AOC and Sanders stick with Biden amid 2024 turmoil and push him on a bolder agenda

July 10, 2024
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WASHINGTON — Facing a heavy dose of skepticism from Democrats about whether he should stay in the presidential race, President Joe Biden is finding support from an important faction in the party that he has sometimes clashed with: progressives.

Members of the House’s left-leaning “squad” and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., are expressing support for Biden and using the turmoil to try to nudge him closer to their economic vision for the country in the race against Donald Trump.

“I spoke with the president extensively this weekend. He has made abundantly clear that he is in this race. He has made abundantly clear that he is not leaving the race. He is the nominee. I am making sure that I support him and making sure that we win in November,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told reporters.

She added that Biden should use this moment to “lean in” to a bolder economic agenda “and move further towards the working class” by “expanding his policies and vision for a second term.”

“If we can expand on health care, if we can make sure that people’s rents and mortgages are affordable, if we can actually provide and chart out a future that is more leaning into the needs of working people, then I think we can chart a path to win,” she said.

Sanders issued a similar call in a statement about “Biden’s path to victory,” calling on him to tout his support for a higher minimum wage, expanded Medicare benefits, a bigger child tax credit and tax hikes on the wealthy to preserve Social Security.

“Biden and Democrats can win this election if they address the needs of the working class,” Sanders said in a statement. “The American people want change. It will either be the change of Trump’s reactionary and xenophobic policies, or change that benefits working families.”

Members of the party’s left flank have clashed with Biden over high-profile issues — including U.S. policy toward Israel as it bombards Gaza and his executive actions to crack down on asylumseekers who seek to cross into the U.S. illegally.

And it’s a valuable retort for the White House: Peppered with questions Tuesday about whether Biden’s standing is eroding within the Democratic Party, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre cited the support he’s getting and named Ocasio-Cortez. (The White House and the Biden campaign wouldn’t comment further.)

A source familiar with Ocasio-Cortez’s thinking said she’s uninterested in intraparty fighting and is trying to optimize the odds of success. The source said she’s “looking at the Dems panicking and telling them privately: Tell me who the alternative is who can beat Donald Trump.”

“She just doesn’t see that person,” the source added.

The move represents a pragmatic side that Ocasio-Cortez has shown in recent years, which has pleasantly surprised leading Democrats and drawn scorn from some activists on the left, who want her to be more combative with her party’s leaders.

Biden has adopted a series of progressive ideas that enjoy broad popularity, including increasing the federal minimum wage and expanding Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing benefits. But part of the left’s concern is that he misses opportunities to communicate that agenda — for instance, he didn’t mention either of those policies at the Atlanta debate with Trump.

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., a Biden campaign surrogate and progressive caucus member, has a foot in both camps.

“We see an opportunity to get this party to move in a bolder direction on economic policy — which we believe is not just substantively correct but also good politics,” Khanna said in an interview. “I think some people should give the progressives credit. It’s not the progressives who have been part of the circular firing squad. And I think that progressives have really come out looking like we have a governing vision and that we’re putting values above intraparty squabbles.”

Two other “squad” members said they’re sticking with Biden.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., said her focus is on helping re-elect Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to stop Trump from winning and implementing the right-wing Project 2025 agenda.

“President Biden is the nominee,” Pressley said.

“We are losing the plot. I just celebrated my daughter’s 16th birthday, and I’m terrified about the world that she stands to inherit, a world where 10-year-olds are raped and impregnated and forced to have a child — a nation of forced birth. Project 2025, that is not a wish list. That is a policy plan,” Pressley said. “I’m not focused on a 90-minute debate. I’m focused on the potential of 90 years of harm for everyone who calls this country home.”

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., said in a statement that she, too, is “standing with President Biden and Vice President Harris.”

“I remain committed to helping the president be successful in November and defeat Donald Trump to ensure this criminal will never hold office again,” Omar said.

Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., said she sympathizes with Biden.

“Right now the same right-wing influences that are trying to take me down are trying to take down President Biden. So that’s where my head is. But I’m listening to my colleagues and I’m listening to my constituents,” Bush told reporters. “And so we’re still having a lot of talks.”



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