Krystal Ball reacts to Ocasio-Cortez endorsing Sanders: 'Class power over girl power'

Opinion by: Krystal Ball 

We're just learning more details about AOC's endorsement of Bernie SandersBernie SandersJoe Biden lost his fastball — can he get it back before South Carolina? Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Bloomberg hits Sanders supporters in new ad MORE. According to Politico, AOC informed Senator Sanders of her decision while he was lying in a Nevada hospital bed, recovering from his heart attack. Here's campaign manager Faiz Shakir:

"Think about the courage of this person who says, 'you know, I know what you just went through but I have so much trust and confidence in you that you are the one who will fight the fight that I believe in. I'm with you.’ To hear that was like, 'wow’.”

Wow indeed. About 2 weeks ago on this show, I explained what AOC's endorsement would mean for her and for the candidate who received it. In part, I argued that endorsing Bernie at this moment, when the wind is at the back of his progressive rival, would represent a profoundly important and courageous move.

Now, it might be tempting to write AOC's endorsement off as the obvious choice. After all, she's a justice Dem. Exactly the sort of upend the system, working class Democrat who takes inspiration from Sanders movement. She herself was a Sanders volunteer. But in fact, it wasn't at all obvious that she would make this choice, at least not right now. Just look at how the Working Families Party, a group with a mission statement that could be torn from the Sanders website, threw their support to Warren this time. For AOC to back Bernie while the wind is at Warren's back is very much against her personal short-term political interest. After all, Warren has adopted the language of the movement and embraced many of the policies that AOC champions from Medicare for All to the Green New Deal. In doing so, Warren has given AOC plenty enough cover to sit it out if she wanted to, to throw her energies just into defeating Biden rather than picking between the two progressive candidates. She could have easily accepted the argument that the nation's Katrina vanden Heuvel made in the Post recently, when she argued that progressives ought to honor and embrace a truce between Warren and Bernie. In essence, either of these candidates is great so let's just have a love fest for them and see what plays out.

AOC is explicitly rejecting all of that. She is picking sides. And picking sides means of course that there are differences between Warren and Sanders. Differences that matter enough to risk the wrath of a woman with a good likelihood of being the Democratic nominee. Differences that matter enough to risk the upset of a chunk of AOC's own followers who may have backed her because they loved seeing a young woman of color push out the old white guy, but are really more invested in her identity than in the working class populist movement she represents. For those AOC supporters, it was apparently very confusing for their girl-power champion to throw in with the old white guy over a progressive woman.

For example, Jane Eisner, Director of Academic Affairs at Columbia Journalism School in a now deleted tweet wrote: “I find it fascinating that women of color overlook female and minority candidates to endorse a white guy. Is 'identity politics' over? Is ideology more important than race and gender? Genuinely curious."

Well Jane, allow me to help you understand why AOC or Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarTlaib says she held Omar's hand during 'triggering' moments at Trump's State of the Union speech Key House Democrat says Perez must go: 'He doesn't lead on anything' Democrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' MORE, or any other progressive would pick Bernie Sanders over Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenJoe Biden lost his fastball — can he get it back before South Carolina? Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes Budget hawks frustrated by 2020 politics in entitlement reform fight MORE. I'm not sure anyone has argued what's at stake here better than Matt Karp.

In his new piece for Jacobin, Karp lays out how the Democratic party has rejected the politics of class solidarity in favor of embracing the professional elite. The results of this should be abundantly obvious. NAFTA, TPP, allowing union power to decline, banking bailouts, an embrace of woke virtue signaling to keep working class minorities in the tent while providing nothing of substance in terms of their economic well-being. That's why Warren's upper crust fan base is in and of itself cause for concern. As Matt points out, already the Democratic party, the alleged party of the people, has won control of every one of the 20 wealthiest counties in the country. Warren's coalition points to more of that. More sidelining of the working class. More embracing the tastes and priorities of wealthy liberals. More of the white working class identifying with the racist populism of the right. Sanders’ coalition alone, points the way towards a fundamental realignment of the Democratic party around the working class. Here's Matt:

"An OpenSecrets review of campaign donations found that while Warren was naturally the top recipient among scientists and professors, Sanders led by far among teachers, nurses, servers, bartenders, social workers, retail workers, construction workers, truckers, and drivers. Of all the money going to 2020 democrats from servers -- one of the lowest-paying jobs in the country -- more than half went to Sanders alone. This is just what is required to challenge the power of the ultrarich: a politics that does not treat lower-income voters as a kind of passive supplement for professional liberals, but one that can put the new working class itself at the center of the action." So well said.

And this is the choice that AOC has just made. It's a choice to center the working class.

True leadership isn't picking the winning side just before the election, the way that Warren did when endorsing HRC. It doesn't look like picking the person who happens to have the identity most similar to yours. True leadership looks like wandering in the desert of democratic socialism the way that Bernie did for decades when the DLC and corporatists turned us into the party of Davos, and Bernie was essentially alone on the national political scene. And true leadership looks like backing Bernie Sanders when he's third in the polls, not because it's the opportunistic or smart choice, but because it's the right choice. True leadership means moving the hearts and minds of people to where they ought to be, not telling funders, pundits and the media what they want to hear.

I asked myself if AOC was a true leader of character, or just someone who saw an opportunity to beat Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyCNBC anchor Caruso-Cabrera to challenge Ocasio-Cortez in primary Ocasio-Cortez: 'Impossible' to find a good bacon, egg and cheese in DC Ocasio-Cortez defends decision not to pay dues to House Democratic campaign arm MORE because of his arrogant, establishment-bound complacency. Now we know the answer, and the multi-racial working class has another champion to stand next to Bernie and fight the good fight.