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AOC Knows What She’s Doing

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Bernie Sanders performed brilliantly in Tuesday night’s debate. He was vigorous, sharp, and uncharacteristically relaxed, and even gracious. He was consistent and forthright in articulating his distinctive, “democratic socialist” vision, based on the mobilization of a mass movement (“political revolution”) centered on “the working class.” I have doubts about whether this vision can power a winning campaign in either the primary or the general election; the obstacles are great, and the risks of electoral failure also great. But it is beyond doubt that Sanders is a sharp-thinking man of vision and integrity, who cuts through the crap, and stands for egalitarian values, more clearly than any other candidate.

If his performance gave his campaign a much-needed boost in the wake of his recent heart attack, an even bigger boost will arrive this coming weekend when, it is being reported, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will join him at a rally in Queens and endorse him (it is also being reported that Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar will also endorse him).

I have long sung the praises of AOC. She is a brilliant politician, a smart, dedicated, and charismatic young woman who has used her platform to articulate important values and policies and to work collaboratively with other Democrats on legislative issues. She has done an excellent job of straddling the fine line separating an elected official on the “inside” and an insurgent and political organizer on the “outside.” And she has done an equally fine job of owning her commitment to “democratic socialism” and at the same time avoiding ideological stridency and appealing to common sense.

It has been interesting to watch her throughout the current primary season. She has been very publicly close to both Sanders and Warren without endorsing either of them, she has also publicly worked with a wide range of other Democratic legislators, including Presidential contender Kamala Harris (with whom she partnered on a housing bill and a climate justice bill), and she has gone so far as to develop a working relationship with Ted Cruz).

Her instincts have been good ones, and they seem to have been grounded in the kinds of arguments recently advanced by Nation editor D.D. Guttenplan in his “We Don’t Have to Choose Between Warren and Sanders Yet: Their truce during the 2020 campaigns is widening the left lane, and that’s good for everyone.” And yet, as Guttenplan acknowledged, the time for choosing would soon come, and people on the left will eventually have to choose. It now appears that AOC has chosen.

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