Opinion

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: A pioneer in politics

As the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has been a pioneer advocating for racial justice, tuition-free public universities, healthcare for all, abolishing ICE and mass mobilization against climate change. She is a bold example of what a new Democratic Party might look like.

Within a mere month of being in office, AOC has cosponsored her first piece of legislation, started a social campaign in the midst of a government shutdown, been named to both the House Oversight and House Financial Services Committees, spoken with Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn of the United Kingdom, while also kickstarting national debates on marginal tax policy and a Green New Deal.

Despite doing more in a month than some Congressional freshmen do in three, Ocasio-Cortez has constantly been attacked for being too far left, too active on social media, too ignorant, too well off to be working class and even too bold. Whether it’s repeatedly mispronouncing her name or labelling her as a “radical," deriding AOC has been the ultimate method to delegitimize her, her platform and her powerful position as a United States Congresswoman.

Of all the attacks focused on her, Ocasio-Cortez has most notably been ridiculed for her use of social media. As a millennial, AOC is constantly tweeting, Instagram live-streaming and posting on her stories. Many have even compared her use of social platforms to that of President Donald Trump. 

Surprisingly, I would agree. Both the president and AOC are similar in that they have used social media to their advantage; however, it must be made clear that their intentions and tactics behind it are far from similar.

Ocasio-Cortez’s Chief of Staff Saikat Chakrabarti spoke with Brian Stelter on CNN, saying, “It’s not about social media. She’s good at communicating, and she’s good at taking a message and actually educating people ... on how these very complex policies work.” 

AOC uses social media as a platform to listen and to respond to not only her constituents, but to her entire following. For example, on an Instagram live-stream of her cooking, Ocasio-Cortez answered viewers’ questions on policy, the shutdown and even educated them on the inner workings of Capitol Hill.

Now, I understand some may feel this is too casual, but in the words of AOC herself, she “keeps things raw and honest ... since public servants do a disservice to our community by pretending to be perfect” as “it makes things harder for those who aspire to run ... if they think they have to be superhuman before they even try.” Ocasio-Cortez pragmatically approaches social media as a mechanism to reach out, to relate and to not just be another typical politician.

Many people have also concluded that her policy proposals are ignorant, unrealistic and uneducated because of her use of social media. In reality, these critiques are merely ways of delegitimizing her policies and her accomplishments.

AOC’s policies, such as the 70 percent marginal tax rate on those earning $10 million a year, are a resurgence similar to that of Ronald Reagan’s. Historically speaking, the highest marginal tax rate in the United States from 1936-1980 was 70 percent or higher, even reaching 92 percent in the 1950s.

Ocasio-Cortez simply looks to past tax brackets in order to fund solutions toward devastating climate change and high levels of wealth inequality. Funnily enough, her proposed tax bracket would only affect less than 1 percent of the United States population.

There was no public backlash when Reagan instituted such policies; however, when Ocasio-Cortez proposes them (and that to fund education, renewable energy and social welfare) there is an outpouring of attacks on her. This is the plight of being a woman in politics.

Women are constantly subjected to gender stereotypes and are held to higher standards than men. Our society’s patriarchal norms create a sphere of assumptions based on gender, causing stark differences to arise in the treatment of women, especially those under the microscope of the public.

It is important to note that those who critique AOC for her platforms have the right to and should even continue in doing so, for well-informed discourse around national politics is encouraged and needed in an increasingly polarized political environment. However, when such critiques become ad hominem, it begs the notion of bigotry.

Simply put, invalidating Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s every act and word becomes a way for those who are confused by her newfound popularity to make sense of a working-class woman of color being in a position of power.

Kavitha is a sophomore studying political science and sociology. What are your thoughts on Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, her role in today’s political environment, and women in politics? Send all thoughts and comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com.

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