The division within the Democratic Party just became even more obvious as New York’s Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez threw her political weight behind Senator Bernie Sanders.
While some in the Democratic Party would be happy to write Sen. Sanders off as a “has-been”, the fact that AOC has officially endorsed him means that his campaign is likely to be around for quite some time. The official endorsement will not only boost his standing as a serious primary challenger, but also likely take the wind out of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s. Naturally, party insiders aren’t too happy.
There are several reasons why AOC’s official endorsement will have such an outsized effect on the presidential race. First of all, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez is still popular with liberal voters throughout the nation. She has over 5.5 million followers on Twitter, and over 50,000 followers on Facebook. The fact that the 29-year-old freshman lawmaker is commonly viewed as a leader of the progressive movement means this endorsement matters.
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez has a whopping 63% favorability rating among Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s supporters and a 45% favorability rating with former Vice-President Joe Biden’s supporters. Recent polls clearly show that women, white voters, and rich voters view Rep. Ocasio-Cortez more favorably than they view Sen. Sanders — meaning the Vermont senator definitely could use the help. These are the exact demographics that are currently supporting Sen. Warren and Sen. Sanders needs to win them over in order to improve in the polls.
It’s also important to note that one in four Democrat voters have said that they are interested in hearing about who Rep. Ocasio-Cortez supports in the Presidential primary, and that her opinion has value to them. That interest rate is even higher than the interest voters are placing on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s opinion. In fact, it has been said that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement is more powerful than that of any other Democrat barring former presidents Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter.
Some have noted that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez worked with Sen. Sanders during his 2016 campaign and so her endorsement of him is to be expected. However, that is not exactly true as the New York-based Working Families Party (WFP) backed Sen. Sanders in 2016, and then switched their support to Sen. Warren earlier this year after a charity run by Sen. Warren’s daughter made a substantial donation to the party.
The endorsement is likely to further divide the party as others follow in her wake. Rep. Ilhan Omar, another progressive freshman Representative in Congress, has followed Sen. Ocasio-Cortez’s lead and endorsed Sen. Sanders as well.
The Democratic primary season could very well turn to be a repeat of 2016, when senior Democrat politicians shaft the progressive wing of their own party in order to push forward the candidate they feel is best.
At the end of the day, this endorsement matters little to those outside of the progressive circle of influence. Democratic establishment leaders are still flocking to Elizabeth Warren, and President Donald Trump’s support base seems as unshakeable as ever. All this is really goign to do is keep Democrats mad at one another.