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Will Ocasio-Cortez challenge Biden or Harris in 2024?

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)
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 Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, was seen attending the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, in 2019 and conversing with then-British Prime Minister Theresa May, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and then-International Monetary Fund chairwoman Christine Lagarde.

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 Crowley (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.

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 Klain 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 Sanders (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 Clinton 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.

Tags 2024 election Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Democratic Party Donald Trump Emmanuel Macron Hillary Clinton Joe Crowley Justin Trudeau Politics of the United States progressive Democrats Progressivism in the United States Ron Klain Theresa May

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