Anybody with a tangential interest in United States’ politics at present will be aware of newly-elected New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. After her shock primary win over House Democrat Joe Crowley, the self-described socialist has continued to buck orthodoxy. She is challenging Democratic Party leadership on issues such as spending (opposing pay-as-you-go rules supported by Speaker Nancy Pelosi), taxation (calling for a 70% marginal rate on income over $10m), and climate change, in which she has been a leading voice in favour of the ‘Green New Deal.’
Her prominence has invited pushback from both the Republican right and Democratic establishment centre. Many Democrats, such as former Senators Joe Lieberman and Claire McCaskill, have called for Ocasio-Cortez to ‘keep her head down’ and ‘learn her job’ before challenging more experienced party leaders on policy. Attacks from the conservative wing have primarily revolved around increasing desperate attempts to paint Ocasio-Cortez, who commuted between Queens, NYC, and the more affluent Westchester County, as a fraud - A creature of privilege feigning a hardscrabble upbringing. This culminated in the ‘shocking’ revelations that Ocasio-Cortez attended high school, had a nickname (the infamously bourgeoise ‘Sandy’), and worse still, danced on a rooftop. Such acts of free expression are explicitly forbidden in the Communist Manifesto, which guides Ocasio-Cortez and all fellow democratic socialists, led by their malign puppet master, Senator Bernie Sanders.
Sarcasm aside, it is clear that Ocasio-Cortez has made a great impression on the politics of the United States, becoming a household name, being mentioned frequently on cable news, and having the second-most Twitter interactions of any American politician, behind only Tweeter-in-Chief Donald Trump. In fact, the Democratic National Committee has recently asked the former bartender to advise fellow party members on effective use of social media. While she will not be of Constitutional age until 2024 at the earliest, many are asking the question: could Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez become President of the United States?
There are of course, two major barriers to such a thing. Ocasio-Cortez is Hispanic and female, two minority groups yet to be granted access to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. There is also her polarising nature and socialist beliefs, generally viewed with caution in the libertarian United States. Though her call for a 70% tax rate reached 59% approval according to a recent Harris poll. Another self-described socialist in Bernie Sanders sought the Democratic nomination in 2016, outperforming expectations before ultimately failing to unseat establishment favourite Hillary Clinton. The centrist Democratic Party does not seem immediately likely to nominate a socialist as their standard-bearer, especially at a time where the Republican Party has embraced a hard-right agenda on both cultural and economic issues.
However, while the two could not be more different in their political views, there is precedent for a polarising figure despised and feared by many winning election, in incumbent President Donald Trump. Ocasio-Cortez has achieved nationwide fame at the age of 29, mere months after she was last mixing cocktails in New York City, and has achieved a great deal despite only being sworn into Congress at the start of this year. House Democrats intend to hold hearings on universal healthcare and the Green New Deal and have granted Ocasio-Cortez a seat on the powerful Financial Services committee, where she will hold significant influence in holding Wall Street to account.
Additionally, while Hillary Clinton was defeated in 2016, she triumphed in the popular vote, and at that with considerable political baggage that other female candidates will not have. Many frontrunners for the 2020 nomination are female, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris. It is true, however, that Hispanic-Americans are underrepresented, with 8.4% of Congress being Hispanic compared to 17% of the US population, and the question mark will linger until that reality changes.
There is also the fact that her ideas, as demonstrated by support for her tax proposal, are more popular than many would think. Americans, even in conservative ‘red’ states, are suspicious of entrenched power such as big banks and healthcare companies that take advantage of their medical conditions. Furthermore, Democrats have recognised that populist, left-leaning policies can play well, especially after the failure of the moderate Hillary Clinton, and the steady-as-she-goes Obama administration. Ocasio-Cortez is only a few years older than many university students and can relate to a new generation of voters in ways that the septuagenarian Bernie Sanders cannot, as well as the elderly leadership of the Democratic and Republican mainstreams. In an increasingly diverse United States, betting against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her race, gender, or policies, might be a misstep, as more and more Americans look towards bold, genuine solutions to their problems, rather than ethnonationalist finger pointing or bloodless, means-tested technocracy.