed at the two-party system — not Biden.

“I don’t know why people are up in arms about this,” she tweeted Monday. “Many other countries have multiparty democracies, where several parties come together in a coalition to govern. In another country, I’d be in a Labor Party like Jacinda Ardern. Our primary field would cover 2-3 parties.”

“In our current primary field, some people treat healthcare as a right, and others don’t. Doesn’t make you enemies, it makes you different,” she added. “Abroad, being in [different] parties doesn’t mean you dislike each other. It means you acknowledge your differences and come together in coalition.”

Ocasio-Cortez, who endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in the Democratic primary, also criticized Biden’s stance on climate change last year after Reuters reported that his campaign planned a “middle ground approach” to tackle the issue.

“I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act then are going to try to come back today and say we need to find a middle-of-the-road approach to save our lives. That is too much for me,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted in May.

She later criticized Biden to The New Yorker after he struggled in the first Democratic debate.

"It’s not just about being centrist, per se. It’s when you are struggling to talk about segregationists and you err on the side of discussing them in glowing terms. That is a big problem," she said at the time.

Biden has praised Ocasio-Cortez and fellow progressive freshman Democrats as “brilliant” but argued that their ideology was too far left to win around the country.

“You all thought that what happened was the party moved extremely to the left after Hillary. AOC was the new party. She’s a bright, wonderful person. But where’s the party? Come on, man,” Biden told Axios reporter Mike Allen last month.

Ocasio-Cortez told New York Magazine that the upcoming Democratic primaries will decide which of them is right.

“This whole primary is going to be about the soul of the Democratic Party,” she said. “I think it’s a referendum on whether we think everything was fine before Trump. People who live in a lot of privilege, who think of public programs as charity, they often think there was nothing wrong before Trump. They think Hillary was the problem, but it’s much deeper than that.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh