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Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez Tout Green New Deal, 'Radical' Economic Message

Kate Payne / IPR
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rallied caucus-goers in Coralville, defending their efforts to push the party further to the left.

New York U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rallied voters in Iowa this weekend with Vermont senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, hoping to win over supporters for their Green New Deal.

According to the campaign, more than 2,000 people turned out to see Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez at rally at the Coralville Marriott Saturday night. They focused their message on climate change and economic equality, calling for drastic cuts to greenhouse gas emissions and massive investments in social services.

Ocasio-Cortez’ endorsement of Sanders in October sent a strong signal to progressives. The 30-year-old’s upstart campaign against a long-time Democratic leader catapulted her onto the national stage, where she’s quickly earned a reputation of challenging established Republicans and Democrats alike. By sponsoring the Green New Deal resolution, she’s working to push the the boundaries of Democratic policy, by calling on the federal government to zero out the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

Sanders’ climate plan is considered to be the most ambitious of the 2020 Democratic field, due to the scale and specificity of his proposed policies, and due to the price tag: $16.3 trillion.

At the rally Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders urged supporters to expand their political imaginations.

“Our major obstacle is not Wall Street, and it’s not the drug companies and the insurance companies and the one percent and all their billions of dollars,” Sanders said. “Our major obstacle is what the establishment does to us every single day, in limiting our imagination as to where we go into the future.”

Outgoing Iowa City Councilmember Rockne Cole announced his endorsement of Sanders at the event, citing his climate plan.

“There are some that would say that Bernie Sanders is too radical to be president of the United States,” Cole said. “He is radical, that is true. He’s radical on behalf of the American working class that has been ripped off for the last 200 years.”

Among Sanders’ plans is a federal jobs guarantee, to ensure that anyone in the country who wants to work can.

Ocasio-Cortez also addressed the criticism that Sanders’ campaign is pushing the party too far.

“When people try to accuse us of going too far left, we’re not pushing the party left, we are bringing the party home,” she said, as the crowd broke in to cheers. “It’s time that we become the party of FDR again! It’s time for us to become the party of the Civil Rights Act again! It’s time for us to become the party that fights for queer liberation again!”

Taking another shot at Democratic insiders, Ocasio-Cortez says she’s not aiming to foster unity within the party, but solidarity among the working class.

Sanders, for his part, called out the latest billionaire to jump in to the race. On Friday, media mogul and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg filed paperwork to participate in the Alabama primary, a state with the earliest filing deadline.

Sanders criticized Bloomberg’s reported plans to skip campaigning in the early states.

“Tonight we say to Michael Bloomberg and other billionaires, sorry! You ain’t gonna buy this election,” Sanders said as the crowd cheered. “You’re not gonna get elected president by avoiding Iowa! By avoiding New Hampshire! South Carolina and Nevada! You’re not going to buy this election by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on media in California!”

According to Forbes, Bloomberg is valued at some $52 billion.

Billionaire former hedge fund manager and Democratic donor-turned-presidential candidate Tom Steyer is fielding criticism for spending millions of dollars of his own fortune on his campaign. The Steyer campaign announced the resignation of a top Iowa staffer on Friday after the AP reported the aide was offering to pay state elected officials and local candidates to endorse Steyer.

Sanders meanwhile is focusing on his signature message that economic freedom should be guaranteed to all Americans, and banking that that message will motivate a broad and diverse slate Iowans to caucus less than three months from now.

Kate Payne was an Iowa City-based Reporter