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Ocasio-Cortez emerges as key Biden surrogate for progressives, young people

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is emerging as a key surrogate for President Biden’s reelection campaign for young people and progressives, pushing his climate agenda as a win for those critical voting blocs.

Ocasio-Cortez’s surrogacy comes with parameters. She said she supports Biden’s reelection bid and will stand by him during a climate event, but she has also put pressure on him as an outspoken critic of the Biden administration’s handling of Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza.

The support from AOC — as Ocasio-Cortez is widely known — lends Biden star power and left-wing credibility as he faces an uphill battle in getting young voters, as well as left-leaning voters in general, to the polls.

“AOC has immense and sustained visibility with young voters and progressives of all ages,” said former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “She can play a very impactful role in helping to unite them to stop Donald Trump. She can remind them about Biden’s success in funding climate initiatives, reducing student debt, and more.”

As Ocasio-Cortez stood by Biden to back his climate agenda, students in her hometown of New York City were protesting Biden’s pro-Israel policy.

Ocasio-Cortez has argued that Israel is committing genocide in Gaza and has called on the Biden administration to halt military aid to Israel.

Biden campaign spokesperson Seth Schuster told The Hill they are “proud to have earned Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s support, and we look forward to working with her and our entire Democratic coalition to defeat Donald Trump this November.”

The congresswoman has endorsed Biden but hasn’t done any television hits on behalf of the Biden campaign, which official surrogates and members of the campaign’s National Advisory Board frequently do.

Her emerging surrogacy comes after only 9 percent of young voters in a Harvard Kennedy School poll said they think the U.S. is heading in the right direction and a NPR/NewsHour/Marist Poll found former President Trump up 2 points over him among millennial and Generation Z Americans.

“I think it remains to be seen whether progress on issues like the climate and student debt outweigh the level of frustration about the administration’s policy in the Middle East,” said Joseph Geevarghese, executive director of Our Revolution.

“At the end of the day, young people are not naive. They are not blindly going to say, ‘Well, AOC or Bernie is for Biden, so I’m going to be for Biden,” he continued, referring to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Biden, during his remarks on climate on Monday in Virginia, said he would discuss foreign policy with Ocasio-Cortez that day while they were together.

“Rep. Ocasio-Cortez of New York, you know, I learned a long time ago: Listen to that lady. Listen to that lady,” Biden said. “We’re going to talk more about another part of the world too, real quickly.”

After the remarks, he and Ocasio-Cortez walked and talked for a few seconds alone — both strikingly serious — before separating so the president could talk to the press. After the event, Biden, Ocasio-Cortez and progressive Sens. Sanders and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) traveled back to the White House and went into the Oval Office together.

The White House said they wouldn’t give information about private conversations with Biden and any lawmakers when asked about what they discussed.

“We appreciated her participation in the climate event, as well as Sen. Sanders and Sen. Markey and others. That is of course a national security and an economic crisis that we want to keep fighting very hard to resolve,” deputy press secretary Andrew Bates told reporters Tuesday.

Biden, Ocasio-Cortez and Markey took a photograph, and Biden shared it with the caption, “Young Americans know that the climate crisis is the existential threat of our time. They deserve leaders who believe them. We’re not going to let them down.”

“Democrats may not agree on every single issue down the line, but they’re united in the belief that the return of Donald Trump to the White House is an existential threat,” Israel said. “There are two words that make every other issue less vital: Trump Reelected.”

Geevarghese described a balancing act that progressives have to strike this election, arguing that lawmakers are taking advantage of having the president’s ear to get things accomplished, as well as to register discontent on policies.

“That’s the fine line that we walk. We’re going to have to agree to disagree on certain issues. And I think that’s where Bernie, Markey and AOC have positioned themselves,” he said. “There’s an agreement to disagree on certain policies. But there’s also a recognition that the president has given progressives a seat at the table.”

“I hope Bernie and AOC delivered the message — Gaza is one of the top priorities for progressive voters, and we can’t keep writing blank checks to Netanyahu,” he added, referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Ocasio-Cortez on Saturday voted against the portion of the foreign aid package that provided $26 billion in aid for Israel and global humanitarian aid. The package was split into four bills, with each receiving a vote on the House floor. Ocasio-Cortez did, however, support the Ukraine measure, which would provide $61 billion to Kyiv.

Ocasio-Cortez last week told reporters that the U.S. needs to condition military assistance and ensure that human rights are protected and international law adhered to in describing her issues with the bill.

In a similar balancing act, Sanders has had criticism on the issue of Gaza but also supports Biden.

The senator also recently appeared at a White House event to tout efforts to lower the cost of inhalers with Biden. Meanwhile, Sanders has pushed for a cease-fire in Gaza and demands that the U.S. send “not another nickel” to Netanyahu.

The frustration about Gaza is clear among young people, who are occupying the center of Columbia University’s campus and other schools including New York University, Yale University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Biden said he condemns “the antisemitic protests” amid the escalating demonstrations.

“There’s a role for outside groups, like the young people who are protesting, Our Revolution, to be out on the streets, because that gives people like Bernie and AOC the standing to advocate their positions and say to the president, ‘Look, your achievements on climate, on student debt are great,'” Geevarghese said. “‘But, you still have a problem with the progressive base because of Gaza.'”

Mychael Schnell contributed to this report.

Source: The Hill

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