Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, otherwise known as “AOC”, is a New York congresswoman who represents a younger side of both the Democratic party and the Congressional makeup as a whole. She is currently the youngest member of the 116th Congress, inducted in January 2019 when she was just 29 years old. She was and remains the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.
She was born in the Bronx, New York and attended Boston University, graduating with a degree in Economics and International Relations. She was initially thrust into the political limelight through her time campaigning for Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential election, knocking on doors in her state, before launching her own campaign for Congress in 2018. She won New York’s 14th congressional district, beating Joe Crowley who had previously held the office for ten consecutive terms. As the youngest woman ever elected to a Congress (which currently has an average representative age of 57), she is bound to draw attention from both sides of the aisle, but what is particularly impressive is her social media presence.
In terms of her political impact, many believe that she has “upended Democratic politics”, and pushed the party “inexorably to the left”. This, to many, triggers the knee jerk reaction found so often in American politics that she is a “radical Leftist socialist”. As Time magazine puts it, she stands to be the “Wonder Woman of the left, Wicked Witch of the right”. At face value, AOC represents a Democratic dream: as a young Hispanic woman, she belongs to a demographic of voters that the party so heavily relies on. Her policies are indeed more to the Left than the more mainstream moderate branch of the Democratic party; however this is not without appeal.
Her focus is on arguably the most substantive and important issues of our time – a Green New Deal for combating climate change, providing healthcare for all Americans, immigration reform (including campaigning to abolish ICE). These are all sentiments that powerfully and significantly stand as polar opposites to the most recent presidency. This has turned her into the Fox News punching bag, and Gallup polls have indicated that 41% of Americans had an unfavourable opinion of her as of this time last year.
Despite the apparent hostility towards her, AOC’s youth brings with it a dynamism desperately void in Congress alongside a strong focus towards connecting with youthful demographics. Her repeated use of Instagram Live to connect directly with her supporters, such as cooking streams or sitting down with Bernie Sanders to discuss why people should get politically involved, is an example of her savviness. Arguably, her greatest success was her livestream on Twitch where she played Among Us with other popular streamers in an endeavour to increase voter turnout in the runup to the 2020 presidential election between Joe Biden and Donald Trump. The stream had a peak viewership of roughly 438,000 people, making it one of the most popular streams of the year. Whether this reflects a rise in prominence for a new medium of political engagement remains to be seen, but AOC’s commitment to utilising new methods of voter interaction, especially the disenfranchised and discouraged, has to be applauded. These mediums have low barriers of entry, and persist as an admirable aspect of her style and political career.
Regardless of her successes and shortcomings, AOC will remain a polarising figure within American politics for years to come, and, even though she’s still young, she will leave an important legacy of empowering new voters to become enthused about matters of global political significance. Her existence within politics remains a constant reminder that perhaps politics isn’t just an old man’s game anymore.
Congress Age: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R45583.pdf
AOC Policies: https://ocasio-cortez.house.gov/issues