Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Says She'll Back Joe Biden, but Uniting Democrats Around Candidate 'Should Be Uncomfortable'

Progressive Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has reiterated that she plans to support her party's presumptive presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden in the general election, while urging his campaign to take serious steps to address concerns raised by the party's left wing.

Ocasio-Cortez, 30, who became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress in 2017, has been a staunch supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who suspended his presidential campaign last week. She has also been publicly critical of Biden on numerous occasions in recent months, even suggesting that they did not really belong in the same political party.

But in a new interview published by The New York Times on Monday, the New York progressive argued that it was vital to defeat President Donald Trump at all costs in November. The congresswoman said it was "a matter of life or death for our communities," while noting that she'd continue to urge Biden's campaign to form a more progressive platform.

Asked if she'd ever spoken to Biden directly, Ocasio-Cortez said she had not. But she voiced a willingness to potentially campaign alongside the former vice president, depending on how his campaign moves forward.

"Beating Donald Trump is a matter of life or death for our communities," she told the Times. "I think it's a difference between making an argument for harm reduction, and making the argument for, there's actually going to be progress made for us."

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez addresses supporters during a campaign rally for former Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont on March 8 in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She will support and possibly even campaign for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Brittany Greeson/Getty

While the representative said that she did not want to be "divisive," she said that the process of unifying the Democratic Party should not be an easy one.

"The whole process of coming together should be uncomfortable for everyone involved—that's how you know it's working," she said. "And if Biden is only doing things he's comfortable with, then it's not enough."

Ocasio-Cortez said her goal was to "win broadly" in November. She pointed out that Biden had built a broad coalition thus far, but that Latinos and young voters had overwhelmingly backed Sanders. The congresswoman said it was vital that Biden do more to speak to the needs of these communities.

"I just want to improve people's lives," she said. "And while we'll improve people's lives with Donald Trump not in the White House, we need to do better than what we've done before."

In January, Ocasio-Cortez argued that her and Biden didn't really belong in the same political party.

"In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party, but in America, we are," she said in an interview with New York magazine. As she campaigned for Sanders, she repeatedly raised concerns about the former vice president's more moderate policy proposals, warning that they would not energize voters in November.

While Ocasio-Cortez and other progressives have affirmed that they would back Biden in the general election, as has Sanders, other supporters of the senator from Vermont have voiced significant reluctance.

In a Sunday tweet, Democratic Socialists of America, which backed Sanders, said that it would not be supporting Biden. "We are not endorsing @JoeBiden," the organization tweeted. Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez both self-identify as Democratic socialists.

Joe Biden
In this screengrab from JoeBiden.com, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Coronavirus Virtual Town Hall from his home on April 8 in Wilmington, Delaware. JoeBiden.com/Getty

Whether Biden is able to unite progressives and more moderate Democrats remains to be seen. Already the former vice president has made overtures by shifting his platform leftward. Last week, his campaign announced that he was now calling for an expanded student loan forgiveness program as well as reducing the Medicare eligibility age to 60.

"Senator Sanders and his supporters can take pride in their work in laying the groundwork for these ideas, and I'm proud to adopt them as part of my campaign," Biden said in a Medium post.

Recent national polling suggests that Biden is currently the front-runner for the general election. An average of national polls compiled by Real Clear Politics shows Biden with a lead of about 5.9 points. The former vice president has the support of about 48.9 percent of voters while Trump is backed by 43 percent.