Bernie Sanders, Stuck in Trump’s Trial, Leans on Star Power of ‘AOC’

U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders drew large, passionate crowds in Iowa this weekend, even when he was not there.

The U.S. Senator from Vermont has been rising in opinion polls just as Iowans prepare to pick their choice of Democratic presidential nominee on Feb. 3, but has been stuck in Washington, where he is serving as a juror in Republican President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.

In lieu of the candidate himself, Sanders supporter Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a first term U.S. congresswoman from New York, has proven almost as much of a draw, filling rallies and town halls and galvanizing members of what she called a “mass movement” led by Sanders to push progressive politics.

“It doesn’t rely on any one person to carry this whole movement on their back. We all shoulder a little,” she told a group of volunteers going out to canvass for Sanders in Cedar Rapids on Saturday morning.

The strong turnout for Sanders even in his absence underscores the strength of his young and diverse base of supporters, who have rallied behind his unapologetic liberalism. But it also shows as much enthusiasm for 30-year-old Ocasio-Cortez, who became a star of U.S. left-wing politics after being elected to the House of Representatives in 2018.

Interviews with a dozen prospective caucus-goers over two days showed her backing had lent Sanders a degree of youth appeal and bolstered his progressive credentials, especially on Ocasio-Cortez’s signature issue of tackling climate change.

Sanders, proposing tax hikes for the wealthy and corporations to fund measures such as universal government-run healthcare and tuition-free college, is rising just as the first voting nears, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll this week, polling at 20% and just behind Joe Biden, the front-runner and former vice president.

In Iowa, whose first-in-the-nation caucuses have an outsized role in picking presidential nominees, Sanders is leading some polls or in a statistical tie with Biden and Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

His rise has come since Ocasio-Cortez, wildly popular among progressives and known for her bare-all social media presence, formally endorsed him in October just after a heart attack threatened to cut short his second run for president.

“It gave him a needed boost at an important time, but also I think it signaled for a lot of young progressive people that this is the campaign that we should throw down for,” said Sayles Kasten, Iowa State director for the Sunrise Movement, a youth group organizing on climate change that endorsed Sanders this month.

Grant Woodard, an Iowa lawyer and former Democratic political operative in the state, said Ocasio-Cortez and filmmaker Michael Moore, who campaigned alongside her this week, were “cat nip” to Sanders’ base, but were not likely to expand his appeal to moderate Democrats.

Sanders, an avowed Democratic Socialist, remains a “polarizing figure in the party,” he said.

“I guess we’ll see as this plays out how much of a thirst for Democratic Socialism there in the national Democratic Party. I don’t know if it’s that great,” said Woodard.

STAR POWER

All the Democrats running for president are sending out high-profile allies, Hollywood stars and family members to campaign on their behalf or alongside them, but few attract the level of excitement seen for Ocasio-Cortez, better known by her initials AOC.

On Friday night, Sanders’ voice boomed in briefly at a college hall in Iowa City when he called in from Washington by phone after the day’s impeachment trial proceedings, but it was Ocasio-Cortez who got a rock-star welcome from the crowd of more than 800.

“She’s actually talking about issues that other politicians don’t bring up regularly, like student debt and medical care,” Max Oelmann, 19, a freshman studying social work. “I think she’s good at cutting through the bullshit, which is what a lot of people like about her.”

Ocasio-Cortez, who volunteered as an organizer for Sanders’ 2016 campaign, is the author of the Green New Deal congressional bill that Sanders incorporated into his electoral platform and which envisions massive investment in clean energy.

Her endorsement – along with the support of other high-profile progressive lawmakers Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib – came at the pivotal moment of Sanders’ campaign in early October, when the 78-year-old was hospitalized and had two stents inserted in an artery.

Sanders, a Brooklyn native, vowed to stay in the race and drew nearly 26,000 people to a comeback rally alongside Ocasio-Cortez in the New York City borough of Queens, the largest crowd for any Democrat in the 2020 campaign.

‘IF SHE ENDORSES, I’M OBVIOUSLY GOING TO LIKE HIM’

During her latest swing through Iowa this weekend, Ocasio-Cortez, whose family hails from Puerto Rico, visited mainly colleges and towns with Latino populations, as Sanders’ campaign hopes to turnout both students and Hispanics – groups that tend to support his progressive platform but are historically less likely to turn out to caucus.

Sanders joined her in Iowa for more rallies after the Senate broke on Saturday.

Alli Marshall, 19, a junior at the University of Iowa who attended Friday’s rally, said she discovered Ocasio-Cortez through videos showing the congresswoman grilling witnesses in hearings. In one video that went viral on social media in October, she upbraided Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for failing to stop political misinformation on his platform.

“I was all like, wow! She’s awesome. She was just nailing them,” said Marshall, adding the congresswoman’s endorsement had helped her decide to caucus for Sanders and volunteer for his campaign.

“Honestly, if she was a candidate, I would vote for her, but she’s not. So if she endorses (Sanders), I’m obviously going to like him.”

(Reporting by Simon Lewis; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Alistair Bell)

Responses

  1. I note the Always Confused Fascist had to incorporate the Green New (Nutty) Deal in his/her/its asinine, anti-American prattle. Looks like he/she/it is still unable to do the math and learn that fiasco is an obvious economic disaster for the World economy. IF it’s present day estimated requirement for $9.4 TRILLION annual support by the taxpayers and multiple millions of workers being put out of work, businesses and industries shut down, maybe in the eyes and brain dead opinion of the Commies and Marxists – like AOC, this is a good thing for their POWER and CONTROL of those who had not yet been starved to death – or murdered by the elitists. See also Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao, Maduro, Pol Pot, et al.

    1. Preaching to the choir, around here, won’t change anyone’s mind. You realize that, right, Confused James? Right?

  2. “I’ve spent almost 40 years in the government, but rely on a bobblehead freshman for attention.”
    This speaks ill of Bernie. Maybe Hillary (shudder) was right. He IS unliked and unaccomplished. Also selfish and a coward.

    Please, Genital, name all the significant legislation he’s accomplished in 40 years of service. Sure he’s a wannabe Commie with millions and three houses. What exactly will HE give up to prove his commitment? His healthcare and benefits? NO ONE believes he’ll go on Medicare for ALL.

    Socialists, especially the “elite” are ALWAYS about helping themselves first. Just like you. Sacrifice is always for other people.

  3. Morte,

    FYI, trying to engage the Genital in anything involving reason is a futile exercise. He’s a troll, not very bright, and a hoping parasite.

    Ever wonder why he persists in his lie about military service? I hope some vets doxx him and correct his attitudes on stolen valor. His posturing is a slander on all who served and I suspect he enjoys the negative attention, which is likely the ONLY attention he gets.

    1. It makes me happy to know that you are always thinking about me, that I am stuck in your mind, always a consideration.

      Thanks!

    2. I have asked the Always Confused One about his/her/its’ military service on several occasions and all I hear are crickets. That tells me that as an anti-American, he/she/it was too cowardly to put on a military uniform and defend the freedoms he/she/it enjoys in these United States in even a minor, supportive roll – like maybe being a low ranking cook or washing vehicles in a State-side motor pool. Could be – as we’ve all seen here – that he/she/it is mentally unfit to serve in any capacity and may have been refused membership in the Cub Scouts or Brownies a month or so ago.

  4. Whatever AOC’s “star” power she lacks substance. Just like Joe Rogan and his “cult” these are stupid, unquestioning people who’s best endorsement is “that’s cool”.

    Ever wonder why I constantly criticize the idiocy of giving the voting franchise to just anyone?

    1. No, I never wondered that – ever.

      Rogan has a bigger following than a lot of print media, so he can’t be completely discounted. A LOT of people, rightly or wrongly, listen to him.

  5. Bernie Sanders is not getting nominated plain and simple. AOC is not getting reelected she’s even pissed off the liberals back home. She doesn’t have “Star power” she appeals to the lowest common denominator like cult leaders and despots who want the reigns of power. Hey if you support me and elect me I’ll pull a Robin Hood on a government level. Steal from the rich to give to the poor even if they are poor because they won’t work to improve themselves in certain cases. Think Bernie is going to pay these same taxes if was president and not use loopholes to not pay for things.

  6. GC: Learn to read. I did not insult AOC rather I decried the lack of independent thought exhibited by the young woman’s statement.

    As for AOC’s degrees, they are merely paper when all is said and done.

  7. So if AOC endorses it it must be good?
    SMH
    Something tells me this young woman majors in one of those high paying fields like “XYZ Studies” where logic is secondary to feelz.

    1. I think you are confused by AOC’s education.

      Ocasio-Cortez graduated cum laude from Boston University College of Arts and Sciences with a BA in 2011, majoring in international relations and economics. She also came in second in an international science contest sponsored by Intel, so, to me, it looks as if her field of study was appropriate to her career, no?

      1. What courses did she take in those majors (international relations and economics)? I highly doubt she did any practical work (internship) in either area, especially economics. Socialism is a proven disability to any governmental structure because it creates a bigger gap between the haves and the have-nots. She talks the talk but she certainly doesn’t walk the walk, considering her acceptance of PAC funds, which she claims gives her the power to do as she wants (totally against what she preaches ).

  8. Again Reuters with the long long story about nothing. “Star Power of ‘AOC’ “ Really? Maybe for the free stuff voters. Check your obvious slant at the door, please.

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