Will Ocasio-Cortez challenge Biden or Harris in 2024?

Will Ocasio-Cortez challenge Biden or Harris in 2024?
© Greg Nash

People, political parties and incumbents all underestimate Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) at their own peril.

As someone who grew up in poverty and worked menial jobs to pay for a college education, I have always been impressed by her working-class background. All the more reason I was shocked and disappointed when some in the GOP, and people like British journalist Piers Morgan, made fun of her for being just a bartender.

Morgan’s mocking comment came after Ocasio-Cortez questioned why then-President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden administration to keep Trump-era rule of turning away migrants during pandemic On The Money: Biden, Pelosi struggle with end of eviction ban | Trump attorney says he will fight release of tax returns Lack of transatlantic cooperation on trade threatens global climate change goals MORE’s daughter, Ivanka, was seen attending the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, in 2019 and conversing with then-British Prime Minister Theresa MayTheresa Mary MayOvernight Defense: Pentagon chief defends Milley after Trump book criticism | Addresses critical race theory | Top general says Taliban has 'strategic momentum' in war Will Ocasio-Cortez challenge Biden or Harris in 2024? The Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' MORE, Canadian Prime Minister Justin TrudeauJustin Pierre James TrudeauBiden discusses Canadian citizens detained in China with Trudeau Biden administration stokes frustration over Canada The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Goldman Sachs - Schumer moves ahead with likely-to-fail infrastructure vote MORE, French President Emmanuel MacronEmmanuel Jean-Michel MacronFrench parliament approves COVID-19 passes for restaurants, domestic travel WhatsApp chief: US allies' national security officials targeted with NSO malware US athletes chant 'Dr. Biden' as first lady cheers swimmers MORE and then-International Monetary Fund chairwoman Christine Lagarde.

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At the time, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “It may be shocking to some, but being someone’s daughter actually isn’t a career qualification …”

Morgan’s reply: “Could be worse … Ivanka could have been a bartender 18 months ago.”

Ocasio-Cortez was, indeed, a bartender 18 months earlier — before she defied all the odds and shook the pillars of politics by defeating ten-term, entrenched-establishment liberal Rep. Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyCynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney The Hill's Morning Report - McConnell pressures Dem leaders to follow Biden's infrastructure lead The Memo: The center strikes back MORE (seen by many at the time as the next Speaker of the House) in New York’s 14th Congressional District to become the youngest congresswoman in U.S. history.

That is beyond impressive, by anyone’s standards. No one handed her that victory; nepotism and family wealth played no role in it. Quite simply, she earned it.

In many ways — like her or not — Ocasio-Cortez is the personification of the American Dream. It is one of the reasons why she has become a political and cultural force in such an incredibly short time. Tens of millions of Americans see their lives and their daily struggles reflected back at them from her eyes.

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While neither she nor Donald Trump may like it, in at least one respect they have something in common: Neither much cares for the rules of running for higher office as set forth by the entrenched-establishment elites. “Wait your turn, until we give you our approval,” is not a command they accept or obey.

Trump proved it by laying political waste to the establishment-beloved Republican primary field in 2016, and Ocasio-Cortez did so in 2018 by shocking the Democratic leadership with her victory.

Now, under the Biden-Harris administration, Ocasio-Cortez finds herself as, arguably, the most powerful advocate for the progressive-populist wing of the Democratic Party. It is a movement which already has made known its disappointment over some of the actions and non-actions of the new administration.

In two mini-shots across the bow of the Biden-Harris White House this week, Ocasio-Cortez first pointedly criticized their infrastructure plan, tweeting: “This is not nearly enough. The important context here is that it’s $2.25T spread out over 10 years. For context, the COVID package was $1.9T this year *alone,* with some provisions lasting 2 years. Needs to be way bigger.” Next, in a virtual meeting with her constituents, Ocasio-Cortez openly criticized how undocumented children crossing the border were being treated by the Biden administration. Said the congresswoman, in part: “As we’ve seen, there are arrivals and undocumented children — rather, unaccompanied children — that have come at the border and this had led to completely inhuman and unacceptable, horrifying conditions of children in CBP (Customs and Border Protection) custody. And it’s unacceptable and it’s horrifying.”

Those messages were not released without a great deal of forethought, you may be certain.

Knowing that she is intimidated by no one, it is safe to assume that White House chief of staff Ron KlainRon KlainThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Senate finalizes .2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Jan. 6 probe, infrastructure to dominate week White House looks to cool battle with Facebook MORE recently met with Ocasio-Cortez precisely because he realizes how powerful she’s become and that her political potential is not only unlimited but accelerating at warp-speed.

In 2016, progressive Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive things to watch in two Ohio special election primaries This week: Senate starts infrastructure sprint Senators introduce bipartisan infrastructure bill in rare Sunday session MORE (I-Vt.) won 23 Democratic primary contests, more than 13 million votes, and 39 percent of the delegates at a Democratic Party convention which only grudgingly named Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive things to watch in two Ohio special election primaries Clintons, Stacey Abrams meeting Texas Democrats Biden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections MORE as its nominee to face Trump. Many of those millions from Bernie’s grassroots populist army felt disrespected by the Democratic establishment; because of that, as many as 10 percent then voted for Trump as a way to voice their displeasure.

Today, a great many of those voters hear the voice of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a voice which rings true to the progressive and populist issues they believe must be immediately addressed.

If Biden-Harris stumble, and if Democrats suffer major setbacks in the Senate and the House in 2022, would Ocasio-Cortez think about running for president two years later as a champion for those she believes are being left behind? She would turn 35 years old, the minimum age for a president, a little more than three weeks before the election.

If the Biden-Harris White House and the Democratic Party leadership are not at least privately asking themselves that very question, then they don’t understand what Ocasio-Cortez surely already knows — that presidential politics has changed dramatically since 2016, that “Wait your turn” is over, and that she’s at the top of her game.

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.