Young people in politics is always very exciting to me. It is one thing to have a young voice, it is another entirely to have that voice represent the “lay person”. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) gives us a lot to be interested by, as the youngest elected Congresswoman and as someone representing the voices of the young, the financially disadvantaged and general issues of community such as minimum wage increases, paid internships and greater accessibility to free health care.
I have to admit that the last few years saw me quite disengaged from international politics, and international news far more than ever before in my life. There are so many reasons why we swing in and out of our interests, previously I have not had the energy to pick up a book for pleasure simply because of the volume of university reading I was doing, whereas now I am churning through pages as I find that same comfort and energy build that I experienced as a young child reading and exploring universes and lives external to my own.
But it’s hard to miss AOC. Taking this time to research and learn about a truly positive influence on the American political circuit was refreshing for me, and is giving me energy in re-engaging with the rest of the world news more generally.
First, a quick summary of AOC’s life so far:
- She grew up between the Bronx and Yorktown, giving exposure to different versions of “normal” as she visited family members and spent time in areas far from affluent.
- AOC is university educated and has done her time both in the political sphere (working at Senator Ted Kennedy’s office) and working generally within her community (waiting tables and woking bars after the death of her father to support her family).
- Her campaign for congress was community-funded and grass roots.
- She is from the Democratic party.
- She is actively demonstrating how interacting with members of the public can humanise politics and be more engaging for people – see her little Youtube video about her day she did for Vanity Fair, which currently has nearly 3.5 million views.
She came onto my radar as she responded to racist tweets put out by Donald Trump, directed at her and other congresswomen of colour. The best thing about it was that she turned his tools against him, responding through twitter. Actually, just take a look at this summary article of her best Twitter “clapbacks”… Entertaining reading. In every photo, every media clip, AOC is engaging, vibrant, alive – this is good political engagement to me.
I have to say this. In amongst discussions around AOC I saw comparisons to her election to Congress with the election of Donald Trump, proof that it truly can be “anyone” that makes it into the ranks of American politics. I’m irritated by these statements. AOC built her political backbone through networking and hard work, demonstrated education in her field and built her community support through authentic engagement. She was not money hungry, she did not rely upon fear and anxiety to build a base founded in misinformation and she was unable to utilise extreme professional and personal linkage to members of the American and international media to manipulate her way in to her position. I cannot understand that comparison, even if it is said with the best of intention.
Australia’s political landscape is currently in absolute turmoil with allegations of rape spanning decades finally coming to light. While our Prime Minister and other party officials fumble and drop the balls repeatedly around this, America is facing similar scrutiny with allegations made against New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. AOC has been very verbal on twitter about this matter too and I hope that this continuous, seemingly unending shock that the media and white, privileged and male political figure heads seem to be experiencing can be replaced with substantive and actionable responses.
I really enjoyed looking into AOC and seeing the positive shifts and changes she is working towards. Minimum wage increases, more accessible health care, greater equality and representation in politics, all of these things I support. Plus this combo of a new “version” of a politician, combining with someone who has built a very successful team around her to promote herself very well using modern tools, social media and the press, is really inspiring and I wish her all the best in getting her work through.