The 2018 Election Season gave us many new faces and candidates, and some really entertaining and sometimes controversial figures. Easily one of the most talked about figures in this election was the 29 year old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, newly elected to the 14th Congressional District in New York. Alexandria's rise to fame came pretty quickly this year, and she has quickly become a rather polarizing figure, a hero on the political left, while becoming a joke or a walking meme on the political right. Who is this Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and what do we REALLY know about her? Lets take a look!
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was born in 1989, in The Bronx, New York, coming from a Puerto Rican family. Alexandria was very active in her high school, and a star student, ultimately earning her a scholarship to Boston University. While going through school, Alexandria was an intern for Senator Ted Kennedy in Massachusetts, and she ultimately graduated with honors from Boston University with a degree in International Relations.
After college, Alexandria moved back to The Bronx, taking bartending jobs while working to fight foreclosure of her family's home. Later on, Alexandria worked for a publishing firm working on Children's literature in The Bronx and worked at the National Hispanic Institute, a nonprofit organization. During this time, Alexandria stayed very active in The Bronx community and started to get involved politically as well!
Alexandria's political career began to take off when she started working on Senator Bernie Sanders's Presidential campaign in 2016. During this particular campaign, Alexandria traveled the country for Sanders, attending many rallies. It was during this time, that Alexandria also became very active in human rights issues such as the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, as well as the Dakota Access Pipeline. Alexandria claims that it was seeing people putting their lives on the line for their cause that really inspired her to begin to work for her own community, and ultimately run for political office. While the Sanders campaign didn't secure the Democratic Presidential nomination, it was during this time that the political views of Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez were really molded.
Congressional Campaign: 2018
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced she was running for Congress in 2017, and emphasized her intentions to run a “grassroots” campaign featuring “people over party”. In the primary race, Alexandria challenged the Democratic Caucus Chair, Joe Crowley, and faced a significant disadvantage as far as campaign contributions were concerned. The Ocasio-Cortez campaign raised just under $200,000 for the primary, compared to the Crowley campaign, that had raised well over 3 million dollars! In addition to the significant financial disadvantage, Alexandria had never ran for political office before, was under the age of 30, and was going against a long-time incumbent congressman. Many prominent endorsements also came in in favor of her opponent, Joe Crowley, those endorsements included the Governor of New York, both Senators, and the mayor of New York City. Alexandria ended up picking up some strong endorsements, which included New York Governor candidate Cynthia Nixon (yes, that woman who was in “Sex and The City”) , and some progressive groups, such as Move On, The Sierra Club, and Planned Parenthood. Ultimately all the odds were against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and this was a true uphill battle, as name recognition, money, and endorsements were not in her favor at all! In June, 2018, Alexandria ended up defeating heavily favored Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary by a huge margin of 57 percent to 43 percent, a stunning victory! Once she made it through the primary, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez coasted through the November general election, becoming congresswoman elect in New York's 14th congressional district.
Analysis: How did she pull this election off?
So Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled off an absolutely stunning election victory in the 14th Congressional district of New York. For any of us who study elections closely, her election has become a rather fascinating case study, as her victory has been labeled a “miracle” in some circles, and seen as one of the biggest upsets in recent American Political history, so how exactly did this happen? Well first of all, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made no secret in her politics how far to the left she really is, and some have labeled her as a “Socialist”, and leaning rather extremely far to the left, which actually can work in such a far left leaning area in New York City. It is no secret that New York city is easily one of the bluest, and furthest left leaning areas in the country, it has a huge urban population with a great blend of cultures and diversity, as well as a large amount of youth. It is one of the few areas in the country where you really can go far left, or even extremely left and be able to pull out an election victory, as I don't believe she'd be able to pull this off in a moderate state like Ohio, or even in most other parts of New York. Being a young vibrant woman, Alexandria was able to draw out the youth vote and brought new energy to that particular district, which may have grown tired of its long time incumbent congressman. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the perfect candidate at the perfect time for this congressional district, and a far left shift actually paid off for her and this district in general.
While Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was able to successfully win a high profile congressional district in New York City, her campaign was not without its share of controversy. The campaign itself made it to the national spotlight, based on the high profile of the congressional district of New York City, as well as through some controversial statements that Alexandria has made, or has been credited with saying. In nearly every major issue, such as the economy, healthcare, immigration, and education, Alexandria has often taken an extremely far left or socialist political viewpoint. There has been at least some concern in the Democratic party that Alexandria is too extreme in her viewpoints, and could be problematic for future elections, especially from Democratic voters that are closer to the center, politically. Alexandria has also become a bit of a joke, a punchline, or a meme from those politically on the right, who usually can have a really good laugh at some statements she has made, dismissing her as uneducated, or at the very least uninformed or naive. Personally, I don't believe she is uneducated by any means, but an argument can certainly be made that she could be naive or misinformed about certain things. Whatever the perspective is, it is probably fair to say that in the future she certainly has room to improve on her public relations and perception to those politically on both sides of the fence. To be fair, we are talking about a woman under the age of 30 who has never held a political office in her life, so it is certainly understandable at this point that she could use some fine tuning, and there is room for improvement.
Outlook: The future of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
As we move forward into 2019, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will be starting her very first Congressional term in Washington D.C. With her still being under 30 years old, there is plenty of time to see how her political career unfolds and what else it could lead to. First of all, it seems highly likely at this point that she will be in office for multiple congressional terms, as each term only lasts two years. It is possible in the future that we could see her running for U.S. Senate in her state of New York, or even Governor. As I've mentioned before, Alexandria benefits from having the right type of Congressional district that matches her far left political viewpoints, and with a state as Blue as New York has been, there are plenty of future possibilities. As far as a future Presidential run, it is far too early to think about that right now, however, I don't see that prospect as being too realistic even in the future, unless she is able to shift more towards the political center. Whatever the future holds, I believe things look rather bright for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as she essentially has become easily the most popular and widely recognized member of Congress, and she hasn't even been sworn in yet!
Author: Shawn Gallagher
Follow Shawn on Twitter: @shawnG927
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