“In a time when millions of people in the United States are looking for deep systemic solutions to our crises of mass evictions, unemployment and lack of health care . . . and out of a love for all people, I hereby second the nomination of Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont for president of the United States of America,” she said.
While the address was diplomatic, the New York Democrat — who did not mention Biden once — has been working with liberal groups to oust centrists like Biden in hopes of strengthening liberals’ foothold in Congress next year. And they’re already poised to increase their numbers, expanding their clout as they seek to push the House — and the next Democratic president — into embracing policies such as Medicare-for-all and the Green New Deal.
“Right now what you’re seeing is that we’ve got a common goal to beat Donald Trump, but come January, we maybe have a different goal,” said Corbin Trent, a former Ocasio-Cortez aide and political adviser. “They won the nomination, so they get to pick the game plan. Now, that doesn’t mean that they get to pick the game plan in the midterms, when we start primarying their a–es. And it don’t mean that they get to pick the game plan when we start recruiting for 2024 and we primary their a–es.”
The moment comes as the party led by pragmatic-minded septuagenarians and octogenarians — Biden is 77 and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is 80 — has sought to feature a more ideologically diverse crop of rising stars. On Tuesday, 17 Democrats delivered the keynote address at the convention; all are under 50.
Those included liberal leaders such as Stacey Abrams, the Black former Georgia House minority leader who nearly defeated Gov. Brian Kemp (R), as well as moderate Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Pa.), who flipped a Trump district in western Pennsylvania in a 2018 special election.
The selection of fresh, young faces underscores the racial and ideological diversity that Democrats hope will deliver them the Senate and the White House, as it did the House in the 2018 midterms. Liberals, however, are already thinking ahead to January, when they hope to force a potential President Biden and Pelosi into advancing some of their prized proposals.
“We have to be leveraging our membership in a way that will get concessions from a Biden White House on issues like criminal justice reform and health care,” said Mondaire Jones, who won the primary in New York’s 17th Congressional District and is expected to win on Election Day due to the left-leaning tilt of his district. He cited Medicare-for-all.
Throughout the primary season, Biden owned the centrist lane for Democrats, beating back the far-left’s calls for universal health care and free college and refusing to join many in the party in endorsing the Green New Deal — yet still finding a way to secure the nomination.
Down ballot, however, liberal outside groups were highly successful in lifting their candidates to primary wins over establishment Democrats. Earlier this month, Cori Bush, the 44-year-old Black Lives Matter activist, unseated 10-term Rep. William Lacy Clay, the 64-year-old heir to a St. Louis political dynasty. Before her, Jamaal Bowman, a 44-year-old former middle school principal, took down 16-term Rep. Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Both are expected to win in November in strongly Democratic districts.
All told, Justice Democrats, the group that launched Ocasio-Cortez’s candidacy just over two years ago, has won five of the nine primaries it has participated in during this election cycle. And since Trump became president, the far-left has managed to unseat five establishment Democrats, a warning to the broader party.
It’s unclear how effective the crop of newcomers will be in Congress. Much ink has been spilled over the past two years likening Ocasio-Cortez and her “Squad” of three liberal freshmen to the House Freedom Caucus, a band of tea party candidates who regularly ran roughshod over GOP leaders but had little legislative success.
Few congressional liberals beyond that quartet were willing to band together to play hardball with Pelosi, though the Progressive Caucus has been able to secure some wins on internal border security measures and prescription drug proposals. However, on the left’s demands on health care and climate change, Pelosi has routinely sidelined their priorities for fear that they would repel swing voters around the nation and endanger the 31 Democrats representing districts Trump won in 2016.
Activists who have helped elect the new group of liberals are already saying next year will be different, as their numbers allow them to fight in a way they could not in this Congress.
“They’re more powerful and willing to flex their muscle. . . . There will definitely not be a honeymoon period for Joe Biden,” said Waleed Shahid, a spokesman for Justice Democrats….