Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is lending her support to a movement that seeks to oust incumbent Democrats in favor of liberal replacements -- only adding to the tensions between the freshman firebrand and the party establishment.
In a promotional video, Ocasio-Cortez locks arms with Justice Democrats, which runs a recruitment program (called "The #OurTime Project") by which activists can nominate grassroots candidates for office. It was Justice Democrats that originally backed Ocasio-Cortez’s longshot bid against incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley last year.
In the video, first reported by NBC News, she spends time chatting at a restaurant with other activists about her journey to the House and what it means for the future of left-wing activism within the Democratic Party.
“There’s a lot of people in the Democratic caucus. When we are courageous enough to puncture the silence on an issue, they will move,” she says.
“You can make 10 years worth of change in one term if you’re not afraid,” she later adds.
NBC reports that the group is already searching for a primary challenger to centrist Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas.
“I think we as Justice Democrats have a chance to really transform the Democratic Party. Running in competitive primary elections in Democratic-held seats is important,” Alexandra Rojas, executive director of the group, says as Ocasio-Cortez nods.
Ocasio-Cortez’s support of Justice Democrats is not new. Not only did they help get her campaign off the ground in the first place, they have also backed her initiatives in Congress, such as a Green New Deal and Medicare-for-all. It is part of a broader lurch left by some Democrats in Congress.
But her appearance in the video encouraging candidates to primary other Democrats may ruffle feathers in D.C. where she has not shied away from clashing with more centrist Dems who have thumbed their noses at her left-wing politics and social-media savvy.
“She needs to decide: Does she want to be an effective legislator or just continue being a Twitter star?” one House Democrat told Politico last week. “There’s a difference between being an activist and a lawmaker in Congress.”
That sentiment was echoed by former Sen. Joe Lieberman, who said on Fox Business Network that Ocasio-Cortez should not be the future of the party.
“With all respect,” he told Fox Business’ Neil Cavuto on Thursday, “I certainly hope she’s not the future and I don’t believe she is.”
“If you look at the majority of new Democrats in the House, they tend to be, I say, center-left, if they are not left-left,” he said. “And that is because they had to be center-left to win some of those competitive swing districts that they took from Republicans. So that’s the hope.”
Ocasio-Cortez swiped back with a snarky: “New party, who dis?” (a play on “new phone, who dis?” a meme people use to pretend not to know who a texter is).
As for the Politico article, which reported that centrist Democrats are mounting an operation to bring her into line, she approvingly retweeted a user who said “you cannot rein in Latinas” and used a quote from comic book writer Alan Moore.
“None of you understand. I'm not locked up in here with YOU. You're locked up in here with ME,” she wrote.