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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

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Among all the politicians on the left wing of the contemporary Democratic party, it’s been evident for some time that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the most talented, especially in terms of being able to combine ideological passion with an all too rare commitment to pragmatic considerations. This portrait suggests that she may well rise to the top of the party in a foreseeable future:

Someone like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who endorsed Mr. Biden for re-election in 2023, may be able to help. She’s the Democratic Party’s most charismatic politician since Barack Obama and its most ardent populist since Bernie Sanders. Crucially, she can offer voters something more substantial than a hollow rebuke of Trumpism. Last month, when the journalist Mehdi Hasan asked her how she’d respond to “a young progressive or Arab American who says to you, ‘I just can’t vote for Biden again after what he’s enabled in Gaza,’” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said a vote for Mr. Biden didn’t necessarily mean an endorsement of all his policies. “Even in places of stark disagreement, I would rather be organizing under the conditions of Biden as an opponent on an issue than Trump,” she said. It was a shrewd political maneuver, designed to distance herself from Democrats who support Israel unconditionally, while meeting voters — some of whom have lost family members in Gaza — where they are. She was, in effect, acknowledging their pain and attempting to channel their righteous anger into a political movement.

There are, of course, limits to this strategy. Some on the left see Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement of Mr. Biden as a betrayal of progressive values, particularly in the wake of the climbing death toll in Gaza. The moderate Republicans who turned out for Mr. Biden in 2020 might shrink from a Democratic Party led by someone they consider an outspoken progressive. But for every moderate or leftist voter lost with a strategy like Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s, the Democratic Party may be able to win someone new — from the pool of disillusioned Americans who feel shut out of the political process.

The Democrats have a chance here to expand their base — and build a coalition less reliant on the whims of a shrinking group of moderates. Analyses of election data suggest that many of the Democratic voters who have defected to the other side identify as conservatives, particularly on social issues. What’s more, the once-strong Democratic support among Arab Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans now seems shaky, and Republicans have captured a large majority of white voters without college degrees. In other words, the coalition Democratic leaders could once rely on to defeat Mr. Trump is already falling apart, and their current strategy — to hammer the former president — may not be enough to win in November.

If she ever runs for higher office, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez might be able to galvanize voters of color who, despite leaning left, do not regularly show up at the polls. She could contrast her commitment to issues that matter to a large number of voters, like raising the minimum wage and protecting reproductive rights, with Republicans’ endless culture wars. And she could frame herself as one of the few Democrats who opposed unconditionally spending billions on an unpopular war while Americans struggled to afford groceries and gas.

She could take the message that catapulted her into Congress — as a tireless champion of the underclass — to the national level. In some ways, she already has. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez hit the picket line with striking United Auto Workers members in Missouri and requested a hearing on the train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, nearly a year before Mr. Biden visited the community. These are constituencies the Democratic Party has been losing, perhaps because they’ve written them off as Republican voters, if they bother to vote at all. But in the same way Ms. Ocasio-Cortez isn’t afraid to collaborate with conservatives when it helps her policy agenda, she has shown up for people whom other Democrats have abandoned — and voters may remember that when they cast a ballot in 2028.

After six years in the spotlight, it’s increasingly clear that AOC is not a flash in the pan. I think there’s a non-trivial chance that she’s the president of this country one day, assuming it still exists when she’s 43.

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