Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-V.T., has rocketed to the top of the Democratic presidential primary with an uncompromising demand for wealth distribution, Medicare-for-All, and a general disruption of the status quo in America.
Sanders has promised his voters that if he gets inside the White House, he will totally remake America with a “political revolution.”
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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., just undermined all of that Thursday.
Ocasio-Cortez, who has endorsed Sanders and works as a surrogate for his campaign, told The Huffington Post that Sanders would be willing — even eager — to drop his demands for Medicare-for-All and negotiate if he wins the presidency.
“A president can’t wave a magic wand and pass any legislation they want,” Ocasio-Cortez admitted to HuffPo.
If Sanders takes the Oval Office, Ocasio-Cortez said the “worst-case scenario” would be liberals “compromise deeply and we end up getting a public option.”
“Is that a nightmare?” she asked. “I don’t think so.”
Some analysts had wondered if Ocasio-Cortez’ admission is part of a larger strategy; she’ll be saying the thing Sanders is afraid to say.
Suddenly the frontrunner in the primary race, there is increasing tension at the heart of Sanders’ campaign. While the self-described socialist has never backed away from his call for political revolution, the rhetoric among many of his supporters has become increasingly radical.
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The dynamic is playing out at a precarious time for the Democratic Party, which will have to unite to unseat President Donald Trump.
“The Sanders supporters are demanding that everybody unite behind Bernie, but if they want Democrats to unite behind Bernie they have to be ready to unite behind the moderate Democrats,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “And they’ve not yet shown that they will do that. They’ve not shown that, if things don’t go their way, they won’t just stay home in November.”
Sanders has tried to quell intra-party division by describing many of his fellow Democratic presidential rivals as “good people.” But, often in the same breath, he gleefully fans the flames, calling his campaign the political establishment’s “worst nightmare.”
Sanders’ problem is he may only be able to achieve true unity by compromising on what many supporters see as his greatest strength: consistency over his decades in political office — even on positions that bucked this own party.
“For young people in-particular, there’s an authenticity and a level of trust that is hard to garner from some of the other candidates,” said Evan Weber, political director for the far-left Sunrise Movement. “His record is being consistent and relentless in demanding what he thought was just and was right for decades.”
But what some see as an unwavering commitment to core ideals, others see as hostile.
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“I just think he’s too angry,” said Paula Peeper, a 76-year-old retired office worker from Waterloo, Iowa, “especially when he says he’s the one to unite the party.”
Peeper said Sanders risks alienating voters in the closing stretch, especially when they see him leading in most polls, giving undecided voters reason to think harder about his rivals.
The Associated Press contributed to this article