A Win for Democracy
This week Ms. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) won the Democratic Congressional Primary in New York’s 14th District. It was a pretty big win for the believers in democracy! Her victory vindicates those who continue to hold out hope. The system can still work to genuinely represent the people.
Ocasio-Cortez was a relatively obscure candidate. She was running for the first time against Joe Crowley, a highly placed and well-funded Democratic Party incumbent. He had actually held the position for 10 terms and it was widely assumed he would win again. Instead, June 26th offered up a dramatic change.
Unlike her opponent, the 28 year old Ocasio-Cortez was motivated by her desire to realize significant change. Indeed, it’s something that many in her community have been yearning for. Ocasio-Cortez represents a different sort of Democrat. An obvious progressive, she refers to herself as a Democratic Socialist. It’s a term that’s considered fairly reasonable in the rest of the world, but in the US of A, it’s often met with apprehension and disdain.
A Progressive Agenda
Some of the more “radical” elements of the Ocasio-Cortez platform include Universal Healthcare (Medicare for All), as well as subsidized higher education & trade-schools. To be clear, these notions are not particularly radical. At least, not for a Canadian living in Japan (both these countries enjoy such features and are better off for them).
Her win may certainly have come as a surprise (perhaps even to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez herself!). It turns out that her socially-focused platform is something that many people in her district can actually connect with. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s victory has clearly validated this.
How Sweet It Is
And win she did! Ms. Ocasio-Cortez actually beat out her opponent by 15%!😮 That’s a pretty significant margin. Especially when considering she’s a political newbie who was running behind in the polls. She has since accredited the success to her genuine message and her dynamic grass-roots support.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez also proudly shares the fact that she didn’t receive any super PAC money to fund her campaign (her opponent meanwhile outspent her 10 to 1). Instead, she chose to reach out to as many people as she could through her message of political revolution.
A Bronx Tale
Born and raised in the Bronx, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is of Puerto Rican descendent. Much like her constituency, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is also a working-class woman. She had to pay her own way through university, while juggling multiple jobs, social obligations (all kinds of volunteering & community work), and of course her daily commute via public transportation.
Ocasio-Cortez has an undergrad in Economics and International Relations (see US Congress official bio). As well as working as educator, she also worked for years in the service industry and understands its hardships & benefits. She even helped on the Bernie Sanders Presidential Campaign!
The Right Time
2016 was a pivotal year for Ocasio-Cortez. Following Senator Sanders’ loss, and the resulting win of a misogynistic, xenophobic, narcissistic elitist, who currently holds the presidential office, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez felt compelled to do more. Alarmed by what she saw unfolding her country, AOC converted her substantial energies into running for office herself. Ocasio-Cortez explains that she was motivated by the vision of the future she thought her fellow citizens deserved.
Being a young working-class Latina, Ocasio-Cortez is certainly a political outsider in terms of the US Congress. All the more reason for her to participate and help change the dynamics of the system, so as to better reflect the actual population. Undoubtedly, it was no piece of cake. Despite the positive outcome, her success was far from assured. It wasn’t merely AOC’s demographic credentials that carried the win. She and her team had to work really hard for it.
Every Champion Was Once a Contender that Refused to Give Up
In fact, her motivations and background may have seemingly discounted Ms. Ocasio-Cortez in the eyes of her opponent. Congressman Crowley not only failed to show up to the official debate (he was apparently too busy), but as an added slight to his constituents he also sent a young hispanic woman in his place to speak in his place (NPR). Unfazed by the snub, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez actually gained even greater respect.
As is often the case with leading change, there is so much resistance and cynicism. So many explanation on why it can’t be. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez however is an example of what can be accomplished in spite of this. As she explains, “cynicism is a weapon against normal people to count themselves out.” I for one feel my hope sustained by her spectacular victory!🙌