New York Magazine ran a feature about year one of the AOC phenomenon, and buried in it was a quote that says quite a lot, and deserves attention:
I asked her what she thought her role would be as a member of Congress during, for instance, a Joe Biden presidency. “Oh God,” she said with a groan. “In any other country, Joe Biden and I would not be in the same party, but in America, we are.”
This kind of thing needs to be repeated as often as possible, because it really does represent a particular kind of American insanity that we’re confined to two parties when the ideologies of people within the Democratic party are so wildly divergent. The system looks unbreakable, though, at least for now, as demonstrated by the fact that a candidate like Bernie Sanders must run for the Democratic nomination or risk dividing the “party” and ensuring that Trump gets another four years in the White House. And that’s really the rub—we don’t have the systems in place to let people vote with their hearts without punishing them. Any split in the Democratic party benefits Republicans because we’ve created a zero-sum game that the people in power don’t want to fix since it would immediately erode their power.
But imagine there was a “Progressive Party,” and the members of that part that made it to the House or Senate could form coalitions with the Democrats, so that if the Senate contained 25 Progressives and 27 Democrats, they could unite to still hold a majority, rather than ceding leadership to the 48 Republicans. Imagine if in local and statewide elections, we could have ranked choice voting and instant runoffs, so that someone could vote for the Progressive candidate, but support the Democratic candidate on the second line so that if the Progressive finished third, that person’s vote would go to the Democrat (instead of being, essentially, wasted).
Imagine if Bernie Sanders could run as a third-party candidate under that same system, and the Democratic establishment wouldn’t react with fury, since ranked choice voting meant it wouldn’t give the Republicans an advantage.
That system is possible, and it could be implemented easily, but it takes a kind of popular will that can overcome the establishment of both parties. It’s a small tweak that would improve our government immeasurably and possibly even transform our lives, and people like Ocasio-Cortez can bring us closer and closer to the goal.