Democratic socialist and “squad” member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) believes the far left of the Democratic Party will be able to push former Vice President Joe Biden to enact some of their preferred polices, should the Democrats win the presidency.
Ocasio-Cortez, who supported Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in the Democratic primary, told JustTheNews reporter Nick Ballasy she agrees with Sanders’ reported concerns that Joe Biden is not progressive enough for the modern left.
“Of course I do,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We’re different people, and clearly I, in the primary, one of the reasons why I was supportive of Sen. Sanders was because of how progressive his stances are, but, you know, the primaries are over, and right now what is most important is to make sure that we ensure a Democratic victory in November and that we continue to push Vice President Biden on issues from marijuana to climate change to foreign policy.”
Sanders is reported to have recently expressed doubts to Biden’s associates that the Democratic presidential nominee is doing enough to excite progressives and turn them out to vote. In private conversations, he reportedly said Biden is at “serious risk” of losing the election to President Trump by alienating progressives with his centrist positions.
Sanders has denied making these comments, but Ocasio-Cortez agrees Biden should move “in a more progressive direction.”
“I think, overall, we can likely push Vice President Biden in a more progressive direction across policy issues,” she said. “I think foreign policy is an enormous area where we can improve; immigration is another one. There are some areas where we just fundamentally disagree, but that’s OK. I think it’s important to acknowledge that we can have, in some cases, very large disagreements — it doesn’t mean that we’re trying to undermine the party or undermine each other. It means that we’re trying to do what’s best for people in the country.
“We’ll see what progress that we’re able to make on issues like immigration and criminal justice reform,” she added.
Ocasio-Cortez cited the “full legalization” of marijuana as an example of a policy she feels a possible Biden administration might move left on.
“One perfect example is that I believe in the legalization of marijuana, not just decriminalization, but full legalization, regulation, et cetera,” she said. “But, you know, we will hash those out. Our main priority is to make sure that the vice president is successful and victorious in November so that we can have those kinds of conversations in the first place from a more effective stance with him in the White House.”
An example of an issue Biden has thus far refused to move on is health care. Biden refused to endorse Sanders’ signature “Medicare for All” health care plan during the Democratic primary, attacking the idea championed by Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives as too costly with its $35 trillion price tag and promising to veto such legislation if he were president.
Instead, Biden has put forward a plan to expand on Obamacare, offering a public option to achieve “universal” health care coverage through a new government program like Medicaid.
Ocasio-Cortez criticized Biden’s public option plan but argued it is better than the status quo.
“One concern I’d say that I have with a public option is that it very easily allows insurance companies to just kind of bump off their more expensive patients onto a public option, thus making an increase in the costs on a public option and kind of them keeping healthier people that require less insurance coverage for themselves,” she said.
“The whole purpose of insurance is to even out those costs, which is why I believe single-payer is a better policy, so in terms of that we do disagree,” she added. “But either way, I do think that a public option is likely a better scenario than we have right now.”
To convince Biden and the country to adopt her position, Ocasio-Cortez said a “mass movement” in America is needed to energize support for democratic socialist policies.
“That would not just take me to convince him nor any one individual,” she said. “We need a mass movement in this country. We need widespread popular support for single payer in order to get a chance at getting it done.”
Despite the alleged concerns from Sanders and the criticisms raised by Ocasio-Cortez, the Biden campaign has actively courted the progressive left with promises to implement policies that are well outside the mainstream. Working together with Sanders, the Biden campaign’s “unity task force” unveiled a compromise platform that pulls elements from Sanders’ radical agenda.
Among the campaign promises mentioned in these “unity guidelines” are a commitment to “eliminating carbon pollution from power plants by 2035,” banning for-profit private charter schools, opposing school vouchers, and recommending a “civilian corps” of non-police first responders be created to answer 911 calls for nonviolent emergencies instead of police.