Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the newly elected congresswoman from New York, dismissed on Monday the mounting opposition to Nancy Pelosi’s speakership bid.
Sixteen House Democrats, 14 of whom are white males, signed a letter Monday announcing their opposition to Pelosi’s run for Speaker of the House. Asked about the letter Monday night on MSNBC, Ocasio-Cortez, who withheld support for Pelosi until just last week, cast dissent within the caucus as primarily the product of directionless members frustrated with the status quo but unable to chart a new course.
“While I was reading this letter that was kind of released today, my main concern was that there is no vision, there is no common value, there is no goal that is really articulated in this letter aside from we need to change,” she said. “I do think that we got sent to Congress [with] a mandate to change how government works, to change what government even looks like. But if we are not on the same page about changing the systems and the values and how we’re going to adapt as a party for the future, then what is the point of just changing our party leadership just for the sake of it?”
Ocasio-Cortez — a 29-year-old upstart progressive who spent her freshman orientation protesting with environmentalists outside Pelosi’s office — also expressed concern that opposition to Pelosi could produce a more conservative Democratic leadership.
“If anything, I think that what it does is that it creates a window where we could potentially get more conservative leadership,” she said. “And when you actually look at the signatories, it is not necessarily reflective of the diversity of the party. We have about 16 signatories, 14 of them are male. There are very few people of color in the caucus. There’s very few [sic] ideological diversity. It’s not like there are progressives that are signing on. It’s not like you have a broad-based coalition.”
Pelosi has been meeting privately with new members to secure their support and has publicly leaned on her gender in defending her leadership qualifications.
Representative Kathleen Rice, who was one of two women to publicly sign the letter and is considered a ringleader of the opposition to Pelosi, has pushed back against the notion that she must support the California Democrat in a show of female solidarity.
“To those who say that this is an issue of gender, that’s just not true. I’m a woman, and a lot of our new members are women, and they should not be made to feel that they are anti-woman if they don’t want to vote for Nancy Pelosi,” Rice told reporters on Capitol Hill last Wednesday.