Based on pound-for-pound impact on dialogue in America, there isn’t a more important politician right now than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. If my blog only revolved around politics, I could probably write an article a week about the vision she is offering and the conversations she has changed during her brief time in office. Yet even in spite of my adoration for the congresswoman from New York’s 14th district, and the reality that I agree with her on most policy-related substance, the feeling I have — and have had for the last handful of months — is that the best is yet to come.
So I’ve held off writing about her. At least… until now.
Ocasio-Cortez is only 29 years old, which is a good thing for the Democratic Party apparatus because if she was old enough to run for President she would probably win. After all, she defeated longtime incumbent Joe Crowley in New York’s 14th district despite utilizing only one-tenth of the financial resources Crowley had at his disposal. She recently proposed an overwhelmingly popular 70% marginal tax on wealthy individuals earning at least $10 million per year. She supports popular social programs like Medicare For All and raising the minimum wage. And she is also leading the charge for a Green New Deal — a jobs and green energy program that would help curtail climate change.
I know everybody enjoys a little hyperbole, so I’m here to give it: AOC is not just here to help save America’s economy from itself, she is here to help save the world from the disastrous effects of the climate changing.
It probably won’t shock you (since I like her so much), but Alexandria is terribly unpopular with both Democrat and Republican politicians. The reason the Democrats don’t like her is due to the fact that she is a throwback to the days of FDR, back when labor was the strongest, and most important faction of the Party. Those days died when Bill Clinton took office and purged the FDR wing, replacing them with the centrists that make up the bulk of the Party presently. 25 years of failed neoliberal (centrist) policies helped create Donald Trump, and in a major way created Bernie Sanders — who is not a Democrat — and the ongoing movement he leads.
The reason Republicans don’t like her isn’t tethered to much reality. Idiots on the right have tried to compare what Cortez is aiming to accomplish — notably getting people free healthcare and better pay — with Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong… basically any historical figure who has been responsible for the slaughter of millions of people. Rather than challenging her philosophy or ideas, they resort directly to trying to scare old people.
Here is the thing, though. I talk all the time about how Democrat and Republican politicians aren’t that different from one another. We can argue about which side is worse (hint: it is the GOP), but fundamentally they are both guilty of conducting the same business. It’s because both are fundamentally the same that both sides are against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
That fundamental reason, you might wonder? You already know: It’s that both sides accept campaign donations from ultra-wealthy individuals and corporations. Despite being a democracy, where people (are supposed to) have the power, American politicians across both isles agree that the only way to win elections is to have money. And the easiest path to that money is going hat-in-hand to the billionaire class.
Naturally, like any other basic math equation, the millionaires and billionaires don’t just give campaign donations because they are nice people. They do it expecting a return on investment. And if you were, let’s say, a mega millionaire or billionaire, do you think your interests would be more in line with working class people earning $30,000 a year, or your own interests? It’s very simple, really. The rich are the ones contributing the big money, so they are the ones whose interests get priority once the politicians they fund get in office.
It’s the donor class that is so against Ocasio-Cortez, since she is a direct threat to their capital. What do the rich want, always? They want lower taxes. Lower taxes mean less money for healthcare, Social Security, roads, bridges, schools, et. al. What do politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders want? They want the rich to pay their fair share of taxes, meaning more money for healthcare, Social Security, roads, bridges, et. al.
According to the mainstream media — which are also funded by wealthy corporations! — the divide between elected Democrats and Republicans is stark. One side represents all that is good, the other represents everything that is evil. If you watch Fox News then you probably think Democrats are against guns and free speech and just want a bunch of free stuff; if you watch CNN or MSNBC then you probably think Republicans are racist and sexist and in bed with the Russian government.
No matter which corporate mouthpiece you get your news from, rest assured that — by design — they don’t give a damn about you or ordinary workers like you. To believe the opposite, that mainstream news outlets really do care about informing the public, and look out for the interests of regular people, would be to believe that ultra-wealthy multinational corporations care more about the population than they do their own bank accounts.
I hesitate to use the term “false choice,” because I think it’s used too much as something that sounds smart but is often uttered out of context, but that’s precisely what the two party system offers people. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Bernie before her, upset that applecart since they are giving Americans a legitimate third option. One that doesn’t toe the line with the big banks, or the drug companies, or the private insurance racket, or the war machine, and in fact is actively fighting against the greed of those industries.
Again I harp back to what’s important: if both Democratic and Republican leadership are against Ocasio-Cortez, then she must be doing something right. We never see this kind of establishment backlash against phony progressives like Beto O’Rourke, Kamala Harris or Cory Booker. It is instead reserved for a 29 year-old freshman congresswoman who is, what, a whole month and change into Congress? You figure there wouldn’t be a constant barrage of attacks from both sides if she wasn’t scaring anyone with her ideas.
I love Ocasio-Cortez for multiple reasons, but at the end of the day it always comes back to where she stands on policy. She can distract people with clever soundbites and an unapologetic fighting spirit. She can be outspoken against Republicans and Democrats. But her lasting impact only goes as far as her willingness to continue the fight for ordinary people. If she keeps doing that, there is no limit to what she can accomplish.
A secondary reason I’m such a big fan of Cortez is because, at 29, she’s only like four months older than I am. It’s important that America sees what young people are really about. Of course, those in their 50’s and 60’s and 70’s naturally aren’t as left-leaning as the millennial generation, but the fact that we are out there — in your face now more than ever — is something people need to get familiarized with.
To an obviously lesser degree, I take it upon myself as often as I can to show older people that millennials aren’t all that bad. The only way I can prove this is by working hard, and by rejecting the idea that young people are simply in it to mooch off the system and shut down speeches on college campuses. It is easy to shit on a generation that was gifted so much in terms of technology, and that hasn’t had to deal with any Cold War, or World War, but the struggle I argue always boils down to an economy that has been set up for millennial failure. I myself was in college debt for ten years having attended college for all of two semesters, and still in a way I am one of the fortunate ones.
Millennials aren’t going to vote in nearly the same numbers as Gen X or Baby Boomers in 2020, but the time is coming where our collective voice needs to be considered more seriously. Currently we have Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as our champion, but the way the tide is turning in the Democratic Party it won’t be long before the centrists are purged in favor of newer, younger candidates who will follow Cortez’s lead and start reflecting the will of the American people more than wealthy campaign donors.
Ironically, it’s young people who are looking to implement old ideas. We are the ones most actively seeking a return to the golden age of the American economy, when the rich got taxed more, where unions were strong, where there was an actual, thriving middle class. It ain’t gonna be the Republicans who deliver that, and if the last 25 years under the leadership of the Clinton’s and Obama’s are any indication, it won’t be the Democrats, either.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gives me hope. Every time I hear her speak she restores a little more of my faith in humanity, and the future. We hear all the time the flowery words from Democratic politicians, those who make it their strategy to make big promises to the left, but once they get in power it’s back to business as usual. They take care of the industries which funded their campaigns.
Cortez is hated by all sides, because she isn’t just talking about it. She is serious. I am part of a generation that has grown up knowing that politicians don’t have our back; we are conditioned to have no expectations for our government to help our lives. The best compliment I can give AOC is that she makes me a believer that government can do some good. That we aren’t all just stuck here eating a shit sandwich, spending a lifetime fending for ourselves.