Biden’s convention has so far seemed more intent in reaching out to moderates and disillusioned Republicans rather than the left wing of the party that he defeated in the primary. It’s unclear whether Ocasio-Cortez would have spoken at all had Bernie Sanders not asked her to second his nomination.
The convention schedule is part of the larger dance Biden has been performing the last several months to try to satisfy the center and left of the party. The outrage surrounding the small role for Ocasio-Cortez is part of the broader tension between the two wings of the party even as they collaborate to oust Donald Trump.
“It’s definitely disappointing that she got less time than Republicans like John Kasich,” said Angela Lang, the executive director of BLOC, a progressive group that focuses on organizing Black voters in Wisconsin. “Ultimately, the focus is on the eyes on the prize [of] defeating Trump in November. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was disappointed.”
Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman New York lawmaker and democratic socialist who’s become a favorite target for the right, heaped praise on Sanders but kept her highly anticipated remarks fairly tame. During her 60-second speaking slot, Ocasio-Cortez said that “millions of people in the United States are looking for deep, systemic solutions” to economic and health care issues. Simply put, she argued, Sanders’ candidacy fought for the establishment of “21st-century social, economic and human rights.”
Many of the Trump campaign’s attacks ads feature Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders along with other progressive politicians. And Biden’s campaign appears to be wary of the Trump campaign’s attempts to tie him to the left-wing of the Democratic Party.
Despite her brief remarks, some high-profile Trump supporters tried to paint Biden as an enabler of Ocasio-Cortez’s agenda. “Putting AOC in the corner at the #DemocraticConvention will not hide the fact that she’s the co-pilot, along with other liberals, driving the agenda,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday night.
While Biden may have avoided giving Republicans a bigger target, his approach risks not motivating Sanders voters who are ambivalent about Biden.
“Biden was wise to reach out to the Sanders wing of the party immediately after Bernie dropped out to bring the party together and work to build trust as well as the strongest possible united front going forward,” said Evan Weber, co-founder of the youth-driven Sunrise Movement which helped craft the Green New Deal. “The DNC bent over backward yesterday to give a platform to Republicans and moderates, they should at least give the same if not more effort to welcome progressives.”
The small speaking role for Ocasio-Cortez also called attention to complaints from many activists that Latinos did not have a prominent enough places in the convention. “We could win in November, but you could see a potential slide of Latino support for Democrats,” former presidential candidate Julián Castro told Axios this week.
Regardless of her speaking time, Ocasio-Cortez laid down a series of markers she will push Biden on should he capture the White House in November. She railed against “the unsustainable brutality of an economy that rewards explosive inequalities of wealth for the few at the expense of long-term stability for the many.” And she touted Sanders’ campaign as “a movement striving to recognize and repair the wounds of racial injustice, colonization, misogyny and homophobia, and to propose and reimagine systems of immigration and foreign policy that turn away from the violence and xenophobia of our past.”
In case there was any doubt who she was voting for, Ocasio-Cortez told people in an Instagram Live after the convention that progressives need to support Biden and that “November is about, in my opinion, stopping fascism.”