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Sen. Claire McCaskill dismisses Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as all talk

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Sen. Claire McCaskill, the outgoing Missouri Democrat, had sharp words for Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, calling her a “bright shiny new object” who hasn’t yet proven she can make change in Washington.

“I’m a little confused why she’s the thing,” McCaskill told CNN of the 29-year-old future lawmaker in an interview published this week. “But it’s a good example of what I’m talking about, a bright shiny new object, came out of nowhere and surprised people when she beat a very experienced congressman.”

Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever elected to Congress after stunning the political world by beating 20-year incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary. The Bronx native ran on a bold set of policy proposals, including Medicare for All, a federal jobs guarantee, and tuition-free college — an agenda that she and others on the left argue is popular among working class voters across the political spectrum.

McCaskill said Ocasio-Cortez’s viral popularity is undeserved until she makes good on some of her promises.

“I’m not sure what she’s done yet to generate that kind of enthusiasm, but I wish her well. I hope she hangs the moon,” McCaskill said. “The rhetoric is cheap. Getting results is a lot harder.”

McCaskill, a moderate who believes the Democratic Party must do more to appeal to red and purple-state voters, argued that failing to fulfill the left’s promises could further alienate voters from the party.

The outgoing lawmaker, who lost reelection to her third term in November, has been blunt in her criticism of her party in several recent exit interviews, arguing that Democrats will never have a Senate majority again without welcoming moderates into its ranks.

“I hope she also realizes that the parts of the country that are rejecting the Democratic Party, like a whole lot of white working class voters, need to hear about how their work is going to be respected, and the dignity of their jobs, and how we can really stick to issues that we can actually accomplish something on,” she told CNN.

Ocasio-Cortez, along with the group Justice Democrats, has promised to support progressive primary challenges to incumbent Democrats in safe blue districts in 2020 — a controversial move for a sitting lawmaker.

“This demand for purity, this looking down your nose at people who want to compromise, is a recipe for disaster for the Democrats,” McCaskill told NPR in a November interview. “Will we ever get to a majority in the Senate again, much less to 60, if we do not have some moderates in our party?”

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