Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ohio Republican Gov. John Kasich traded barbs just hours before the first night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, where both are scheduled to speak.
Earlier today, Kasich criticized Ocasio-Cortez in a BuzzFeed interview, suggesting that her “extreme” positions might not represent the Democratic Party or the fundamentally “moderate” country.
“People on the extreme, whether they’re on the left or on the right, they get outsized publicity that tends to define their party,” Kasich said. “You know, I listen to people all the time make these statements, and because AOC gets outsized publicity doesn’t mean she represents the Democratic Party. She’s just a part, just some member of it. And it’s on both sides, whether it’s the Republicans or whether it’s the Democrats.”
Ocasio-Cortez fired back on Twitter, pointing out that Kasich’s history as an “anti-choice extremist” does not qualify him to comment on her credibility as a spokesperson for the Democrats. “It’s great that Kasich has woken up & realized the importance of supporting a Biden-Harris ticket. I hope he gets through to GOP voters,” she tweeted. “Yet also, something tells me a Republican who fights against women’s rights doesn’t get to say who is or isn’t representative of the Dem party.”
Their conflict illustrates larger tensions within Joe Biden’s coalition of supporters. Biden is attempting to appeal to both progressives and moderate Republicans, with Sen. Bernie Sanders speaking alongside Kasich tonight. Despite the political diversity onstage, it feels to some like the younger, more progressive wing is being sold out in favor of unity. Progressives have already criticized the Democrats’ choice to invite Kasich, who implemented some of the nation’s strictest anti-abortion policies as governor of Ohio and has been known to be a union buster. In fact, a CBS poll found that only 38% of Democrats wanted to hear from Kasich at the DNC, compared to 63% who wanted to hear from AOC.
Kasich’s invitation and disparaging comments towards AOC have confirmed some progressives’ suspicions that commitment to women’s rights and justice are taking a backseat to reaching across the aisle. He also used his speech to undermine the work of progressive leaders and activists.
“[Republicans and independents] fear that Joe may turn sharp left and leave them behind. I don’t believe that,” Kasich said tonight. “No one pushes Joe around.”
This convention is awesome because you'll have Kasich basically saying "I know you might be worried that Joe Biden will be influenced by the left but I know him and he won't be" and then you'll have progressives saying "we can move him to the left." everyone wins
— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) August 18, 2020
Kasich’s speech, meant to assuage conservatives, is one reason why some progressives feel left out of Biden’s big-tent approach. Despite AOC’s star power, she’ll be featured less prominently than moderate Democrats and Republicans on the virtual DNC “stage.” While Kasich, a Republican, was given a primetime speaking spot in tonight’s lineup, AOC will only receive 60 seconds to deliver a pre-recorded speech on Tuesday. That’s one minute for the woman who has already completely transformed the party in her short tenure in Congress.
Yet some progressives have argued that a Biden presidency, while not their top choice, can and should be receptive towards radical change. Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, called on the Biden campaign to embrace the Democrats’ more progressive platforms and politicians in order to energize turnout.
“If Biden wants to energize progressives to donate and volunteer to get every last person to vote, he will use the convention to shine the spotlight on progressive issues he’s embraced like canceling student debt and expanding Social Security benefits during this pandemic, more corporate accountability, and taxing the rich to pay for things like clean energy jobs,” he said in a statement provided to Refinery29.
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