Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has mixed feelings about her own Democratic Party after the 2020 election. On one hand, she unequivocally stated that it's time for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to get lost. On the other hand, AOC admits the left-wing has no real plan to replace them and that she doesn't want to step up and do the job herself.
In a new podcast interview with The Intercept, the first-term member of Congress laid out a set of grievances against Pelosi, Schumer and President-elect Joe Biden's forthcoming administration for not more closely adhering to her ideological standards.
Stated less eloquently, she more or less called them monsters sucking the air out of the room.
"A lot of this is not just about these two personalities, but also about the structural shifts that these two personalities have led in their time in leadership," Ocasio-Cortez told the Intercept. "The structural shifts of power in the House, both in process and rule, to concentrate power in party leadership of both parties, frankly, but in Democratic Party leadership to such a degree that an individual member has far less power than they did 30, 40, 50 years ago."
Pelosi has already sent signals that this will be her last term as Speaker but the Democrats nonetheless find themselves led by four individuals - Biden, Pelosi, Schumer and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who are all over the age of 70. All four are white and three are men. It's admittedly a tough look for a party that increasingly has put identity politics at the forefront of its agenda.
However, Ocasio-Cortez largely left race, gender and age out of her criticism, instead saying the real problem is that the current Democratic Party leadership is centered around an idea of consolidating power rather than promoting a more progressive legislative agenda.
Still, despite her tough words for the Democratic leadership, Ocasio-Cortez saved some of her toughest criticisms for her own left-wing of the party, saying they haven't done enough planning to seize power themselves. After all, without proper strategy, AOC acknowledges the party is likely to elect more leaders who (sarcasm alert) criminally represent the views of a majority of their supporters.
"I think one of the things that I have struggled with — I think that a lot of people struggle with — is [that] the internal dynamics of the House has made it such that there's very little option for succession, if you will," she told the Intercept. "The left isn't really making a plan."
She then took it one step further, referring to the more moderate members of her own party in language usually reserved for villainous trolls.
"How do we fill that vacuum? Because if you create that vacuum, there are so many nefarious forces at play to fill that vacuum with something even worse."
So, if you're a moderate Democrat who helped elect Joe Biden and returned Democrats to control of the House in 2018 be sure to take note that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez thinks you're really "nefarious" and potentially "something even worse."
With even-handed analysis like that, it's shocking Pelosi and Schumer aren't tripping over themselves to get AOC's insights on how to expedite their departures.
Moving on, she struck a similar tone when asked about President-elect Joe Biden's nominees for his administration: "I think it's also part of a larger issue that we have right now, which is … the Biden administration is bringing back a lot of Obama appointees, which depending on where you are in the party, may sound nice, I guess," she said. "But I think what a lot of people fail to remember is that we now have a Biden administration that's bringing back a lot of Obama appointees, but when Obama was making appointments, he was bringing back a lot of Clinton appointees."
Again, these aren't right-wing Republicans AOC was calling out, rather members of her own party whose collective voting record differences from her own would honestly be hard to spot without combing deeply through the public records. After all, in Congress, nearly every member of each party votes with their colleagues more than 90 percent of the time. The real differences largely come down to optics and theatrics.
Perhaps not coincidentally, when asked if she would take on the role of Speaker herself, Ocasio-Cortez was quick to pass the buck.
"The House is extraordinarily complex and I'm not ready," she said. "It can't be me. I know that I couldn't do that job."
On the surface, that sounds like a humble admission but political media stars like AOC rarely make serious bids for leadership posts like House Speaker, which are incredibly demanding and require often under-appreciated skills like diplomacy, compromise and behind the scenes maneuvering.
And honestly, if AOC has higher political aspirations such as running against Schumer in 2022, and/or for the White House in 2024, her smartest tactical decision is to continue her role as progressive critic, versus getting into the messy bureaucratic ring of party leadership.
Just look at the last several elected presidents: Trump (no political experience), Obama (two years in the Senate before running for the White House, with a virtually non-existent voting record), George W. Bush (governor of a big state where the governor has very little actual work to do), Clinton (governor of a small state). And before them, George H.W. Bush, who had loads of government experience that lent itself to a congenial and moderate posture that saw him quickly eviscerated by the more partisan sides of his own party.
Getting in the weeds and trying to manage a fractured party is an often messy business that leaves a once spotless political star as the source of criticism from all angles. Don't believe me? Just ask Nancy Pelosi.