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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) speaks during a vigil for the victims of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio in Grand Army Plaza on Aug. 5, 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Amid Whispers of Presidential Potential, AOC—Not Buttigieg—Called 'Future of the Democratic Party'

Politico reports that the New York Democrat and high-profile 2020 surrogate for Bernie Sanders is generating buzz as a future White House contender.

Jessica Corbett

As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has traveled the country to support Sen. Bernie Sanders' second campaign to secure the Democratic Party's presidential nomination, the New York congresswoman—who is currently too young to legally hold the nation's highest office—has sparked fresh speculation that she will eventually make her own run for the White House, Politico reported Friday.

"The undeniable fact is that Ocasio-Cortez has been the rock star of the political left since she pulled off her shock defeat of 10-term incumbent Joseph Crowley."
—Mehdi Hasan, journalist

Ocasio-Cortez garnered national media attention in mid-2018 for her landslide victory in a primary race for New York's solidly blue 14th Congressional District, which ousted longtime Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley. She has since used her national platform to promote progressive policies on key issues such as the climate crisis and healthcare—and support fellow political candidates who share her priorities.

In October, Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Sanders for president. The past couple months, Politico explained, "Ocasio-Cortez has become a supercharged surrogate for Sanders in early-voting and delegate-rich states. As she's drawn massive crowds alongside the Vermont senator in Iowa, Nevada, California, and New York, progressive insiders and activists are increasingly whispering about Ocasio-Cortez inheriting the movement one day—and running for the White House with it behind her."

Longtime Sanders adviser Jeff Weaver didn't answer Politico's question about whether Sanders is positioning Ocasio-Cortez as a protégé, but he did say that "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a leader in the progressive movement."

As Weaver put it: "She is broadly popular, frankly, among Democratic voters. She is particularly strong with young voters, voters of color. She's an important national voice and adding her weight to the political revolution is a real coup for us."

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, president of the California Young Democrats—the official youth arm of the state party—compared the 30-year-old congresswoman with the 37-year-old South Bend, Indiana mayor who is one of Sanders' opponents in the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary race.

"The future of the Democratic Party is not Pete Buttigieg. It's Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez," Rodriguez-Kennedy told Politico. "She has gripped the attention of fellow millennials across the country. The Green New Deal has changed the conversation on environmental action in the Democratic Party."

The goal of the Green New Deal, introduced by Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in February, is to craft a plan to transition the U.S. energy system to 100% renewable sources—in line with what global scientists say is necessary to avert climate catastrophe—while creating millions of jobs. Sanders was a "proud" original co-sponsor of the resolution.

Rodriguez-Kennedy, whose group endorsed Sanders for the 2020 nomination, described a couple potential political futures: "One, Sen. Sanders wins, and then his coalition could be up for grabs. It could be AOC's. Or two, if we don't make it, who builds that coalition moving forward?"

But, he said, "I don't think we're going to have to worry about the latter."

The Politico report noted that some attendees of a Sanders rally that Ocasio-Cortez led in Los Angeles this past weekend openly wondered whether the New Yorker will eventually launch a presidential campaign.

A spokesperson for the congresswoman did not comment. However, speculation about Ocasio-Cortez's political future has circulated since her 2018 primary win.

In May, VICE interviewed historians and political analysts about the potential for Ocasio-Cortez to rise to the Oval Office someday. Most of them, according to VICE, "noted that there are plenty of examples of politicians who started out as young, energetic, sometimes polarizing newcomers and ended up becoming president."

In the wake of the November 2018 elections, Mehdi Hasan wrote for The Intercept that President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly targeted Ocasio-Cortez, "should be relieved" that the congresswoman "is constitutionally barred from running for the office of president until 2024."

Hasan, who dismissed the Constitution's presidential age requirement of 35 as "ridiculous and arbitrary," continued:

Am I wrong to suggest that, pesky constitutional obstacles aside, she might make a strong contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination? Is it a completely crazy idea?

Perhaps it is. She has yet to prove herself as a legislator, let alone as a leader. She has shown astonishing potential, yes, but does not yet have a demonstrable track record of delivery or success. She may even make some glaring errors of judgement in Congress during the coming months and years.

But is it that crazy? The undeniable fact is that Ocasio-Cortez has been the rock star of the political left since she pulled off her shock defeat of 10-term incumbent Joseph Crowley...

She has also put the fear of God into conservative media. They have obsessed over her clothes, her housing, her policy positions, and the occasional gaffe. And the result? "Conservative obsession with attacking Ocasio-Cortez is keeping her in the news 24/7 and only making her stronger," my colleague Murtaza Hussain observed on Twitter, only half in jest. "They're going to make the [same] mistake as the libs did with Trump and end up making her president."

Noting his nearly two decades of working as a journalist, Hasan added that "I can safely say that, with the exception perhaps of Barack Obama, I have never before seen a politician come out of nowhere to energize, enthuse, and inspire millions of people in such a phenomenally short space of time in the way that Ocasio-Cortez has over the past few months. And unlike Obama, Ocasio-Cortez has done so while challenging conventional wisdoms and going on the offensive against a lazy neoliberal consensus."

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