Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted “middle of the road” approaches on climate change, an apparent criticism of former Vice President Joe Biden.
“I will be damned if the same politicians who refused to act then are going to try to come back today and say we need to find a middle-of-the-road approach to save our lives,” the 29-year-old freshman Democrat, who introduced the Green New Deal framework earlier this year, said Monday night at an event in Washington, where she was trying to rally support for her climate change proposal.
“That is too much for me,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Her harsh pushback demonstrates the ideological divide permeating the Democratic White House field, one that some in the party worry could hamper their efforts to win over rural voters in their quest to defeat President Trump. As Biden continues to lead the field in the polls, expect the criticism to grow louder from the more progressive left.
Reuters reported this weekend that the former vice president, who leads in early polls, “is crafting a climate change policy he hopes will appeal to both environmentalists and the blue-collar voters who elected [Trump].”
Biden’s press secretary emphasized soon after the story that he has called climate change an “existential threat.”
But to Ocasio-Cortez and other, particularly younger, activists, any moderate approach is a nonstarter for what they see as the pressing issue of our times that can no longer be postponed. After the Reuters report, Ocasio-Cortez tweeted that the approach would be a “dealbreaker.”
“We’re not going to solve the climate crisis w/ this lack of leadership,” she said. “Our kids’ lives are at stake.”
On Tuesday, Biden appeared to respond, saying he has never used such centrist language and pointing out that back in 1987 he had called for “a green revolution.” The previous day, during a campaign stop in New Hampshire, Biden had reiterated that, but he said any approach needed to be “rational” and cost-effective. He said he would deliver a major speech by the end of the month further detailing his environmental and climate change plans.
“You’ve never heard me say, ‘middle of the road, I’ve been middle of the road’ on the environment,” Biden told reporters in response to the New York congresswoman’s comments on Monday evening. “Tell her to check the statements that I made, and look at my record. … I don’t think she was talking about me.”
He was also spotted in the critical early primary state wearing a “Protect People, Not Polluters” sticker as he talked with voters.
Ocasio-Cortez, who rose to national fame last year after a surprise primary upset of then-Democratic House Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley, hasn’t endorsed a 2020 candidate yet. But Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, one of several presidential hopefuls who have supported the Green New Deal, appeared at the rally alongside her on Monday night.
Sanders said it wasn’t a “radical idea to suggest that clean drinking water and clean air should be the right of all Americans, regardless of their income or the color of their skin.”
Sanders isn’t the only White House candidate taking a bold approach toward climate change. Other Democratic senators running have also co-sponsored the legislation, including Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Kamala Harris of California, Amy Klobuchar of New York and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has made combating climate change the defining issue of his campaign.
Trump and Republicans have attempted to make Ocasio-Cortez the face of the Democratic Party, using the Green New Deal as a cudgel. She has already shown up in GOP campaign ads this cycle.
Republicans believe the massive proposed overhaul — though scant on specifics — to get to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, in addition to a massive federal investment, is tantamount to a radical “big government takeover of the economy.” The president has frequently mocked the plan on Twitter and at his campaign rallies.