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Ocasio-Cortez Warns Biden That Just Throwing Progressives a 'Couple of Bones' Will Not Be Enough

"At the bare minimum, we should aspire to be better than what we have been before," says New York Democrat in new interview. "People need to feel hope."

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-N.Y.), at the Capitol on Friday, March 27, 2020.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-N.Y.), at the Capitol on Friday, March 27, 2020. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images)

In an interview with the New York Times published Monday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez argues that presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has much work to do when it comes to motivating those within the progressive movement inspired and led by Sen. Bernie Sanders over the past five years.

"I don't think this conversation about changes that need to be made is one about throwing the progressive wing of the party a couple of bones—I think this is about how we can win," Ocasio-Cortez told the Times.

In the Times interview, Ocasio-Cortez made clear she intends to support Biden if he is the nominee but said that thus far the former vice president's overtures to the Democratic Party's progressive wing leave much to be desired. 

The New York Democrat—who was a prominent and galvanizing surrogate for Sanders on the campaign trail before he dropped out of the race on April 8—said that while expectations for Biden's campaign should be realistic, there is a need for a forward-thinking agenda. 

"I think people understand that there are limits to what Biden will do and that's understandable—he didn't run as a progressive candidate," Ocasio-Cortez said. "But, at the bare minimum, we should aspire to be better than what we have been before."

At the same time, she said elsewhere in the interview, "people need to feel hope" when it comes to looking towards the next Democratic administration.

As Common Dreams reported last Thursday, a new policy proposal from Biden to lower the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 60 was met with disappointment from the left—and Ocasio-Cortez agreed.

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"They floated this olive branch to the progressive left of lowering the Medicare age to 60. And it's almost insulting," she said. "I think Hillary was looking at policies that lowered it to 50. So we're talking about a 'progressive concession' that is 10 years worse than what the nominee had in 2016."

Ocasio-Cortez added that the exit polling from the primaries made clear that the majority of Democratic voters are on board with progressive policies, a sign that Biden's victories are not necessarily an endorsement of all of the former vice president's political positions.

"While Biden is the nominee, we also know that he didn't win because of policy—I don't think he won because of his agenda, he won because of different factors," said Ocasio-Cortez, referring to an unprecedented coalescing from the rest of the field around Biden after the South Carolina primary.

"In state after state after state," she added, "Democratic voters support a progressive agenda."

Asked about her willingness to rally with Biden, Ocasio-Cortez allowed it was a possibility. But ultimately, she said, the former vice president has to do a better job reaching out to supporters of Sanders and fellow former primary candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

"I've always said that I will support the Democratic nominee," said Ocasio-Cortez. "But unity is a process, and figuring out what that looks like is part of this whole conversation that I think Bernie and Warren and other folks are a part of as well."

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