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

Ocasio-Cortez Dismisses Centrist Attempts to Blame Left for Dem Losses, Calling on Party to Listen to Progressive Demands

"The whole 'progressivism is bad' argument just doesn't have any compelling evidence that I've seen."

Julia Conley

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did not directly address comments made in Thursday evening's House Democratic caucus call on Friday, but in an extensive Twitter thread the congresswoman discussed multiple reasons for rejecting centrist Democrats' claims that the embrace of progressive policies led to lackluster election results for the party. 

Support for broadly popular policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All and relentless canvassing by progressives in the House—even when Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden's campaign declined to campaign in key states—were among the factors which helped unapologetic progressives win elections this year, the New York Democrat tweeted, while centrist candidates lost or came close to losing. 

"In the next few weeks, every unpopular Democrat who lost will try to blame these same young voters. They'll blame our protests. They'll blame our demands. They should be thanking us."
—Sunrise Movement

"The whole 'progressivism is bad' argument just doesn't have any compelling evidence that I've seen," tweeted Ocasio-Cortez.

The congresswoman made her points after political reporters shared details about a call held by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) in which several members expressed anger over public discussion of Medicare for All, far-reaching police reform, and policies the right has attacked as "socialist."

Clyburn warned that in congressional elections, if "we are going to run on Medicare for All, defund the police, socialized medicine, we're not going to win."

In fact, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out, the 2020 election results show that the opposite is true in many cases.

Progressive victors in Tuesday's elections include Ocasio-Cortez herself; Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), who retained their House seats as well as helping secure Biden's victories in their key states; Rep.-elect Cori Bush (D-Mo.), and Rep.-elect Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), both of whom unseated powerful, longtime corporate-backed congressmen.

Democrats who lost include Reps. Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), and Abby Finkenauer (D-Iowa)—all of whom oppose Medicare for All and reducing police funding. 

Bush won her seat by a landslide after speaking publicly about "defunding the police" and redirecting funds to community policing as well as defunding the Pentagon. Tlaib is a cosponsor of the BREATHE Act, which calls for, among other things, the closure of federal prisons, removal of police from schools, and investing in intervention programs which would ensure mental health professionals and other specialists instead of police officers to respond to many 911 calls.  

While Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) complained on the Democrats' call that other candidates' embrace of such policies nearly cost her her seat in Congress, which she retained after winning by a single point, the candidates who ran on those policies won by far greater margins. 

Investing time and energy in "deep canvassing" in order to connect with voters about the issues that matter to them are among the ways candidates like Spanberger and others can secure more decisive victories, Ocasio-Cortez suggested. 

"When it comes to 'Defund' and 'Socialism' attacks, people need to realize these are racial resentment attacks," the congresswoman said. "You're not gonna make that go away. You can make it less effective."

"Deep canvassing," in which candidates and campaigners have in-depth conversations with voters in order to learn about the issues that matter to them, has been shown to be 102 times more effective at garnering votes than typical short interactions during door-knocking operations.

Pandering to voters whose top concerns are "law and order" or avoiding a "socialist" takeover of the government through the expansion of Medicare to all Americans, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted, will only serve to alienate communities of color who responded positively to campaigning by progressives this year. 

Other progressives on social media echoed Ocasio-Cortez's objections to centrists' hand-wringing and finger-pointing. 

"In the next few weeks, every unpopular Democrat who lost will try to blame these same young voters," tweeted the grassroots climate action group Sunrise Movement. "They'll blame our protests. They'll blame our demands. They should be thanking us."


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