Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Biden’s Win, House Losses, and What’s Next for the Left

For months, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been an excellent soldier for the Democratic Party and Joseph R. Biden Jr. as he sought to defeat President Trump.

But on Saturday, in a virtually hourlong interview shortly after President-elect Biden was declared the winner, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez made clear the divisions inside the social gathering that animated the main nonetheless exist. And she dismissed latest criticisms from some Democratic House members who’ve blamed the social gathering’s left for costing them essential seats. Some of the members who misplaced, she mentioned, had made themselves “sitting ducks.”

These are edited excerpts from the dialog.

We lastly have a fuller understanding of the outcomes. What’s your macro takeaway?

Well, I feel the central one is that we aren’t in a free fall to hell anymore. But whether or not we’re going to select ourselves up or not is the lingering query. We paused this precipitous descent. And the query is that if and how we’ll construct ourselves again up.

We know that race is an issue, and avoiding it’s not going to resolve any electoral points. We should actively disarm the potent affect of racism at the polls.

But we additionally discovered that progressive insurance policies don’t damage candidates. Every single candidate that co-sponsored Medicare for All in a swing district stored their seat. We additionally know that co-sponsoring the Green New Deal was not a sinker. Mike Levin was an unique co-sponsor of the laws, and he stored his seat.

To your first level, Democrats misplaced seats in an election the place they had been anticipated to realize them. Is that what you’re ascribing to racism and white supremacy at the polls?

I feel it’s going to be actually essential how the social gathering offers with this internally, and whether or not the social gathering goes to be sincere about doing an actual autopsy and really digging into why they misplaced. Because earlier than we even had any knowledge but in lots of these races, there was already finger-pointing that this was progressives’ fault and that this was the fault of the Movement for Black Lives.

I’ve already began wanting into the precise functioning of those campaigns. And the factor is, I’ve been unseating Democrats for two years. I’ve been defeating Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee-run campaigns for two years. That’s how I obtained to Congress. That’s how we elected Ayanna Pressley. That’s how Jamaal Bowman gained. That’s how Cori Bush gained. And so we find out about excessive vulnerabilities in how Democrats run campaigns.

Some of that is legal. It’s malpractice. Conor Lamb spent $2,000 on Facebook the week earlier than the election. I don’t suppose anyone who isn’t on the web in an actual approach in the Year of our Lord 2020 and loses an election can blame anybody else whenever you’re not even actually on the web.

And I’ve regarded by way of lots of these campaigns that misplaced, and the reality of the matter is when you’re not spending $200,000 on Facebook with fund-raising, persuasion, volunteer recruitment, get-out-the-vote the week earlier than the election, you aren’t firing on all cylinders. And not a single one among these campaigns had been firing on all cylinders.

Well, Conor Lamb did win. So what are you saying: Investment in digital promoting and canvassing are a better motive average Democrats misplaced than any progressive coverage?

These of us are pointing towards Republican messaging that they really feel killed them, proper? But why had been you so susceptible to that assault?

If you’re not door-knocking, when you’re not on the web, in case your details of reliance are TV and mail, then you definitely’re not working a marketing campaign on all cylinders. I simply don’t see how anybody may very well be making ideological claims once they didn’t run a full-fledged marketing campaign.

Our social gathering isn’t even on-line, not in an actual approach that reveals competence. And so, yeah, they had been susceptible to those messages, as a result of they weren’t even on the mediums the place these messages had been most potent. Sure, you’ll be able to level to the message, however they had been additionally sitting geese. They had been sitting geese.

There’s a motive Barack Obama constructed a whole nationwide marketing campaign equipment exterior of the Democratic National Committee. And there’s a motive that when he didn’t activate or proceed that, we misplaced House majorities. Because the social gathering — in and of itself — doesn’t have the core competencies, and no amount of cash goes to repair that.

If I misplaced my election, and I went out and I mentioned: “This is moderates’ fault. This is because you didn’t let us have a floor vote on Medicare for all.” And they opened the hood on my marketing campaign, and they discovered that I solely spent $5,000 on TV adverts the week earlier than the election? They would giggle. And that’s what they appear like proper now attempting in charge the Movement for Black Lives for their loss.

Is there something from Tuesday that shocked you? Or made you rethink your beforehand held views?

The share of white assist for Trump. I assumed the polling was off, however simply seeing it, there was that feeling of realizing what work now we have to do.

We must do lots of anti-racist, deep canvassing on this nation. Because if we preserve dropping white shares and simply permitting Facebook to radicalize extra and extra parts of white voters and the white voters, there’s no quantity of individuals of colour and younger individuals that you may prove to offset that.

But the downside is that proper now, I feel lots of Dem technique is to keep away from really working by way of this. Just attempting to keep away from poking the bear. That’s their argument with defunding police, proper? To not agitate racial resentment. I don’t suppose that’s sustainable.

There’s lots of magical considering in Washington, that that is nearly particular those that sort of come down from on excessive. Year after yr, we decline the concept that they did work and ran subtle operations in favor of the concept that they’re magical, particular individuals. I would like individuals to take these goggles off and understand how we are able to do issues higher.

If you’re the D.C.C.C., and you’re hemorrhaging incumbent candidates to progressive insurgents, you’ll suppose that you could be need to use a few of these corporations. But as an alternative, we banned them. So the D.C.C.C. banned every single firm that is the best in the country at digital organizing.

The leadership and elements of the party — frankly, people in some of the most important decision-making positions in the party — are becoming so blinded to this anti-activist sentiment that they are blinding themselves to the very assets that they offer.

I’ve been begging the party to let me help them for two years. That’s also the damn thing of it. I’ve been trying to help. Before the election, I offered to help every single swing district Democrat with their operation. And every single one of them, but five, refused my help. And all five of the vulnerable or swing district people that I helped secured victory or are on a path to secure victory. And every single one that rejected my help is losing. And now they’re blaming us for their loss.

So I need my colleagues to understand that we are not the enemy. And that their base is not the enemy. That the Movement for Black Lives is not the enemy, that Medicare for all is not the enemy. This isn’t even just about winning an argument. It’s that if they keep going after the wrong thing, I mean, they’re just setting up their own obsolescence.

What is your expectation as to how open the Biden administration will be to the left? And what is the strategy in terms of moving it?

I don’t know how open they’ll be. And it’s not a personal thing. It’s just, the history of the party tends to be that we get really excited about the grass roots to get elected. And then those communities are promptly abandoned right after an election.

I think the transition period is going to indicate whether the administration is taking a more open and collaborative approach, or whether they’re taking a kind of icing-out approach. Because Obama’s transition set a trajectory for 2010 and some of our House losses. It was a lot of those transition decisions — and who was put in positions of leadership — that really informed, unsurprisingly, the strategy of governance.

What if the administration is hostile? If they take the John Kasich view of who Joe Biden should be? What do you do?

Well, I’d be bummed, because we’re going to lose. And that’s just what it is. These transition appointments, they send a signal. They tell a story of who the administration credits with this victory. And so it’s going be really hard after immigrant youth activists helped potentially deliver Arizona and Nevada. It’s going to be really hard after Detroit and Rashida Tlaib ran up the numbers in her district.

It’s really hard for us to turn out nonvoters when they feel like nothing changes for them. When they feel like people don’t see them, or even acknowledge their turnout.

If the party believes after 94 percent of Detroit went to Biden, after Black organizers just doubled and tripled turnout down in Georgia, after so many people organized Philadelphia, the signal from the Democratic Party is the John Kasichs won us this election? I mean, I can’t even describe how dangerous that is.

You are diagnosing national trends. You’re maybe the most famous voice on the left currently. What can we expect from you in the next four years?

I don’t know. I think I’ll have probably more answers as we get through transition, and to the next term. How the party responds will very much inform my approach and what I think is going to be necessary.

The last two years have been pretty hostile. Externally, we’ve been winning. Externally, there’s been a ton of support, but internally, it’s been extremely hostile to anything that even smells progressive.

Is the party ready to, like, sit down and work together and figure out how we’re going to use the assets from everyone at the party? Or are they going to just kind of double down on this smothering approach? And that’s going to inform what I do.

Is there a universe in which they’re hostile enough that we’re talking about a Senate run in a couple years?

I genuinely don’t know. I don’t even know if I want to be in politics. You know, for real, in the first six months of my term, I didn’t even know if I was going to run for re-election this year.

Really? Why?

It’s the incoming. It’s the stress. It’s the violence. It’s the lack of support from your own party. It’s your own party thinking you’re the enemy. When your own colleagues talk anonymously in the press and then turn around and say you’re bad because you actually append your name to your opinion.

I chose to run for re-election because I felt like I had to prove that this is real. That this movement was real. That I wasn’t a fluke. That people really want guaranteed health care and that people really want the Democratic Party to fight for them.

But I’m serious when I tell people the odds of me running for higher office and the odds of me just going off trying to start a homestead somewhere — they’re probably the same.

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