- When AOC won her first House primary, she was a breakout star of the growing progressive movement.
- And there was an intense focus on the left-wing groups that had thrown their support behind her bid.
- But in the new book “The Squad,” AOC said she didn’t win solely on the efforts of those groups.
When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez first entered the national political discourse, she had just upset Rep. Joe Crowley of New York in a 2018 Democratic primary that had long been seen as a lock for the then-congressman, who at the time was the No. 4 House Democrat.
Ocasio-Cortez campaigned relentlessly in the 14th congressional district, anchored in the Bronx and Queens, arguing that many of its constituents — notably its burgeoning Latino and working-class immigrant communities — were underrepresented. And her rise to prominence was often accompanied by stories about the growing influence of progressive groups, which are often credited with helping her defeat Crowley.
But in the newly-released book, “The Squad,” Ocasio-Cortez told author Ryan Grim that she didn’t defeat Crowley in her first congressional primary because of left-wing groups like Justice Democrats and the Democratic Socialists of America.
“Like as much as I love them, I did not win my election because of DSA. Or even JD. Or any of these orgs,” she said. “They all either abandoned, ignored, or fought with me and then swooped in at the last moment when I busted my whole ass for a long time to become even remotely viable.”
“They all had important contributions but, to be honest, they were pretty much nowhere until the month before the primary,” Ocasio-Cortez continued. “Really it was [Alexandra] Rojas at JD that arguably helped the most. But we had built everything from scratch and did the hardest parts and then when it looked appealing enough they jumped in.”
The reflections from Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected to the House in the 2018 general election and reelected in 2020 and 2022, came as she remarked on the difficulties encountered in her second term when she began to receive increasingly pointed pushback from some progressives.
“That time really forced me to kind of sit with who my base was,” she told Grim. “Because for a while it did not feel like the left.”
Grim noted in the book that Waleed Shahid, the progressive strategist and former spokesperson for Justice Democrats, had aided Ocasio-Cortez in building her campaign operation early on. And, in the book, he detailed how Justice Democrats, at one point, had focused their email and donor list on bringing in fundraising dollars for Ocasio-Cortez.
But Grim also wrote in the book that Ocasio-Cortez felt as though the work performed by Justice Democrats, which had played a more robust role in various aspects of her campaign, had started to meld with that of the Democratic Socialists of America, whose assistance was helpful but came at a much later time.
And that presented more personal reflections for Ocasio-Cortez, who, amid the criticism she received in her second term, had to identify her actual base of supporters among a broader group of progressives.
“There is a certain faction of the left that thinks they own or are responsible for electing a candidate just because that candidate happens to be ideologically left on their own,” the congresswoman told Grim. “But in the actual work of getting elected, like it’s just these armchair people who talk shit but don’t do shit. And listening to people who don’t do shit is how you lose whatever you’ve built.”
Since taking office in 2019, Ocasio-Cortez has become one of the most high-profile progressive politicians in the country. And she has used that influence to push President Joe Biden to enact more progressive positions on issues like the environment and student-loan reform.