Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: The Building of a Modern Revolutionary

It’s only every so often that just a set of initials can entice a twitching smirk from both sides of the political aisle, whether from trivial disdain or hopeful adoration. Such is the case with the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC, respectively), house representative to the 14th District of New York, who’s international recognition soared at the height of her 2018 campaign for congress, challenging long-standing democratic incumbent John Crowley with fumes gathered from grassroots organisations. Striking her ultimate republican opponent Anthony Pappas with 78% of the vote, she has since become weaved into the iconography of progressive agendas within the US democratic party.

Since then she’s given a new flavour to political engagement. Part politician, part internet sensation, it’s easy to forget there is more to AOC than her powerful indictment of Rep. Ted Yoho, now a relic to feminist media, her frequent cameos on gaming-platform Twitch, or even her sensational dancing to Lisztomania in an archaic college video – digital talismans through which the younger demographic have come to know her. Indeed, with her dynamic youthfulness and rich Puerto-Rican descent, she is the poster child for fashionable socialism, having gained nuance in populist ideals as an intern for Ted Kennedy as he was Senator to Massachusetts, and later as an organiser for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 stint for president.

But don’t let the charming quirks fool you – this is a politician with a strict agenda, one focused on the future of the people and justice for all. With an upbringing pruned by the heavy austerity in The Bronx and Puerto Rico (think failing public school systems, insecure welfare for the working class, sporadic attitudes from law enforcement), this is a machine oiled with the purpose of recovering public infrastructure and accessing opportunity for all. She is a loud supporter of Medicare For All, the call to separate healthcare insurance from job status and private insurance providers, making access to secure treatment a privilege saved only for the middle class. She stands with Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and her ‘People’s Justice Guarantee’, a resolution aimed at usurping the racist blueprint to America’s Justice system, decriminalising low-level offences like Marijuana usage and de-normalising the ‘three-strike rule’, to curb over-prosecution motivated by systemic discrimination.

As she was still fresh meat On The Hill, she re-ignited the motion to create a committee passing the ‘Green New Deal’, a radical piece of climate legislation that’d been looming in democratic channels for over a decade. A resolution was released just over a year ago, detailing a path to a country powered by zero-emission energy, indirectly addressing poverty and preventing monopolies within an environmentalist framework.

Since then, it has been the crown jewels of the AOC administration – her primary goalpost for newly-elected President Biden, and, inevitably, a popular gimmick for republican hecklers. Just this week, Texas Governor Greg Abbott put Ocasio-Cortez and The Green New Deal at fault for the violent snowstorms harassing the state, leaving millions without power and thus bearing sub-zero temperatures within their homes, supposedly caused by unreliable solar and wind energy sources, despite these accounting for less than 10% of Texan energy. The antithesis of right-wing desiderata, the republican gambit to out-smoke their boldest opponents has, in her short tenure, been largely pointed to the congresswoman. Last July she was rampaged by GOP Florida Rep. Ted Yoho, calling her ‘disgusting’ and a ‘fucking bitch’ in response to her comments on poverty and crime. Taking place right on the steps of The Capitol, the incident was iconographic of elitist, white-male-orchestrated gatekeeping innate to the watching Rotunda, outsmarting new members bringing diversity to national representation to maintain the conservative status quo.

Subsequent to the insurrection of The Capitol on January 6th, mobilised by Trump supporters convinced of the democrats deforming Trump’s loss via election fraud in the 2020 general election, civilians and politicians alike have called Ocasio-Cortez’s bluff as she recounted having to hide in her office bathroom as the riot progressed, narrowly missing the unknown brutality of a witch-hunt. They mock her vulnerability in comparing it to previous experiences of sexual assault – conservative loud-mouth Candace Owens crying, ‘faking her own murder was the next logical step’.

Even so, AOC is no sweeter in retaliation. Now etched into the minds of any quasi-feminist user of TikTok, on the house floor she wiped Yoho and his bigot comrades of any undeserved credibility. She depicted a trend of misogynistic, xenophobic and belittling dismissals she’s received from a multitude of influential republicans, including Trump himself, who ordered her and fellow congresswoman for Minnesota Ilhan Omar,  a former Somalian refugee, to be ‘sent back’ at a rally in North Carolina.

For a generation exhausted of self-serving conservatives, churning out hostility on both sides of The Atlantic, such cultivated figures allow us to seek comfort and hope for the future. With that in mind, it’s hard to predict whether a miniature army of AOCs will continue to appear in public service roles. Other new progressives come to mind – namely, Ocasio-Cortez’s sui generis house group ‘The Squad’, made up of young, non-white Democrats carrying the torch for minorities on the political stage. But in reaction to Trump’s childish handling of the Coronavirus Pandemic, voters still only brought out a democratic majority as thin as a hair pin – both in the house and the senate. President Joe Biden, a breath of fresh air in comparison to his predecessor, is still entrenched with corporate agendas and age-old centrist ideals.

Nevertheless, change is coming, and it is down to AOC and her allies who challenge the establishment with bravery and calculation. There is a warmth to The Green New Deal as the US rejoins The Paris Agreement, and the president has dismantled Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policies, which sought to isolate the US on the world stage, parroting xenophobic and antisemitic sentiments both at home and abroad. Already there are whispers of Ocasio-Cortez’ pitch for president in 2024, for which she will barely scrape the minimum age of 35 at the time of inauguration. Maybe some things can stay as fantasy, but the hope burning in the hearts of a new generation of delegates is very much alive.