Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg for adopting what she characterized as a “GOP talking point” to criticize proposals for tuition-free public college as too radical and not realistic. “I believe we should move to make college affordable for everybody,” the mayor of South Bend, Indiana claims in a new campaign ad. “There are some voices saying, ‘well that doesn’t count unless you go even further, unless it’s free even for the kids of millionaires,’ but I only want to make promises that we can keep,” Buttigieg continued. “We can gather the majority to drive those big ideas through without turning off half the country before we even get into office.”
Buttigieg doesn’t actually name them but the ad seems aimed directly at Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have proposed plans for free college tuition in public universities. Ocasio-Cortez, who has endorsed Sanders, said Buttigieg was parroting Republicans with his argument. “It´s sad to see a Dem candidate adopt it,” she wrote. “Just like rich kids can attend public school, they should be able to attend tuition-free public college.”
Ocasio-Cortez went on to note that the whole point of “universal public systems” is that they are “designed to benefit EVERYBODY!” The lawmaker went on to note that an advantage of making something truly universal is that it makes sure “everyone’s invested” in the system because once you start “carving people out” that is when “cracks in the system develop.” Besides the practical concerns, Ocasio-Cortez argued, it’s also good policy for classrooms “to be socioeconomically integrated” because it “is good for society & economic mobility.”
Buttigieg’s campaign made clear it wasn’t backing down and later doubled down on the message. “If you think that a worker who didn’t go to college should pay for college for a CEO’s kid, then @PeteButtigieg isn’t your candidate,” tweeted Lis Smith, a senior communications adviser for Buttigieg’s campaign.
*This post has been updated with new information since it was first published.