Eric Bazail | Guest Writer
I never thought I would find myself writing this kind of essay but I hate to admit it –– I’m a major fan of AOC. Don’t get me wrong, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is perhaps the most unabashed socialist in mainstream American politics and every foreign and domestic policy position she advocates for gives me major pause. But there’s something I dare say endearing about the youngest Congresswoman in our nation’s history, something that makes me stop and admire her. Too often, I find that the mainstream media can’t properly identify her strengths and ignores the real root of her power –– the power that managed to upset a top House Democrat in an otherwise-safe primary and has managed to sway public discourse towards her radical policy positions. Though AOC represents a radical departure from standard political norms, her style is modern, innovative, and the antidote for both her district’s and the nation’s woes, she can capture a message like no other relevant Democrat, and fundamentally in my opinion, will only be beneficial to the overall resilience of American democracy.
A combination of Margaret Thatcher, Dolores Huerta, and bell hooks (sic), effervescent with hints and notes of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, AOC is defiant, revolutionary, and fundamentally devoted to the cause she fights for on a moral level. This is what more than anything in my opinion endears AOC to the common American, who is exhausted of establishment politics, sickened by the entrenched Washington swamp, and hungry for someone unafraid of challenging the status quo. Sound familiar? Yes, this was the same diatribe used to rationalize the incumbent occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue when he pulled the upset over Hillary Clinton and the same diatribe used as rallying cries by Tea Party operatives. But the application of these comparisons largely ignores something else about AOC that sets her far above President Trump –– AOC isn’t vulgar, isn’t anchored in her views by despective and ignorant suppositions of American politics, and fundamentally owns her own narrative.
My biggest criticism of the Tea Party was the double-standard it operated under –– bankrolled by mega donors, yet claiming that Washington was dominated by special interests calling in favors and pork barrel spending. Yet, with AOC, it genuinely seems like she practices what she preached on the campaign trail. She has refused to kowtow to the leadership, unafraid to leverage her own political influence and capital. She refuses the niceties that often mire American politics and makes it clear that she keeps her laser focus on serving the people of her district. And beyond that, unlike the President, she refuses to take a personal, ad hominem approach to politics, refraining from attacking the person on the other side and focusing on their ideological flaws. This assertive and confident style, grounded in moral principle has allowed AOC to transcend the standard publicity pitfalls which chain freshmen legislators and force them to fall in line.
Admittedly, I see where this could be problematic. Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez has not garnered any favors with the top brass and this could hurt the ability of Congress to reach more bipartisan consensus in the midst of constant gridlock. And yet, I can’t help but feel that she’s the right woman for the times. Too often, Democrats have played nice and have allowed Republicans major concessions as they’ve taken systematic approaches since the Reagan administration to dismantle the social safety net and expand and entrench the powers of the upper class through a bastardization of economic policy disguised as “true capitalism”. Third way Democrats failed to keep an engaging narrative as Republicans went further right, galvanizing on the public’s worst fears and making the white man feel unfairly targeted by racial, sexual, and ethnic others. This ignores the basic pendulum rule of politics –– if they gravitate towards the center, move to the center; if they gravitate towards the extremes, move to the extremes.
Now that the Republicans play dirty as a basic modus operandi, Democrats need to fight in the trenches and need unabashed bruisers to carry the fight onwards. And Ocasio-Cortez can pack a major punch. Armed with a litany of loyal young followers, she can reinforce and rebuke the blatantly baseless attacks directed to her qualifications and personal life, highlighting the inherent snobbery of attacks on her humble origins and the out-of-touch attitudes of those who dismissed her real relatability with the working class and the downtrodden. And in laying down punches, Ocasio-Cortez articulates perhaps the most clear-cut vision of America any major Democrat not running for President really is.
Ocasio-Cortez wants an environmentally-conscious America driven forward by a Green New Deal that would make John Maynard Keynes drool. To create a fairer America, she wants to abolish ICE and radically restructure our criminal justice system. She wants to provide a wide social net, larger than what leading American socialists like Eugene Debs would have ever imagined possible, entrusting the national government to uphold a federal jobs guarantee, Medicare for All, free public college and trade school, and other entitlement programs. And defiantly, she wants major tax increases to foot the bill to their highest levels in four decades.
If you’re like me, the child of immigrants who fled Communism in Cuba, this is alarming behavior. As Socialist models collapse across Latin America, it gives me grave concern for what could come of our country as we move further and further from the America of our forefathers to the point of losing who we are. And yet, we can’t just dismiss these views. AOC is a powerful and effective communicator and largely because of her, we have these issues at the forefront of national debate. Millions support her in her cause and given these factors, I have a great respect and appreciation for the impact of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on our system.
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