‘We Shall See’: AOC Won’t Dismiss 2022 Run for Chuck Schumer’s US Senate Seat
© REUTERS / EVELYN HOCKSTEINU.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) talks with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) as they celebrate outside the U.S. Capitol Building after news that the White House intends to extend the eviction moratorium in place because of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., August 3, 2021.
In nationwide polls, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez far outranks Sen. Chuck Schumer in terms of popularity and approval, despite the latter’s 40 years in Congress. While AOC ran as a political outsider with novel ideas in 2018, she could have a harder time making the case now, as one of the Democratic Party’s best-known and best-liked figures.
When asked if she might seek to oust the leader of her party in the US Senate, Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) said it was still too early for her to say. However, she noted that she and Schumer (D-NY) “have been working very closely” as of late.
“I know it drives everybody nuts, but the way that I really feel about this and the way that I really approach my politics and my political career is that I do not look at things and I do not set my course positionally,” Ocasio-Cortez told CNN’s Dana Bash in an interview filmed in late June, but set to air on Monday.
"And I know there's a lot of people who do not believe that. But I really - I can't operate the way that I operate and do the things that I do in politics while trying to be aspiring to other things or calculating to other things," the two-term House lawmaker from the Bronx added.
The 70-year-old Schumer, who has represented New York in the US Senate since 1999 and led his party in the upper chamber since Harry Reid retired in 2017, is up for his fourth re-election in 2022.
"For what it's worth, Senator Schumer and I have been working very closely on a lot of legislation and that, to me, is important," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And so, we shall see."
She also told CNN that one reason she wasn’t rejecting the idea of pursuing a Senate seat or even the White House is her awareness that she is a role model for so many girls.
“I don't want little girls watching or anything like that to lower their sights or anything in that direction. But for me, I feel that if that was in the scope of my ambition, it would chip away at my courage today," Ocasio-Cortez said.
"I think what happens a lot in politics is that people are so motivated to run for certain higher office that they compromise in fighting for people today. And the idea is that if you can be as clean of a slate or as blank of a slate, that it makes it easier for you to run for higher office later on."
AOC is no stranger to upset victories against party veterans, either.
The 31-year-old democratic socialist lawmaker took office in 2018 at the age of 29, becoming the youngest-ever Congresswoman. Her victory was the result of an insurgent campaign against Rep. Joe Crowley, a centrist Democrat who had held the seat for 20 years, who she handily defeated in the Democratic Primary and again in the general election after he appeared on the ballot under another party.
At a glance, it might seem like Schumer’s 70.61% of the vote in his last re-election in 2016 is insurmountable for AOC, but in Crowley’s most recent re-election victory before his 2018 loss, he swept the floor with an even higher 74.8% of the vote in his district.
In a YouGov poll-based ranking of Americans’ favorite Democratic politicians in 2021 both sitting and retired, AOC comes in sixth, with 42% of Americans saying they have a positive opinion of her. By contrast, just 34% have a positive opinion of Schumer, who ranks in at 26th - tied with Walter Mondale, who was Jimmy Carter’s vice president and loser of the 1984 presidential election to incumbent President Ronald Reagan.
After being sworn in in early 2019, AOC soon coined the nickname “the Squad” for herself and a number of other young, freshman Democratic lawmakers, all of whom were outspoken women of color willing to challenge their party’s leaders, and many of whom had won upset victories against long-sitting Democratic colleagues.
That tradition was most recently on display on the last weekend of July, when Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO), a member of the Squad, led a protest on the Capitol Building steps after the House went into summer recess without passing an extension of the eviction ban put in place by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which expired on July 31. By August 3, the demonstration had compelled the Biden administration to issue a revised version of the ban, despite a Supreme Court ruling in June finding that the public health agency didn’t have the power to do so.
However, the group has also attracted the ire of conservatives, with conspiracy theories about AOC and the other Squad members aplenty, and former US President Donald Trump invoking them during his failed re-election campaign as the spectre of socialist tyranny sure to follow a Joe Biden victory. However, Trump’s promised Red Terror has yet to materialize, as the Squad members have all shown dedication to remaining within the scope of Democratic Party politics.