Who is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez?

Most people didn’t know her name before the summer of ‘18. After she made history by winning the 2018 Democratic Primary in New York. She beat her opponent Joe Crowley, a longtime incumbent, with 57.6% of the votes. Because of this, she has been dubbed the Democratic Giant Slayer by New York Times. Her name is one to look out for as we near the November midterm elections. This makes us question who  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is, and how did she manage such an incredible feat? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in the Bronx, New York City, to an architect and a Puerto Rican mother. Ocasio-Cortez was nothing short of dedicated during her academic career. She won prizes in international science fairs and even had an asteroid named after her. After graduating high school, she attended Boston University, during which she was a one-time staffer in Senator Ted Kennedy’s office (where she focused on immigration issues), and graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics and International Relations. After graduation and the passing of her father,  she worked multiple minimum-wage jobs to support her family. She founded Brook Avenue Press, a publishing firm for children’s books that focused on the Bronx. Ocasio-Cortez also worked as an educator at the Hispanic National Institute; she was a lead educational strategist at GAGEis, Inc; and, among other things (and most recently), she worked as an organizer for Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Her association with Sanders is no coincidence. Like Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez has described herself as a democratic socialist and forms a part of the Democratic Socialists of America. During an interview with Stephen Colbert, she defined democratic socialism according to her beliefs: “I believe that in a modern, moral, and wealthy society, no person in America should be too poor to live.” This carries towards the political platform that was essential in her win in the primaries. On her platform,  she advocates for a single-payer health care system that covers all medical health services; she speaks about fully funded public schools and universities; she believes in establishing a Federal Jobs Guarantee, with a minimum $15 wage, health care benefits, and paid leave; she's adamant about an immigration reform, which involves the abolishment of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); she pushes for a justice-system reform; she wants to create a “New Green Deal” in an effort to combat climate change; etc.

Despite the surprise, her win garnered from the media, it isn’t hard to see how she managed to attain such a big following--big enough to defeat Joseph Crowley, a 10-time incumbent that hadn’t gone against a primary challenger since 2004. It’s all due to one thing: change. The population has changed: white ethnicities, like Irish and Italian, began to decrease in number while Hispanics began to form a larger part of the population. While Crowley’s main support, the older white population, began to lessen, Ocasio-Cortez’ campaign focused on the rising population of racial minorities in the community. Ideals have changed too: with the current events in the USA,  voters have been moving towards a more progressive stance-- a mold Ocasio-Cortez fit perfectly. Add to this her campaigning strategy-- going door-to-door with volunteers-- and it was a guaranteed victory.

Of course, this doesn’t mean she hasn’t had a fair share of critiques and backlash. During her surge of media coverage and interviews following her win, Ocasio-Cortez has been called out for stating false claims in her interviews (including wrongly stating that the U.S. unemployment rate was due to people working multiple jobs, even though this has no effect on the unemployment rate). She’s also faced backlash for inconsistency in her political views-- her activity from 2012 shows her upholding capitalist ideals that don’t exactly align with her democratic socialist platform-- and concern over her proposals and the possible cost to carry them out.

“Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office,” Ocasio-Cortez said in her campaign video, and maybe that was true, but not anymore. Whether you love her or hate her, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is changing the game, fighting against all odds, and destroying anyone’s doubts that women like her can’t do what they set their minds to. Next time we see her, it will be on November 6, when she faces against Republican nominee Anthony Pappas in the general election.

 

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