On the Shoulders of Giants: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Avatar of Ellora Mookherjee-Amodt

Women of color have never been the status quo in American politics. In 2018, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez led the charge against this as the first candidate to challenge former Congress member Joe Crowly since 2004. Working as a bartender and waitress to help prevent the foreclosure of her mother’s home, she worked tirelessly, gathering 5,400 signatures to enter the race. On June 26th, 2018, she won the election for New York’s 14th congressional district, beating Crowly. Since winning the primary election in 2018, she has put a foot in the door for women of color in politics, proposing innovative policies and perspectives, in addition to tackling complex issues such as climate change and immigration.

Along with calling for more environmental hardliners in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez proposed the Green New Deal on February 7, 2019 — a plan that would phase out US fossil fuels altogether within ten years and commence the United States’ transition to renewable energy. The biggest critique of Ocasio-Cortez’s first legislation proposals was the lack of funds. Her proposal was dismissed by complacent democrats like Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who said in an interview with Politico magazine, “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it right?” 

Ocasio-Cortez proposed partial financing from higher taxes on the wealthy and claimed that the Green New Deal would create jobs and boost the economy. She said in an interview with CNN, “We have done these things before. We just wrote a two trillion dollar tax cut, the GOP tax cut, and nobody asks those folks, ‘How are they gonna pay for it?’ ” She went on to say, “My question is, why are our pockets only empty when it comes to education and health care for our children?” 

Ocasio-Cortez has been starkly opposed to many conservative US immigration laws — even suggesting the complete abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a government agency that has been historically abusive. According to an interview with Documented, she would rather “create a pathway to citizenship for more immigrants through decriminalization.” 

In June of 2019, she made the controversial comparison of the detention centers at the Mexico–United States border to concentration camps. This comment was met with severe backlash from many, claiming that it showed disrespect to Holocaust victims. Ocasio-Cortez refused to apologize, however, stating on Twitter, “If that makes you uncomfortable, fight the camps, not the nomenclature.” Her passion for these issues sets her apart from other politicians.

Ocasio-Cortez has also been passionate about a Federal Jobs Guarantee. She believes that anyone who is willing to work shouldn’t struggle to find employment. She also believes that this would have the potential to guarantee a 15 dollar minimum wage, along with full health care coverage and paid child and sick leave for all. In addition, this proposal would also provide training experience to workers and public services to our communities, such as childcare, environmental conservation, etc. According to her website, “By investing in our own workforce, we can lift thousands of American families out of poverty.”

In 2019, a record number of 126 women served in Congress, with 43 of them being women of color. Ocasio-Cortez was one of those paving the way for women of color, by demonstrating her fervent passion for social justice and bettering the lives of the middle class. On November 3, 2020, she was re-elected — defeating John Cumming’s by 44.2 percent and showing that she will have a long-term stake in politics. She has inspired a younger generation to take interest in politics and continues to be a source of hope for women of color.