Will progressives line up behind Joe Biden now that Bernie Sanders has cleared the way for his nomination? That question got asked of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) prior to Bernie Sanders’ surprise announcement endorsing Biden and explicitly ending his campaign. That might have taken the wind out of the sails of Ocasio-Cortez’ argument in this New York Times interview, in which she declares that Biden will need to get “uncomfortable” with some new policy commitments if he expects to win her enthusiastic support.
Ocasio-Cortez isn’t interested in unity for unity’s sake, in other words. Holding hands around the campfire and singing “Kumbaya”? Hard pass:
There’s this talk about unity as this kind of vague, kumbaya, kind of term. Unity and unifying isn’t a feeling, it’s a process. And what I hope does not happen in this process is that everyone just tries to shoo it along and brush real policies — that mean the difference of life and death or affording your insulin and not affording your insulin — just brush that under the rug as an aesthetic difference of style.
There’s also this idea that if we all just support the nominee that voters will come along as well. I’ve flagged, very early, two patterns that I saw [among Biden’s campaign], which is underperformance among Latinos and young people, both of which are very important demographics in November. And so, I don’t think this conversation about changes that need to be made is one about throwing the progressive wing of the party a couple of bones — I think this is about how we can win.
The whole process of coming together should be uncomfortable for everyone involved — that’s how you know it’s working. And if Biden is only doing things he’s comfortable with, then it’s not enough.
That makes Sanders’ happy talk with Biden earlier today all the more ironic. While Ocasio-Cortez talked about Biden needing to feel “uncomfortable,” Sanders seems happy enough to endorse Biden while just getting pledges of a half-dozen policy steering committees. That’s letting Biden off the hook cheaply:
NEW: Joe Biden announces and he and Bernie Sanders agreed to establish 6 policy working groups on issues from immigration, to criminal justice reform: ”We're looking forward to turning that work into positive change for the country." https://t.co/35Zg7cQ9nU pic.twitter.com/fQ1RdIY2RW
— ABC News (@ABC) April 13, 2020
Go figure that two Capitol Hill figures with a combined eight decades of tenure in Congress would form committees to determine what Biden thinks. At least, though, Sanders is smart enough not to trust Biden to come up with what Biden thinks.
Back to Ocasio-Cortez’ conundrum. Just how long can she now hold off from issuing an endorsement, and what will she take as a minimum? Biden’s not going to champion Medicare for All, as he made blindingly clear on the campaign trail, but that didn’t stop Bernie from endorsing him. What else can Biden offer the True Believers that AOC thinks she represents?
If we’re not talking about paths to citizenship for undocumented people, and if we’re just talking about policy changes of 5 or 10 percent — especially when you look at something like climate change — it’s not about moving to the left. It’s about who is able to find hope in your administration. And creating plans that give people hope and possibility.
Suuuure. For Biden, though, it’s about winning a general election, not a progressive primary, which is why he’ll almost certainly rely on incrementalism, not massive change. Biden’s running a nostalgia campaign, a return to the heady days of Barack Obama’s policies — ObamaCare, friendly (and unanswered) overtures to Iran and China, stimulus programs that became pork products, and the cachet of unearned smugness. If Democrats wanted a revolution, they would have nominated Bernie, and Biden needs more than Democrats to win in November.
Besides, where else do Ocasio-Cortez and her coterie have to go?
What if Biden doesn’t do it? What if he doesn’t get uncomfortable? And you know, only gives kind of aesthetic, in-name-only concessions to the left? What do you do?
I will be supporting the Democratic nominee in November. I would just hope that the nominee supports our communities too.
Exactly. This is nothing more than an empty threat, made obviously so by Bernie’s capitulation. AOC will eventually endorse Biden, but she won’t be enthusiastic about it — although she might feign some during a chorus or two of “Kumbaya.” Don’t be surprised if progressives don’t fall in line, though.
Addendum: Why didn’t the NYT ask Ocasio-Cortez about Tara Reade? And why didn’t AOC make it an issue herself?