A Giant-Slayer from the Bronx: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) the 28 year old, freshman, democratic socialist congresswoman from the Bronx is all anyone can talk about. From her non-stop energy and determination in Congress, to her spectacular dance moves and fashion choices, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is making headlines everyday. Not only is she the youngest member of Congress, she is also the first non-white representative from her district. The Congresswoman was born in the Bronx to a first and second generation immigrant family from Puerto Rico. She graduated Boston college in 2011 with a degree in international relations and economics. After college she worked as a bartender and waitress in the Bronx, and she later launched a publishing firm and worked in many Bronx based non-profits. In 2016 she worked on the Bernie Sanders campaign driving across America to talk to voters in places like Flint and Standing Rock.

 

She is a socialist democrat, meaning that she advocates for political democracy alongside social ownership of the means of production. She emphasizes self and democratic management of economic institutions within a planned socialist economy. Democratic socialists hold that capitalism is inherently incompatible with the democratic values of liberty, equality and solidarity; and that these ideals can only be achieved through the realization of a socialist society. Because of these values, her campaign took no corporate PAC money (which is almost unheard of). And despite her opponent, Democratic Representative Crowley, out raising her 10 to 1, AOC won the primary with 15% more votes than the incumbent. She then went on to win the general election with 78% of the vote. AOC emphasized that her campaign reached doors not usually "knocked on" by the Democratic establishment: "young people ... communities of color, people who speak English as a second language, working class people, people with two jobs that are usually too 'busy' to vote." She is young and energized and has captured the public's attention with her transparency and honesty through the use of social media. AOC has brought the public inside the US Congress and let us sit in on these vital conversations about our government. Her instagram live feeds regularly get at least 10 thousand views (and that is just live); hundreds of thousands of other watch it later. (Follow her: @ocasio2018 and @repocasiocortez)

 

As with any woman in the public eye, AOC’s personal appearance has come under major scrutiny. Starting when a journalist posted a picture of her in a tailored black coat with the caption “that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles”, a clear jab at her working class upbringing and current financial situation. The post, which went viral, resulted in major commentary from both sides--as though they would not also protest if she had worn an old pair of jeans and a t-shirt. It is always the same story: you must be authentic, but widely appealing. Smart, but not off-puttingly so. Charming, but not trying too hard. Attractive, but not too attractive. Put-together, but not excessively. Well dressed, but. Made up, but. Confident, but. The list just goes on. Of course AOC doesn’t let the belittling opinions of others stop her from being fabulous. At her swearing in AOC wore a bright white power suit to honor all of the other women who had come before her and fought for equality and justice, as well as popping red lips and hoop earrings, a nod to Sonia Sotomayor who was told to remove her red nail polish for her senate hearing.

 

AOC has made it crystal clear that she will not be a “quiet freshman”. (It is commonly understood that in the first and even second year in congress, one does not speak but rather listens and learns). So far she has fought hard for her Green New Deal which will have the US running 100% on renewable energy by 2035. But her legislation is not just about the environment; it is also about economics. It is meant to redirect the US economy to avoid the catastrophe that is climate change, as the congresswoman herself said, “We must again invest in the development, manufacturing, deployment, and distribution of energy, but this time green energy.” She even participated in a protest about climate change in the office of Nancy Pelosi on her first day of orientation, before she was even sworn in. She has also surprised many with her opening proposal of a 70% tax on the uber wealthy, people who make over $10 million a year. This tax is intended to pay for her Green New Deal. She has made clear her positions on free public universities, single payer public healthcare, and the impeachment of President Donald Trump. AOC has also been vehement about her position on the inhumane practices of ICE and the inaction of the current government to prevent the crimes against humanity that are happening in ICE detention centers. The most recent example of AOC’s tireless initiative was on January 16th when she and a few other democrats “chased” (her words) Mitch McConnell around the Capitol during the government shutdown. They were trying to hand deliver a letter signed by 38 House freshman demanding that the legislator vote on various bills allowing for federal workers to receive their paychecks.

So far it seems the DNC won’t be holding her back. Although there were a few bumps at the beginning, I don’t think the party was expecting AOC to be as active a representative as she is. There was also some concern around AOC’s participation in the sit-in outside of Nancy Pelosi’s office, as that indicated she did not fully support Pelosi, the soon-to-be Speaker of the House. However, as the 116th congress gets settled in, it would seem as though AOC is influencing the party for good, pushing them to take a stance and fight for the American people now that they have the ball back in the Democratic court. Not to mention, the DNC will take anything that could bring back all of the young voters they lost over the Clinton-Sanders fiasco.

 

The GOP on the other hand is not very happy with AOC, evidenced by the fact that every headline she makes, they respond with one attacking her with all that they have. Rolling Stones said it best: “Fox’s fear-mongering has gone too far.” The right loves to make AOC out to be this big, bad communist-fascist who is coming for our freedom of thought and American ideas. This is of course meant to fire up their base just after the Democrats had swept the Republicans out of the House in the midterm election. For example, that viral video of AOC dancing in college was actual meant as a smear campaign to embarrass the congresswoman and make her out to be unqualified to holding office. The eternally strong, smart, and confident AOC has brushed all of these haters off and continues full speed ahead, just as focused as ever before on a forging better future for ALL Americans.

 

All I have left to say is, “Keep it up, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez! You are a superstar, a change-maker, a role model.” She makes me excited about politics and government. She is getting the world talking and making sh*t happen. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said ,“women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.” Well I think now that has changed, because of her.