The new year brought a new type of Democrat to congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest congresswoman in history, unseated Joe Crowley - a senior Democrat who had held his district for ten terms. She attracts more criticism from Republicans than almost any other Democrat. She is also frequently attacked on FOX News; always a sign that you’re doing something right. Ocasio-Cortez is an unapologetic democratic socialist whose vision for America, which is labelled by right-wingers as radical, would be viewed as remarkably mainstream in Europe. Perhaps her most famous saying highlights this, when she states “there’s nothing radical about moral clarity.”
She has been in Congress for just over three months but has already made a bigger splash than many Democrats have who have been there for much longer. Before she was even sworn in she visited activists who were staging a sit-in of the Democratic Senate Leader Nancy Pelosi – later joking on her Instagram that awkwardly her office was now just two doors down from Nancy’s.
She's gone from relatively obscurity to having multiple magazine shoots and over two million Twitter followers. What worries establishment Democrats is that while she overwhelmingly criticises Republicans, she isn’t afraid to call out Democrat shortfalls either.
Her most famous (and arguably controversial) proposals include a 70 per cent top rate of tax for those earning over $10 million, Medicaid for all and her bold Green New Deal aimed at decarbonising the US economy. She is part of a new caucus of Democrats within the Democratic party called the Justice Democrats and was elected with the help of a political organisation called the Sunrise Movement. B e f o r e and during a large part of her c a m p a i g n Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez worked as a bartender in a local restaurant near where she lived. The fact that she has worked longer as a bartender than as a Congresswoman helps solidify her image as a political outsider who is determined to shake up the Democratic establishment.
While some Democrats praise her not everyone likes her, including many of her Democrat colleagues. There are claims that there is an active carrot and stick campaign to try and bring her into the party fold. Some Democrats argue that she is too critical of Democrats and should focus all her energy and criticism on the Republicans, however this is simply not true. Being willing and able to criticise Democrat shortcomings is part of the reason why she was elected in the first place.
Whichever side of the aisle people are on, they should take notice of Miss Cortez and should heed that on many issues she is more in line with the wider American public opinion than the rest of Congress. Her brutally honest approach, mix of charm offensives and an incredibly sharp mind are already propelling her into a household name status.
Within twelve hours of her first speech, C-span (the equivalent of BBC Parliament) tweeted that her maiden speech was their most watched Twitter video ever. She has been received with standing ovations on the multiple talk shows she’s been on.
Her on-point social media usage makes young people relate to her. But while she has the same popularity factor as the Obamas she also suffers from having a huge chunk of America who will always be against her.
They may not even be against her because of her ideas but because of what she represents. However, as she said in her campaign video women like me aren’t meant to run for office, but despite this she won – I’m confident that she will keep on winning. In a world where the quality of our politicians seems to have nosedived, AOC, as she is affectionately known, is a welcome breath of fresh air.