The Phenomenon of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
On the 26th of June, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez – a girl from the Bronx- shocked thousands as she fought and won the Democratic primary race against incumbent Joe Crowley.
Her campaign for social justice and an America for all, coupled with her localized back to basics canvassing helped her stand out from her Democratic opponent. Being outspent 18-1 by Crowley, and the daunting fact he was the firmly established and endorsed candidate (with endorsements from the likes of Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio to name a few) highlights the importance of Cortez’s groundbreaking grassroots campaign style and candidacy at a time of Democratic turmoil.
Ocasio-Cortez is more than just a popular candidate, despite similarities drawn between her and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Indeed, Sanders said of her victory that “she demonstrated once again what progressive grassroots politics can do”. Her presence in the political field is something previously unknown to U.S. Politics. Cortez is a young, 28-year old female Latina who represents new blood in the ageing upper sections in not only the Democratic Party but for politics as a whole. We need to move away from “left”, “Centre” and “right” classifications when it comes to candidates, and Cortez epitomizes this. The matter of the fact is: she is new, unprecedented and America’s youth can identify with her.
“Change we can believe in”
During President Trump’s electoral campaign, he spoke of “draining the swamp”; Cortez’s candidacy is the embodiment of that change - of a swap that’s beginning to drain. She breaks away from the political mould that has forced many working-class Democrats to become detached with the reality of US Politics. Cortez highlights that prominent figures from the Democratic Party, no longer appeal to their traditional bases, such as Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
Across the pond, a similar trajectory can be seen in the Labour Party, where leaders fail to mobilize what is often considered its traditional base, a case in point can be found via’ Ed Miliband whose policies were regularly scrutinized because many traditional supporters saw them as austerity-lite.
By breaking away from established political entities, Ocasio-Cortez has the ability to speak freely on foreign policy issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the US’ vociferous unconditional support for Israel despite the many atrocities committed by Israeli forces. Many in the Democratic and Republican establishment are seemingly unwilling to recognize the atrocities and tragedies that have happened to Palestinians too, and Ocasio-Cortez received a lot of backlash from every angle upon raising this.
Ordinary issues, extraordinary policy
Ocasio-Cortez brings a sense of revival on what are typically the Democratic Party ideals. Issues like raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, providing free college tuition, guaranteeing Medicare for anyone who wants it, a new Green Deal to tackle climate change and abolishing ICE are all professed and part of Ocasio-Cortez’s policy platform. These policies are beginning to speak to many frustrated working-class Americans who feel left behind and also appalled at the current administration’s treatment of children being separated from their parents at the US-Mexico border. Ocasio-Cortez is in many respects leading the way of the young and non-establishment progressives on all the key issues such as the economy, climate change and immigration reform.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s rise to prominence may only be indicative of the times that the Democratic Party finds itself in, but those who think that way would be underestimating the message she brings. If indeed elected to Congress she will be the youngest ever, being only 29 years old when she takes office in January 2019.
Ultimately, Ocasio-Cortez is a symbol of the younger generation and their fight against not only the current administration but also the entrenched political establishment that they've grown tired of. Whether she wins the election or not she is certainly one to watch in coming years as the Democrats rebuild and seek to regain the legislature and executive. Ocasio-Cortez’s policies, offering a fresh hope, a message and a real alternative to the current establishment make her a rising star in the Democratic Party.
Cortez could be the change the Democrats have historically stood for, the change the country perhaps needs – and – the change the Democrats have certainly been lacking.