In “’Just what the party needs’: Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders woo Kansas progressives,” Lauren Gambino (The Guardian) reports on Democrats’s [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (a New Yorker of Puerto Rican heritage) and Bernie Sanders (representing Vermont)] efforts to deliver their message in the Midwest, recently, in Kansas; Michigan and Missouri are next:
For her national political debut, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez traded the concrete jungle of New York for the endless wheatfields of Kansas. The bright new face of the left joined Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, a leader of the progressive movement, at rallies in support of two congressional candidates who argue that leftwing, anti-corporate politics can galvanize Democrats in Republican-held districts crucial to the push to take back the US House. “Oh my goodness gracious,” said Ocasio-Cortez, taking the stage at a packed hall in Wichita on Friday. “And they said [that] what we did in the Bronx no one would care about it in Kansas.”
Less than a month ago, Ocasio-Cortez stunned the political establishment when she beat a 10-term incumbent, Joe Crowley, in a district that includes parts of the Bronx and Queens. With general election victory in November all-but certain, she is using her star power to spotlight likeminded candidates around the country.
“What you have shown me is that working people in Kansas share the same values – the same values – as working people anywhere else,” she said. “Wherever there is working class people, there is hope for the progressive movement.”
Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders campaigned for James Thompson, a civil rights lawyer who in 2017 narrowly lost a special election in the fourth congressional district, and Brent Welder, a labor lawyer and former Sanders delegate who is running in a six-way primary in the third.
Both candidates are running on a Sanders-style platform that includes universal healthcare, tuition-free college and a higher minimum wage. That may be a tough sell in Kansas, which is home to the billionaire Koch brothers, who have spent tens of millions of dollars to promote free-market policies. Donald Trump won the state by more than 20%. Yet progressives see opportunities, pointing to Philadelphia and Omaha where leftwing candidates have won competitive primaries. And, they argue, in 2016 Sanders won the Democratic caucuses here by more than 30%.
“I’m not ‘Republican-lite,’” Thompson said at the rally on Friday. “If our state wanted Republican-lite then we would have elected somebody in the past 20 years as a Democrat here. … If a centrist message would have worked, then Hillary Clinton would have won here in 2016.”
Kansas is not the only state that will test that theory. In the coming weeks, Ocasio-Cortez will travel to Michigan and Missouri. [. . .]