Skip to content Skip to footer

How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already shaking sh*t up in Congress

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, better known as AOC, is perhaps the most high-profile new member of Congress.

Many have followed her story since the 29-year-old child of Puerto Rican migrants and former waitress and bartender unseated a 10-term Congressman to win New York’s 14th congressional district. Indeed, three weeks before the Democratic primary election, the polls showed Cortez to be 36 points behind the incumbent.

Cortez, however, ended up defeating Joseph Crowley by 15 points and was a result that sent shock waves through the Democratic party. Her achievement does not simply demonstrate that polls are an unreliable indicator of election results — the election in 2016 already proved that.

Her remarkable achievement is owing to the fact that her “radical” platform connected with people.

For many, AOC has reinstalled hope in the democratic process for some Democrats, in addition to those who identify or are registered as independents, who have been discontent with the inaction of the political establishment.

Cortez is one of a formative new class of Congresswomen including, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar.

Yet, AOC’s story at its core is an underdog story. Moreover, it is the promise of the ‘American Dream’ — the recurrent message and reminder of our ability to rise up and excel during improbable circumstances —  a message that has been the discursive fabric of the U.S.

Attention, however, often does not come without scrutiny and criticism. Indeed, AOC has repeatedly had to ward off critics from both sides. Some moderate Democrats may have concerns that their party is moving “to the left, to the left,” while others are bemused by the amount of media coverage AOC has received.

For instance, Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), the two-term senator of Missouri described Ocasio-Cortez as “a bright and shiny new object” of the Democratic party and warned that translating rhetoric into policy and legislation is a much harder enterprise.

Conservatives have repeatedly attempted to slander the new Congresswoman. With critics hyper-focusing on her appearance and raised questions about her credibility, background and the factuality surrounding her Bronx upbringing.

As part of a smear campaign, a video of AOC dancing as a college student surfaced online. But instead of slandering the newly-elected Congresswoman, it became an internet sensation. In fact, AOC’s responded to the video dancing to the 1970 Motown classic “War” outside her Congressional office and the video earned 20 million views.

Since her election, her constituents have followed her journey to Washington and Ocasio-Cortez’s social media presence has garnered a huge following. She is a politician who has recognized that in our digital age, social media is a public sphere just as politicized as the streets have formerly served in this nation.

So, what draws people to the young Congresswoman? I think there is an overall desire amongst people for transparency and authenticity; concepts that are simultaneously rendered through the 29-year-old’s use of social media.

From her kitchen table Instagram stories, poking fun at the somewhat archaic customary traditions of the White House, offering a behind-the-scenes look of the life of a lawmaker, to dishing out facts surrounding the numerous institutional injustices and derogatory rhetoric repeatedly produced by the current administration, AOC is an important political presence and voice within the context of the domestic and global political climate.

Her use of social media on her first week on the job resembles that of an orientation day at college, not only making her relatable but is also likely encouraging other young people to participate in the democratic process.

Plus, her social media posts are also highly accessible, through both its content and form. On the request of advocates, AOC began adding captions for the deaf community and this move is another example of the 29-year-old’s inclusive platform and her investment of making sure that the voice’s of the most marginalized register to others. During her first week of office, AOC has already clearly set up her political agenda and is ready to have her rhetoric translate into policy.

Ocasio-Cortez has been able to draw the attention of a number of constituents, some of whom are new voters, through her policy platform that includes Medicare for all, a federal jobs guarantee for all Americans who want a job, along with a livable wage and abolishing the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Ocasio-Cortez has continued to show her influence in steering discourse, by proudly claiming the externally ascribed labels like “radical” and “socialist” — words that have been historically tainted in political discourse in the United States.

Yet, perhaps AOC can credit her colleague and fellow DSA member, Bernie Sanders, who during his presidential campaign trail, did a lot of work to help normalize the idea of a democratic socialist in the Oval Office.

In truth, the “radical” ideas and policies AOC endorses — in regards to healthcare, gun control, climate change, and the ridding of corporate money in politics — the majority of Americans actually do favor.

Additionally, AOC has become the face of the Green New Deal, which aims to make the U.S. 100 percent reliant on clean energy in a decade. Though the climate change legislation was originally viewed as a highly ambitious, it is now supported by nearly two dozen congressional colleagues.

If the legislation were to be passed, the Green New Deal will be funded by 70 % marginal tax rates on the wealthiest Americans. In other words, the tax is applicable to those who earn more than $10m, and any sum above the $10m would be taxed at a high rate. To put even more simply, if you don’t earn $10m, you’re good.

Yet, Republicans are invested in convincing people to not entertain the idea. They argue that the rich shouldn’t be taxed more and if they did, it would actually be more harmful to the rest of us, which is simply false.

AOC is also an outspoken critic of President 45.

Trump’s national address to the audience last night — that was rather a desperate and vehement attempt to strike fear into the hearts of the populous — was characterized by the false claim that there was a growing crisis at the southern border.

The address timely followed the broadcasting of the 60 minutes interview with the newly-elected Congresswoman. AOC was asked in the interview with Anderson Cooper Sunday night, whether she believed President Donald Trump was a racist. Her response:

“Yes, yes. No question. The president certainly didn’t invent racism,” she said. “But he’s also given a voice to it and expanded it and created a platform for those things. The words he uses, which are historic dog whistles of white supremacy.”

Even after receiving a backlash from the Oval Office, Ocasio-Cortez doubled down on her claim with this Tweet.

Her denouncing of Trump as a racist will, and already has dominated headlines. But a crucial part of the 60 minutes interview is the moment in which AOC is asked how she is going to fund the Green New Deal. In her answer, she exposed the hypocrisy and double standard when it comes to the way in which a politicians’ platform is received. She asserted,

“No one asks how we’re going to pay for this Space Force. No one asked how we paid for a $2 trillion tax cut,” she said. “We only ask how we pay for it on issues of housing, health care, and education. How do we pay for it? With the same exact mechanisms that we pay for military increases for this Space Force. For all of these ambitious policies.”

When her economic proposal was endorsed by Paul Krugman, economics Nobelist and New York Times columnist, the discourse on taxing the wealthy seemed, if only momentarily, feasible and reasonable, because it is.

As a consequence of her age and gender, Ocasio-Cortez is held at a different than other politicians. But this is not an atypical narrative for women who enter traditionally male-dominated spaces and industries.

As the second-longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues until Trump surrenders his plan to build is “beautiful” megalomaniac border wall, we should continue to look to the likes of AOC who shows hope and delivers an optimistic message about the present and our future.

As she declared in her late-night interview with Stephen Colbert, “Trump isn’t ready for a girl from the Bronx.”