An ocean of blue signs promoting “Bernie 2020” floods Venice Beach as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) runs upstage and greets the crowd members with an enthusiastic “What’s up Los Angeles!” Shouting back their affirmations, tightly packed crowd members drown out one another, wildly waving their campaign signs and posters in the air.
“Los Angeles and California, are you all ready for the revolution…” she boldly declares, each of her statements followed by a wave of applause. “I’m so thrilled to come to the heart of where we’re going to change this country.”
As the first Democratic primary caucus draws closer, Ocasio-Cortez, a freshman and rising star in Congress, announced her first public endorsement of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders at a rally in Venice Beach, Los Angeles, on Saturday, pushing forward the race to 2020.
Currently, Sanders polls at an average of 19.3% according to national polls, trailing behind leading Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. With the first Democratic caucuses drawing closer and closer, Sanders held five events in the past week across parts of southern California, whose caucus will be held on March 3.
The rally at Venice Beach capped off Sanders’ California events and drew a crowd of 14,147, according to Los Angeles Fire Inspector Alan Babin. In her endorsement speech, Ocasio-Cortez, who was featured as the keynote speaker of the rally, emphasized that Sanders’ message is the start of building a “government and economy that works for all people,” as Sanders himself later declared in his rally address.
“What we have in America is a corrupt political system,” Sanders said. “It is a system in which billionaires are buying the elections. It is a system in which voter suppression is taking place every single day…What our campaign is about, what our administration will be about is one person one vote, not billionaires buying elections.”
Sanders’ rally at Venice Beach also featured performances from other individuals and groups who have endorsed him, including the bands Local Natives, Young the Giant and Jesse & Joy and speeches from actor Tim Robbins, philosopher and activist Dr. Cornel West, Los Angeles council member Mike Bonin, former California senator Gil Cedillo, representatives from CPD Action and California assembly member Reginald Byron Jones-Sawyer, Sr. Many of the rally speakers focused on encouraging voter turnout, especially during the primary caucuses.
Sanders’ campaign focuses on issues of healthcare reform, a $15 minimum wage, an extensive climate change plan and a rallying cry against corporate funding. Ocasio-Cortez, who had worked as an organizer for Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, champions many of the same messages, especially the belief in building “an advanced nation” whose government promises equality, justice, and social services to all citizens.
“What a loving society is, is an advanced society,” Ocasio-Cortez said in her rally speech. “A just society, a loving society, is one that guarantees healthcare to all people. A loving society, an advanced society and an antiracist society, is a society that guarantees education of equal quality and merit to all people.”
In her speech, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out President Donald Trump’s recent request to increase the U.S. military budget to a value $120 billion more than in Obama’s last year of office. She argued that budgets define the priorities of a nation and questioned the importance of raising military spending or measuring a successful economy based on a skyrocketing stock market rather than wages for a struggling working class. Instead, she requested to recognize the efforts of citizens from all classes by implementing a wealth tax and a Wall Street transaction tax.
She furthered her support for grassroots donors, stating that funds from smaller donors hold candidates to different standards than those funded by corporate donors and wealthy individuals, referencing Thursday’s primary debate in which Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg disputed over the validity of major donors, with Buttigieg accusing Warren of performing a “purity test” on his campaign funding. Like Sanders’ campaign for the presidency in 2016, Ocasio-Cortez ran her 2018 campaign for Congress on a grassroots level, refusing to take donations from political action committees and other lobbyist groups.
“For anyone who accuses us of instituting purity tests, it’s called having values,” Ocasio-Cortez said in her speech. “It’s called giving a damn. It’s called standards for your conduct to not be funded by billionaires. To be funded by the people.”
In her speech, Ocasio-Cortez also promoted Sanders’ campaign as an inclusive movement for an integration of all causes that will extend beyond one presidential term.
“We cannot go back to a world where the rich are put first, and working people are put last in Washington day in and day out,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We cannot go back to a world that explodes our military budget and nobody thinks anything about it.”
As for how Sanders distinguishes himself among the 15 presidential candidates, Ocasio-Cortez pointed out his climate plan and approach to foreign policy. She cited recent climate catastrophes, warning that the Australian bushfires could become a normal occurrence in the future and calling for recognition of climate refugees. Sanders has announced that if he is elected, he will implement the Green New Deal proposed by Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Edward J. Markey in February of this year. In terms of diplomacy, she championed Sanders’ commitment to preventing war and prioritizing human rights.
Throughout her speech, Ocasio-Cortez drew attention to the meaning behind Sanders’ campaign slogan, “Not me, us,” and she emphasized not only Sanders’ dedication to driving a grassroots campaign but also her own determination to continue fighting for all Americans, including and especially the working class.
Ocasio-Cortez closed her speech with a reaffirmation of her trust in Sanders, assuring the crowd that “a candidate that is accountable to small dollar donors is fundamentally differently aligned than anybody else.”
With that final flourish, she set down the microphone as Sanders strolled to the stage with John Lennon’s “Power to the People” blaring through the speakers, and a wave of blue once again clouded her bright red dress.