Democratic-socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Friday campaigned alongside Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for Brent Welder, a candidate for Kansas’s third congressional district and vowed mistakenly to help turn the seat red instead of blue.
“Hello, everybody! So excited to be here on Sen. Sanders’ account and we’re here in Kansas City to rally for Brent Welder,” the New York congressional candidate said while flanked by the 76-year-old progressive lawmaker. “We’re gonna flip this seat red in November.”
Ocasio-Cortez meant to say the Democrat Party will turn the seat “blue,” rather than “red.” Welder, a former aide to Sen. Sanders, is running again Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS). The gaffe raised eyebrows due to the color red’s association with communism, a more stringent version of socialism.
Headlining the rally with Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez sought to infuse the final weeks of Welder’s congressional primary campaign with the enthusiasm that lifted her over 20-year Democratic incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) last month. “We know that people in Kansas, just like everywhere else in this country, just like families in the Bronx, just want a fair shake,” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the surprise winner in a New York House primary last month, told the crowd of more than 3,000 in a suburb of Kansas City.
The 28-year-old Latina from New York and the 76-year-old Jewish senator from Vermont struck a stark contrast in the hotel ballroom, though they reflected the range of people in the racially and ethnically mixed crowd, weighted toward millennials but including gray-haired activists and parents with children. Their combined messages sought to unite not just the diverse group in the hall, but restless liberals around the country. “Whether you live in Kansas or Vermont or New York City, you want your children to have a decent life,” Sanders said. “And yes, we have differences. But despite these huge differences, we have a hell of a lot more in common.”
While the Kansas campaign swing created a lot of buzz, Republicans were skeptical it would help Democrats make inroads in a conservative state. State Rep. Tom Cox, a moderate Kansas City-area Republican, said there are pockets of liberal Democrats in the Kansas City suburbs but questioned whether Sanders’ message will resonate more broadly. He said Democrats tend to be split between liberals and moderates, with some union members and supporters holding conservative views on social issues. “Even our Democrats around here are not socialist democrats,” he said. “If someone would describe the 3rd District, I would say center-right.”
Ocasio-Cortez has made numerous gaffes since her unexpected victory over Crowley. Asked by PBS host Margaret Hoover if capitalism has failed working-class Americans, the far-left congressional candidate erroneously claimed that evidence of the system’s failure lies in the fact that U.S. unemployment is decreasing over time because more people are working two jobs.
“Well, I think the numbers you just talked about is part of the problem, right? We look at these figures and we say, ‘Oh, unemployment is low, everything is fine,’ right?” Ocasio-Cortez told Hoover, later adding, “Well, unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs. Unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week and can barely feed their kids.” In the same interview, the Democratic-socialist described Israel as an occupier of Palestine, and once pressed on the issue, embarrassingly conceded she is not an expert on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Ocasio-Cortez recently appeared on a panel organized by far-left media outlet Democracy Now! And called on people to protest President Donald Trump’s “zero tolerance” immigration policy by occupying airports and border facilities across America until separated immigrant minors are reunited with their parents. “I believe the moral character of the United States is at stake. So for me, it wasn’t a question of whether I should go down [to the border]. We have to have a rapid response,” she said. “And I think every day that we go on — especially a day when something that heinous happens — we have to occupy all of it. We need to occupy every airport, we need to occupy every border, we need to occupy every ICE office until those kids are back with their parents, period.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.