From Ordinary Citizen to Congresswoman

The documentary Knock Down the House, was released on Netflix on May 1, it features Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Amy Vilela, Cori Bush, Paula Jean Swearengin. This documentary follows the four women on their journey as they ran for Congress in 2018. Not many people might be interested in politics, but in my opinion this documentary illuminates much bigger issues such as gender inequality. It shows that women take issues affecting their community to heart and this inspires and motivates them to take on the big leaders in Congress in a fight for not only a seat but for the sake of their communities.


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

(Photo by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Instagram)


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ran her campaign against New York Congressman Joe Crowley, he had been in Congress for 14 years. Everyone told AOC, that she was not only crazy, but too young and inexperienced to run against a man who had been in the game for years. Ocasio-Coretz’s father passed away when she was in college and the recession also hit the U.S. during the same time, so she had to put her her career goals on hold to work multiple shifts as a bartender to help her mother pay for their home and keep in from going into foreclosure. On her page, Ocasio-Cortez shares the issues she will focus on while in Congress, the issues range from housing and jobs to the environment. The documentary allows the viewers to see intimate moments and memories that Ocasio-Cortez has, these moments and memories are rooted so deeply in Alexandria’s heart and mind that they led her not only to run for Congress, but defeat the incumbent Crowley and become the youngest Latinx woman elected to Congress.


Amy Vilela

(Photo by Amy Vilela on Instagram)


Amy Viela was encouraged to run for Congress for the state of Nevada after losing her daughter. Vilela’s daughter, Shalynne, passed away after healthcare professionals denied her treatment at a hospital because she did not have proof of insurance. Shalynne suffered a pulmonary embolism, which means that one of the arteries in the lungs was clogged by a blood clot. Vilela focused her campaign on targeting the corrupt American healthcare system, she went after career politicians who put the needs of the profit-driven healthcare system before the needs of the people. On her page, Amy shared the issues that she was going to focus on which include, “Policies that meet everyone's basic needs – a guaranteed livable wage, access to free public education and healthcare, affordable housing – need to be recognized as the concrete foundation upon which our society is built, allowing us all to grow, thrive, and reach our full potential with equity and dignity.” Vilela unfortunately did not go on to win a seat in Congress, but her movement and values have raised more awareness to the people of Nevada and the whole country about the imperfect healthcare system.


Cori Bush

(Photo by Cori Bush on Cori Bush for Congress)


Cori Bush began her race for Congress after she became an activist in the state of Missouri. Bush is a registered nurse and when the shooting of Michael Brown occured, the event brought protests and tanks into her city; she was filled with anger at the sight of her community being treated unjustly. On her page, Bush expresses the issues that matter most to her, “This is a time in our history when complacency cannot be the standard. Americans today must decide between medication and rent. Our justice system over-incarcerates and our education system under-educates, while millions of children live in poverty and thousands live in cages. I am running because our district deserves a purpose-driven leader with a proven track record of fighting for the people, even when it threatens my own life.” It’s clear that Bush will put the needs of the people before the needs of anyone else in 2020 when she runs for Congress again after losing in 2018, she cares about dealing with issues that constrain people and wants to help her constituents have a shot a the American dream with little to no barriers.


Paula Jean Swearengin


(Photo by Paula Jean Swearengin on Instagram)


Paula Jean Swearengin began her campaign for West Virginia Congresswoman when the frustration of seeing her family, friends, and neighbors die due to the harm that the coal industry was placing on the environment. Unfortunately, Swearengin also did not win in the 2018 elections but is also running again in 2020. Paula is making her home issues one of the main issues she cares to take on in Congress, she wants to regulate the coal industry not only in her state, but nationwide because she believes people should not have to beg their government for something as fundamental as clean air and water. Swearengin in the documentary she says, “ if it were another country coming in to pollute our waters and blow up our mountains, we would already be at war.” With this statement she argues that the country needs to take care of its own and if she makes it to Congress in 2020, it is clear that she will make choices with the needs and health of her constituents in mind.


Final Thoughts

This documentary film moved me much more than I expected. As someone who is majoring in political science, this film truly inspired me, it truly allowed me to see my aspirations as more than just dreams and hopes. This film shows that anyone with enough passion, can set aside the low expectations that society has against them and make a difference or spark a conversation about issues and events that affect society. No movement or person is too small to get something going and sometimes you can surprise yourself with the results that a little courage and inspiration create. It’s amazing what women have to bring to the table and it’s exciting to live in a time where we can experience the magic of women.