Amid Whispers of Presidential Potential, AOC—Not Buttigieg—Called 'Future of the Democratic Party'

As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has traveled the country to support Sen. Bernie Sanders’ second campaign to secure the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, the New York congresswoman—who is currently too young to legally hold the nation’s highest office—has sparked fresh speculation that she will eventually make her own run for the White House, Politico reported Friday.

“The undeniable fact is that Ocasio-Cortez has been the rock star of the political left since she pulled off her shock defeat of 10-term incumbent Joseph Crowley.”
—Mehdi Hasan, journalist

Ocasio-Cortez garnered national media attention in mid-2018 for her landslide victory in a primary race for New York’s solidly blue 14th Congressional District, which ousted longtime Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley. She has since used her national platform to promote progressive policies on key issues such as the climate crisis and healthcare—and support fellow political candidates who share her priorities.

In October, Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Sanders for president. The past couple months, Politico explained, “Ocasio-Cortez has become a supercharged surrogate for Sanders in early-voting and delegate-rich states. As she’s drawn massive crowds alongside the Vermont senator in Iowa, Nevada, California, and New York, progressive insiders and activists are increasingly whispering about Ocasio-Cortez inheriting the movement one day—and running for the White House with it behind her.”

Longtime Sanders adviser Jeff Weaver didn’t answer Politico‘s question about whether Sanders is positioning Ocasio-Cortez as a protégé, but he did say that “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a leader in the progressive movement.”

As Weaver put it: “She is broadly popular, frankly, among Democratic voters. She is particularly strong with young voters, voters of color. She’s an important national voice and adding her weight to the political revolution is a real coup for us.”

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, president of the California Young Democrats—the official youth arm of the state party—compared the 30-year-old congresswoman with the 37-year-old South Bend, Indiana mayor who is one of Sanders’ opponents in the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary race.

“The future of the Democratic Party is not Pete Buttigieg. It’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” Rodriguez-Kennedy told Politico. “She has gripped the attention of fellow millennials across the country. The Green New Deal has changed the conversation on environmental action in the Democratic Party.”

The goal of the Green New Deal, introduced by Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) in February, is to craft a plan to transition the U.S. energy system to 100% renewable sources—in line with what global scientists say is necessary to avert climate catastrophe—while creating millions of jobs. Sanders was a “proud” original co-sponsor of the resolution.

Rodriguez-Kennedy, whose group endorsed Sanders for the 2020 nomination, described a couple potential political futures: “One, Sen. Sanders wins, and then his coalition could be up for grabs. It could be AOC’s. Or two, if we don’t make it, who builds that coalition moving forward?”

But, he said, “I don’t think we’re going to have to worry about the latter.”

The Politico report noted that some attendees of a Sanders rally that Ocasio-Cortez led in Los Angeles this past weekend openly wondered whether the New Yorker will eventually launch a presidential campaign.