In an exclusive interview with 'Meet the Press,' Democratic House nominee Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tells Chuck Todd that Democratic politics need to be more closely rooted in the communities that elected leaders serve.
"Are you a Democratic Socialist? Is that what you call yourself, or you don't want that label?" Chuck Todd asked.
"I mean, it's part of what I am," she said. "It's not all of what I am. And I think that that's a very important distinction. I'm an educator. I'm an organizer. And I believe that what we're really seeing is just a movement for health care, housing and education in the United States."
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, DEMOCRATIC NOMINEE FOR CONGRESS: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
TODD: You're not a congresswoman-elect yet, you have a general election, but it is a pretty strongly Democratic seat.
So, let me first start with something that Nancy Pelosi said about your victory earlier this
week. Take a listen.
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA: They made a choice in one district. So let's not get yourself carried away as an expert on Demographics and the rest of that within the caucus or outside the caucus. It is not to be viewed as something that stands for everything else.
TODD: She was a bit defensive. A lot of people coming at her saying your victory means a lot more than just a primary win in the Bronx. How did you react to that?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think that there are a lot of districts in this country that are like New York 14, you know, with -- that have changed a lot in the last 20 years and whose representation has not. And it's not to say whether someone should be voted out or voted in, but I think it definitely speaks to us perhaps evolving in our messaging in at least how we do things.
So I think that, you know, I do think that there are a lot of districts in America that are like New York 14.
TODD: I'm curious, if Joe Crowley had found out you were thinking about running and called you up and said, what am I doing wrong? You know, what would you like to see from me? What would you like to see me do to make you say, you know what, I'll stand this cycle and see what you do?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Like what would I say to him?
TODD: What would you say to him if he had asked for advice on about how to win your vote before you decided to run against him?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I think the problem is that that never happened, and the fact that that is not
TODD: Meaning you never saw him in your mind? That the district never saw him, is that what you're saying?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think -- without going too hard, you know, because the congressman has had phenomenal service in our community. I do think that there was certainly a lack of presence. And that was a big part of my win. It was -- there was, I think, a lack of listening on the ground, the lack of going to the grocery store and saying, hey, how are you doing?
And that is an important part of representation, because we have a lot of work we have to do here in D.C., but that work needs to be rooted in the communities that we have been elected to represent.
TODD: Some of your energy and some of the energy behind you and some of the energy behind you and some of the energy behind other progressives has to do with almost the tone and tactics of the Democratic leadership.
I'm curious, what was your reaction to Senator Cantwell earlier today and how she described how she would like to fight on the Supreme Court opening?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think that what's going on is that there -- especially with the Supreme Court, we have senators and we have folks trying to figure out the strategy, but in the meantime, the messaging isn't as clear to the communities that we're trying to represent. Are we fighting or not? And I still don't have quite a...
TODD: What do you want to see?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: You know, for me, I'm a fighter. You know, I'm always one for a fight, especially when we see what the GOP has done. I feel like they're kind of gaslighting the country where when they want to fight, when they want to bend and break the rules and stretch the constitution to its limits, they'll do it, but when they're on the other side of the table it's, whoa, decorum, let's -- you know...
TODD: So, do you want Democrats to borrow some of those tactics?
TODD: Because that's the tricky game here, right?
TODD: Which is, you know, do two wrongs make a right?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: And I do see the point that you're making, like the consistency point. And I think from my point of view, I kind of look at it more like soccer, you know, what are our positions right now? And this Supreme Court seat is extremely serious. We have a president -- there is a federal investigation going on with direct implications to the presidency and that presidency is talking about nominating a Supreme Court pick that is going to essentially hear this case out.
This is a very unusual time in this country. When is the last time that a president has been in this position?
TODD: So what do you want Senate Democrats to do that you didn't hear from Senator Cantwell this morning?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: So, I would like the senate to delay, absolutely. We need to delay until after the mid-term elections. That's my personal opinion. And I think that that -- at the very least we need to -- if we are going to - if this appointment is going to happen at the very least we can do is delay the timeline in which women's health care is going to be taken away, delay the timeline in which our civil rights could potentially be further eroded.
TODD: Let me talk about some of your policy positions, but generally, which is -- first explain this to me. You were endorsed by a group, the Democratic Socialists. And you have embraced this label. And I think The New York Times has a headline this morning, this sort of "Millennials Have Embraced Socialism." What is your definition of Democratic Socialist?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, for me, again -- and there is so much focus on this endorsement, but I also think it's important -- an important part of my strategy in winning was building a broad based coalition of people. So while there is a focus on this one aspect of the coalition, and to me, you know, to answer your question, the definition of Democratic Socialism, to me, again, is the fact that in a modern, moral and wealthy society, no American should be too poor to live.
And to me that means every working class American in this country should have access to dignified health care, should actually be able to go see a doctor without going broke. It means you should be able to send your kids to college and trade school if they so choose. And no person should feel precarious or instable in their access to housing as our economy develops.
TODD; Some Democrats are afraid of the "S" word. They feel like -- it has -- older Americans hear socialism and they tie it to ugly governments from Europe and the past.
TODD: Do you -- how do you -- how do you sell this to an older generation?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, I think, you know, as the clip from Schumer showed earlier, Democrats are a big tent party. You know, I'm not trying to impose an ideology on all several hundred members of congress, but I do think that, once again, it's not about selling an ism or an ideology or a label, or a color, this is about selling our values.
TODD: Are you a democratic socialist? Is that what you call yourself, or you don't want that label?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean, it's part of what I am. It's not all of what I am. And I think that that's a very important distinction. I'm an educator. I'm an organizer. And I believe that what we're really seeing is just a movement for health care, housing and education in the United States.
TODD: All right, you defeated a potential future speaker. Should Nancy Pelosi be that next
speaker of the house or should it be a new generation?
OCASIO-CORTEZ: You know, once again, I want to see the options on the table. First of all, I'm not even an elected member of congress yet. Secondly, we need to see what is going on. I think that it's just premature for me to commit to any kind of decision on this. I was just elected on Tuesday,