Can a political party be too inclusive? Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez apparently thinks so.

In a lengthy New York magazine profile this week, the New York congresswoman responded with a groan when asked what role she might play as a member of Congress if former Vice President Joe Biden were elected president.

“Oh, God,” she said of the man who has been leading the pack of her party’s hopefuls in national polls. “In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party, but in America, we are.”

That may sound sarcastic, but it also happens to be true. That’s not a bad thing. It also happens to be a very good reason for us Americans to have a two-party system.

But that’s not good enough for AOC and some others on the party’s left-progressive wing.

She mocked the “big tent” strategy by which candidates in both parties have tried to grow and diversify their voter appeal. “Democrats can be too big of a tent,” she said.

She even went so far as to suggest that the Congressional Progressive Caucus expel members who stray from the progressives’ party line. Other Democratic caucuses in Congress require applications, she said. But her wing will “let anybody who the cat dragged in call themselves a progressive,” she complained. “There’s no standard.”

“Anybody who the cat dragged in?” Ah, the impatience of youth.

I think former President Barack Obama had the right idea when he warned fellow Democrats against ideological “purity tests.” Ocasio-Cortez apparently thinks purity tests are a fine idea.

For years I have encouraged Republicans to broaden their reach and compete again for voters of color and other constituencies that used to feel more welcome in the party of Abraham Lincoln. Instead, we have seen the Grand Old Party’s activists escalate their demonization of “RINOs” — Republicans in Name Only — in their ranks. Now I am disappointed to hear similar ideological purity promoted on the left.

“DINOs?” I don’t think so.

But don’t get me wrong. Unlike some commentators, I don’t want to dislike AOC. I think she brings a youthful energy and excitement to national politics on the left that provides a much-needed counterbalance to the barnstorming extremism of President Donald Trump on the right.

Unfortunately, she also brings with her ideology an all-or-nothing attitude that can get in the way of her achieving her own goals. Even Sen. Bernie Sanders, whom she has endorsed for president, knows the value of compromise enough to vote with the Democrats in the Senate and run for president in their primaries.

For examples of how extremism can backfire, she need look no further than her Republican colleagues. The tea party movement rose up on the heels of Obama’s 2008 election with a zeal for spending cuts — which all but evaporated after Trump’s election.

The federal government’s budget deficit ballooned to nearly $1 trillion in 2019, the Treasury Department announced in October. That’s the fourth year in a row of deficit growth, despite a sustained run of economic growth. Apparently, deficit spending is only a sin to Republicans in Congress when Democratic presidents do it.

Ocasio-Cortez bristled in the New York profile at the suggestion that her movement is following a tea party model. “For so long, when I first got in, people were like, ‘Oh, are you going to basically be a tea party of the left?’” she said. “And what people don’t realize is that there is a tea party of the left, but it’s on the right edges, the most conservative parts of the Democratic Party.”

Yet she expressed frustration that her fellow Democrats haven’t been more candid about that. “It’s like we’re not allowed to talk about it,” she said. “We’re not allowed to talk about anything wrong the Democratic Party does. I think I have created more room for dissent, and we’re learning to stretch our wings a little bit on the left.”

Indeed, but try to avoid getting them clipped. At the risk of sounding like the pragmatic old man that I am, I think Ocasio-Cortez should learn from her faction’s successes but avoid the hazards of overreach.

As the left-progressive Rev. Jesse Jackson preached to fellow Dems during his two presidential runs in the 1980s, “It takes two wings to fly” — a left wing and a right wing. Right on, Reverend. Right on!

Clarence Page is a member of the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board. Readers may send him email at

Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.

(12) comments


so let her start her own party and raise her own money for it.


That’s why I started out as a Republican in 1961 and am still a RR(RealRepublican), a pre-1994 Republican, a “Mac” Mathias Republican. I don’t like AOC’s “Progressive” Vision of America either. But the 25 year long, 1994-present, march to the Right by the Republicans culminating in the “Trump Party” abandonment of the Constitution and the Rule of Law has been a sad and disappointing spectacle to watch. The Republican (Trump) Party of today does not represent the majority of the American people, as the 2016 Election and Trump’s approval rating has proven.


Things got worse in 1994 but I date the beginning of the transformation to 1981 when Reagan abandoned fiscal responsibility.


I don’t disagree. I pin it on Newt becoming the Speaker in ‘94 starting the “Party of NO” with his Contract ON America, and the Newt and Bob (Dole) Show on TV bashing the Clintons and starting the Demonization and Hate campaign against the Democrats.


What we are left with a far right and a far left. At this point the far left scares me more because if a moderate Democrat isn't their canadite the Trump lunatic is likely to win again. And if you think that this time is bad wait and see what happens if he's elected again.


My father used to point to Mac Mathias as the quintessential politician who was liked by Democrats and Republicans. Unfortunately he died, and the Republican party has evolved so that Trump appears to be the Republican choice for president. The Republican party is a different beast.


AOC has a good point, I wouldn't be in the same party as her.

Obadiah Plainsmen

It will be interesting to see what happens to her district after the 2020 census.


Clarence is exactly right. It takes two wings to fly. And Democrats that are not compulsive "progressives" to represent all the voters they want to vote for their Party.

Let the ideas compete and the best and most productive plans win.


Maybe as a check and balance to the two parties, we should go back to letting the one who gets the majority of votes be president and the one who comes in second is the vice president.




I agree with DickD by adding "Never is too soon."

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, insights and experiences, not personal attacks. Ad hominem criticisms are not allowed. Focus on ideas instead.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
No trolls. Off-topic comments and comments that bait others are not allowed.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
Say it once. No repeat or repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.