Barack Obama Says DNC Should Give Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a Bigger Platform as Feud Between Progressives and Centrists Grows

Former President Barack Obama called on the Democratic National Committee to give a bigger platform to progressives as they continue to butt heads with the party's centrist members.

"One thing I will say about the Democratic Party is that promoting young people is really important. We stick so long with the same old folks and don't make room for new voices," Obama said in an interview with Peter Hamby on Snapchat's Good Luck America.

Obama also acknowledge the party's controversial decision to allot Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez only 60 seconds at this summer's national convention, while handing out significantly more television time to former Republican Ohio Governor John Kasich and businessman and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

"The Democratic National Convention, I thought, was really successful considering the pandemic but, you know, the fact that an AOC only got, what? Three minutes or five minutes? When she speaks to a broad section of young people who are interested in what she has to say, even if they don't agree with everything she says," Obama said.

"You give her a platform, just like there may be some other young Democrats who come from more conservative areas who have a different point of view. But new blood is always good," he continued.

AOC
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks outside of the Democratic National Committee headquarters on November 19, in Washington, D.C. Former President Barack Obama said in a new interview that the Democratic Party should give Ocasio-Cortez a bigger platform. Drew Angerer/Getty

His comments come as conflict between the progressive wing of the Democratic Party and more centrists Democrats have widened following the November 3 election.

Last month, establishment Democrats were heard on a leaked caucus call blaming more progressive lawmakers, particularly Ocasio-Cortez and the so-called Squad, for costing Democrats seats with messaging like defund the police.

Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate Democrat, drew criticisms from the young congresswoman and others after tweeting, "Defund the police? Defund my butt."

In an interview with The New York Times, Manchin suggested Ocasio-Cortez is "more active on Twitter than anything else," including legislating in Congress.

"We're not going to defund the police, we're not for the new green deal. That's not going to happen. We're not for Medicare for All—we can't even pay for Medicare for some," the senator added.

However, many were quick to note that Manchin missed more votes than Ocasio-Cortez in 2019 and that she co-sponsored 130 more bills than he did in the same legislative period.

Ocasio-Cortez fired back at Manchin on Tuesday, tweeting, "I find it amusing when politicians try to diminish the seriousness of our policy work, movement organizing & grassroots fundraising to 'she just tweets,' as though 'serious' politics is only done by begging corporate CEOs for money through wax-sealed envelopes delivered by raven."

Despite Obama's push for newer voices within the party, the former president advised younger Democrats to steer clear of such "snappy slogans" which can cost them "a big audience the minute you say it."

"If you instead say, 'Let's reform the police department so that everybody's being treated fairly, you know, divert young people from getting into crime, and if there was a homeless guy, can maybe we send a mental health worker there instead of an armed unit that could end up resulting in a tragedy?' Suddenly, a whole bunch of folks who might not otherwise listen to you are listening to you," Obama said.

"The key is deciding: Do you actually want to get something done? Or do you want to feel good among the people you already agree with?" he added.

Newsweek reached out to the offices of Manchin and Ocasio-Cortez for comment but did not hear back from either in time for publication.