Republicans always fall in line behind Trump. Why don't Democrats do the same for Biden?

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., went to bat for President Joe Biden last week after a special counsel report called into question his memory – and, therefore, his ability to lead the country.

It was a change of pace for the Democrat who has criticized Biden and his administration's policies.

As recently as last month, Ocasio-Cortez has gone after Biden for his handling of the conflict in Gaza and the need for universal health care in the United States.

In spite of these critiques and her own political ideology, she used her platform to make it clear that Biden, the presumptive nominee and incumbent, deserves the support of the country’s progressives.

I know who I’m going to choose,” Ocasio-Cortez said on CNN on Tuesday. “It’s going to be one of the most successful presidents in modern American history that passed the Inflation Reduction Act, that got us the American Rescue Plan, that ensured that we could pass one of the largest federal investments in climate change in U.S. history.”

Her defense of the president is exactly the kind of energy other Democrats should be embodying ahead of the election. In spite of her disagreements on certain aspects of the Biden administration, she knows what some Democrats with similar celebrity are ignoring – that showing outward support for the president is the best way to ensure his reelection come November.

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Republicans model the loyalty Biden needs from Democrats

The Republican Party has consistently fallen in line behind Trump and his Make America Great Again movement over the past eight years. There have been plenty of reasons not to – from the 91 criminal charges against him to recent election losses to his own verbal slip-ups that would be a death knell for any other candidate.

Those who have disagreed with Trump have learned to keep their opinions to themselves, lest they follow the path of former Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., who lost her election after criticizing Trump.

Members of the GOP know that going against Trump is one of the surefire ways to lose a bid for reelection or lose status within the party. Republicans seldom say negative things about the former president, even when there’s a long list of things they should be saying to preserve the legitimacy of the institution. Instead, they offer a level of loyalty Biden should envy.

Take Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., as an example. Stefanik was elected to the House of Representatives in 2015, the year before Trump won the presidency. You would think speaking out against the former president might fare well for her, seeing as her district was represented by a Democrat prior to her election.

Stefanik was even known as a moderate as recently as 2020. She has since thrown her support behind Trump, calling herself “ultra-MAGA” in 2022 and campaigning for the former president during this year’s New Hampshire primary.

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Others, such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., were elected almost entirely because of their outward adoration of Trump. Since Greene was elected in 2020, she has essentially acted as another manager of Trump’s image. Not only has she campaigned for him in 2024, she has used any airtime she receives to double down on her support of the former president.

The Republican loyalty for Trump is only strengthening during this election year, regardless of what has come his way.

Democrats have often chosen to publicly question Biden

While the Republican Party has been remade in the image of Trump, Democrats don’t necessarily rally behind Biden in the same way.

Last month, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., said that he and others who helped Biden win in 2020 “are not real comfortable at this point with what we’re seeing” because the president’s current campaign strays from his messaging four years ago.

President Joe Biden delivers remarks on a $95 billion Ukraine Israel aid package being debated in Congress, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Washington.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks on a $95 billion Ukraine Israel aid package being debated in Congress, in the State Dining Room of the White House, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, in Washington.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has criticized Biden over immigration policy, even though the blame for the influx of migrants in the city would be better placed on Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

Even when their names aren’t publicly attached to criticism, senators have shared their concerns anonymously with reporters on Capitol Hill.

This isn’t to say that Democrats should forgo their personal morals, or that it’s even wrong to bring these concerns to the public. Disagreement breeds a healthy democracy, and doesn't necessarily mean these Democrats will lose their next election by disagreeing with the president.

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But Republicans know there is an election to win. Democrats would be wise to rally behind Biden in their own states and in the media ahead of November. It isn't like he has completely forgone the ambitions he had during the 2020 election, and he has been able to move the needle on the economy and the country's infrastructure.

Democrats should remember that another four years of Biden is better for their agenda than another four years battling Trump.

Follow USA TODAY elections columnist Sara Pequeño on X, formerly Twitter, @sara__pequeno and Facebook

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Democrats must rally behind Biden. Criticism may cost him reelection