The chair of the Democratic Party just embraced progressive insurgent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calling her 'the future of our party'

  • The Democratic National Committee chair, Tom Perez, has wholeheartedly embraced Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old self-described democratic socialist, calling her “the future of our party.”
  • Ocasio-Cortez is to the left of Perez and other party leaders on some key policy issues, but Perez said Democratic candidates should fit their districts.
  • Other party leaders have responded less enthusiastically to Ocasio-Cortez’s upset victory, warning that the party should avoid moving “too far to the left.”

The Democratic National Committee chair, Tom Perez, on Tuesday wholeheartedly embraced Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the 28-year-old progressive insurgent who stunned the political world last week when she unseated a 10-term incumbent New York Democrat, calling the democratic socialist “the future of our party.”

“I have three kids, two of whom are daughters. One just graduated college, one who is in college, and they were both texting me about their excitement over Alexandria because she really – she represents the future of our party,” Perez said during an interview with the liberal radio-show host Bill Press.

Ocasio-Cortez is to the left of Perez and other party leaders on some key issues, including her call to abolish the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. Perez said Tuesday that ICE had “endemic problems” but should be reformed rather than eliminated.

Still, he argued that Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign platform illustrated a necessary ideological diversity in the party.

“Alexandria’s victory was just a remarkable reminder of the depth that we have in the Democratic Party,” Perez said, adding that Democratic success in this year’s midterm elections would be built on candidates who tailor their campaigns to their states and districts.

“What Alexandria has in common with people like Conor Lamb, who also won an upset victory, is that they’re fighting for the issues that their constituents care most about,” he said, referring to the Democrat who flipped a red Pennsylvania congressional district in a March special election.

The DNC chief added that he had “great respect” for Ocasio-Cortez’s primary opponent, Rep. Joe Crowley, whom Perez called a “good Democrat” and a “class act.”

Other Democratic leaders have responded a bit less warmly to Ocasio-Cortez’s upset. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told reporters last week that the surprising election result didn’t have broad implications for the party.

“They made a choice in one district,” Pelosi said. “So let’s not get yourself carried away as an expert on demographics and the rest of that within the caucus or outside the caucus.”

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, an Illinois Democrat, similarly argued that Ocasio-Cortez’s popularity in her Queens-Bronx district didn’t mean she was paving the path forward for the national party.

“I think it’s the future of the party in the Bronx, where she is,” Duckworth told CNN last week. “I think that you can’t win the White House without the Midwest, and I don’t think you can go too far to the left and still win the Midwest.”

Ocasio-Cortez, who is expected to win her general election by wide margins later this year and become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, has since argued that there are “a lot of districts” like hers and that the country is ready for a new generation of leaders.

Conservatives celebrated Perez’s comments, arguing that the Democratic Party’s embrace of socialism would spell its ruin.

“A gift to every Republican everywhere,” the Republican strategist Matt Mackowiak tweeted.

Perez has repeatedly said the national party shouldn’t get involved in Democratic primaries, for fear of stifling ideological diversity and degrading voter confidence in the democratic system. But in May, the DNC chair upset many in his party, including the deputy DNC chair, Keith Ellison, when he endorsed Gov. Andrew Cuomo in New York over Cuomo’s more progressive Democratic challenger, Cynthia Nixon.

Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Nixon’s insurgent campaign last week.

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