Rocking the Vote: How Congressional Candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is Shaking up American Politics
Seventeen dollars. That was the amount of the average donation to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Congressional campaign. Through refusing money from lobbyists and other special interest groups, Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign amassed over $200,000 in small-dollar donations from working-class voters [this translates to just short of 12,000 donors].
So, who is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and how has she managed to gain so much momentum in the political spectrum with no experience and no significant sponsorship?
That’s the million-dollar question after the young progressive’s astonishing upset over Democratic incumbent Joseph Crowley in the Congressional District 14 Democratic Primary.
Crowley, who has been in Congress since 1999 and often touted as Nancy Pelosi’s replacement for Democratic Leader of the House, won 11,761 ballots [42.5%] compared to Ocasio-Cortez’s 15,897 votes [57.5%].
Although half Crowley’s age, Ocasio-Cortez is no stranger to the political stage. The 28-year-old Bronx native played a major role in organizing 2016 Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders’ campaign. With Bernie Sanders as an example, it comes as no surprise that Ocasio-Cortez ran on an openly Democratic Socialist platform.
"I believe that in a modern, moral, and wealthy society, no person in America should be too poor to live," she explained in an interview with Stephen Colbert.
Ocasio-Cortez takes an unabashedly progressive socialist approach in almost all issues, running on a platform of Medicare for all, rights for women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, fighting climate change, and gun control.
The young Congressional hopeful credits her victory for the people to her grassroots origins and humble beginnings. An activist in the Standing Rock protests, Ocasio-Cortez is no stranger to standing up to “corporate Democrats” like Crowley.
“The biggest hurdle that our communities have is cynicism — saying it’s a done deal, who cares, there’s no point to voting,” Ocasio-Cortez told volunteers before one of their canvasses. “If we can get somebody to care, it’s a huge victory for the movement and the causes we’re trying to advance.”
Despite the surge in popularity and her apparent new position as ‘champion of the people,’ not everyone is an Ocasio-Cortez fan.
Since the progressive candidate stepped into the limelight, she’s faced criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike, for everything from the house she grew up in to her radical platform.
Ocasio-Cortez has also faced backlash for the comments she made about the Israel-Palestine conflict during an interview with PBS’s Margaret Hoover. Chris Cillizza of CNN says that Ocasio-Cortez “gets herself into trouble when she starts talking about the Middle East and referring to Israelis who have settled in the West Bank as occupiers of Palestine.” He goes on to warn Democrats against hitching everything on the newest political trailblazer.
But, most are happy to see a young, fresh, female, minority face in a political atmosphere full of lobbying and old, white men, and are hopeful that the grassroots Democratic Socialist will have the opportunity to stir up some change for the working-class.
One thing is for sure, though: in a campaign dominated by social media and the victory of a millennial over a 20-year incumbent, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has changed the face of American politics.