Why Are AOC and the Squad Backing Biden So Forcefully?

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks to commemorate Earth Day, in Triangle

Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The Democratic Party appears to have mostly coalesced behind President Biden this week after he wrote a letter to members of Congress emphatically stating that he wouldn’t leave the race despite his disastrous debate performance. A raft of lawmakers has come out in support of Biden, while only a few dissenters have made their doubts public.

Biden’s most vocal cheerleaders include unsurprising names like longtime ally Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and former Democratic leaders like Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Jim Clyburn. But the president is also getting strong backing from the Squad, the small group of House progressives who have often strongly disagreed with Biden on policy in the past.

On Monday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told reporters that she was sticking with Biden after speaking to him over the weekend. “Joe Biden is our nominee. He is not leaving this race. He is in this race and I support him,” she said. Ocasio-Cortez said she expressed to Biden that the campaign needs to focus on issues affecting everyday working-class voters, including expanding Medicare and Social Security as well as continued work on student-loan debt and achieving a ceasefire in Gaza.

Progressives have frequently taken a pragmatic approach to their interactions with the Biden administration. Though they’re often looked at as party rabble-rousers, the Squad provides reliable Democratic votes while being willing to push on particular issues where they differ from the president. Though Ocasio-Cortez, along with other members of the Squad, voted against Biden’s signature infrastructure package, she’s embraced the president in public, like when she appeared alongside him and Senator Ed Markey to celebrate the creation of the American Climate Corps, a key issue for the two congressional members.

With Biden unlikely to step down, congressional progressives appeared to have made a clear calculation to stand behind Biden. Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, another Squad member, put it simply: “We are losing the plot.” “Joe Biden is the nominee,” she said, per Axios.

Minnesota representative Ilhan Omar, who has frequently challenged the Biden administration on its support for Israel’s war in Gaza, said that she, too, is behind the president. “He’s been the best president of my lifetime and we have his back,” Omar said Monday, according to the Washington Post. Omar, who is facing a tough primary rematch against her 2022 challenger, Don Samuels, put her support of Biden front and center in a recent ad that features video of Biden praising her during an event.

Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, though, has yet to weigh in on Biden following his debate performance. Tlaib, who is seen as Biden’s strongest progressive critic, supported a campaign for Michigan voters to vote “uncommitted” in lieu of the president in order to express disapproval for the White House’s handling of the conflict in Gaza. Politico reported that she also declined in February to say if she would be supporting the president in November, but urged voters against sitting out in November entirely.

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