- Incoming House Democratic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez lent her name to an effort by the group Justice Democrats to primary moderate Democrats in 2020.
- The group wants Democrats to stop taking corporate PAC money, or face a progressive challenger in 2020.
- Ocasio-Cortez has already pushed back against moderate Democrats in Washington, attending a sit-in at Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office during her first day of orientation.
Incoming House freshman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is no stranger to challenging the old guard of the Democratic party, defeating the 12-term chair of the Democratic House Caucus in a stunning upset in the 2018 primaries.
Now, Ocasio-Cortez appears poised to lead the charge in an effort to replicate her own success in an push to elect more progressive Democrats in already blue districts.
On a Facebook Live conference call held Saturday by the progressive group Justice Democrats, Ocasio-Cortez asked hundreds of viewers to consider launching their own campaigns, no matter who they’d be facing. “This is about bringing justice to our system,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “All Americans know that money in politics is a huge problem but unfortunately, the way that we fix it is demanding that our incumbents give it up or by running fierce campaigns ourselves,” she continued. For Ocasio-Cortez, the issue seemed to be beyond politics, saying “that’s really what we need to do to save this country.”
The call marked the launch of Justice Democrats’ #OurTime campaign. The group, which initially recruited Ocasio-Cortez to run, has so far focused on supporting candidates that reject money from corporate PACs and represent progressive stances. Now, according to their website, Justice Democrats are looking to replicate the success of Ocasio-Cortez across the county by electing “a new generation of diverse working-class Democrats who have a bold vision to transform our economy and democracy.”
“We are unafraid of taking on out-of-touch incumbents in primary challenges because we don’t need to just elect more Democrats, we need to elect better Democrats,” reads the group’s website.
On the call, executive director Saikat Chakrabarti put the campaign’s mission bluntly: “We have to primary people because it’s one of the only ways we’ll get working class people, poor people, people who have great big ideas into the party.”
As inspiration, Ocasio-Cortez shouted out other Justice Democrats-backed success stories to illustrate that progressive challenges in primaries were possible: “When you think about the true vanguard of the progressive movement it is dynamic women like Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar and they ran in blue districts.”
Already, even before being sworn in, Ocasio-Cortez and her class have begun to push back on the Democratic establishment in Washington.
On the first day of orientation for freshman House members, Ocasio-Cortez attended a sit-in in Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s office to demand the formation of a select committee to draft legislation that would create a “Green New Deal” – a policy found in Justice Democrats’ platform. Pelosi is facing a contentious bid to regain her speaker seat, and Ocasio-Cortez’s support, as a leader among the new progressive Democrats, could help put talk of a progressive challenge to bed.
But Ocasio-Cortez isn’t closed off to the possibility that centrist Democrats can get the job done. When asked about Nancy Pelosi, Ocasio-Cortez said, “This is not about supporting or not supporting an individual. It’s about making sure that we can get as progressive and aggressive of legislation as a party on climate change as quickly as possible.”