Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz defeated senior NY congressman Joe Crowley in what's been called the biggest electoral upset of the year.
In May 2017, a 27-year-old graduate on economics and international relations from the Bronx decided to run for a seat in Congress for the Democratic Party. That seat was taken by senior congressman Joe Crowley. This week, as she walked into her watch party at a billiard hall in the Bronx, she found out she had won the primary election in New York, beating Crowley and bringing her one step closer to being the youngest person ever to win a seat in Congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory isn’t surprising only because she managed to beat one of the most solid figures in Congress, but also because of her political views and her background. We’ve been talking a lot about what the US has become with their racism and inhumane policies, but this victory shows us the other side of the coin; it shows that part of the country that isn’t represented by this oppressive and divisive government. So, who is she and what does she represent?
As the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and an American father, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez comes, like many others in her community, from a working-class family in the Bronx. Knowing that the only way to progress and do something for her country was through her studies, she graduated from Boston University. Later, she got involved in politics by working with Senator Ted Kennedy, through whom she got access to the real core of politics in the US. However, as it happens with most people, this doesn’t guarantee anything. After graduating, she returned home to find that her family’s economic situation was worse than ever. Then, her father passed away, and in order to avoid foreclosure, she decided to take a second job as a bartender. However, her intention to be active in politics was her main goal.
In 2016, she joined Senator Bernie Sanders in his independent campaign, and she also got involved in other movements and organizations fighting for her community and minorities. For instance, she went to Standing Rock to protest against the construction of a gas pipeline that crossed through Native American land. The Obama administration had halted construction, but it was given the green light by the Trump administration. And it was actually Trump’s victory what pushed her to do something more for her country, to stand up and fight for the people who are affected by the President's policies. As she puts it, she’s “experienced the pain” of the working class and she believes that by knowing what life is really like she can do something from within Congress to help change things.
No one was really expecting her to win for so many reasons, like her age, gender, and background, but she proved that people are sick of politicians who don’t represent them. After all, she’s very close to winning a seat that represents a really diverse borough where many languages are spoken and people have so many different needs. Her opponent was head of the Queens County for the Democratic party and the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, in other words, a very important figure in the state.
Her campaign, which didn’t have as much financial support as her adversary’s, was based on going to the streets and talking to people about her ideas and what she was planning to do, but also in listening to the community’s needs and demands. As she explained in an interview on MSNBC channel, “our campaign was focused on just a laser-focused message of economic, social and racial dignity for working-class Americans, especially those in Queens and the Bronx.” This closeness to her voters is what ended up giving her the victory. People want their politicians to represent them in all ways, and the fact that she’s so far from the “traditional politician” image that’s been around for such a long time motivated voters (including black people and Latinos in the community) to look for a change.
Yes, things are getting really dark in the US after the horrible policies the government has been implementing, but this upset is definitely a story that needs to be replicated throughout the country because that’s the part of the US that needs to be highlighted and encouraged. This is the part that represents a diverse and complex population and their needs. So, good luck to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in this new stage of her life, and cheers to those who turned hope into an active force that managed to make a small yet crucial change. Representation matters, and it matters a lot.
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