AOC’s ‘Time’ Interview Reveals the Origins of Her Progressive Politics
Love or loathe her, freshman Democratic congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seems to be the legislator everyone can’t stop talking about in DC and around the country. In a new cover profile for Time, the upstart from the Bronx makes it clear that her goal is to make change for the future — even if that means ruffling some feathers.
And ruffle feathers, she has. Ocasio-Cortez’s progressive proposals have been a much-discussed point of contention among conservatives and even some of her fellow Democrats. Time notes that some party members worry that Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal (a resolution of sweeping, and ambitious, climate and economic reforms) may alienate more moderate voters in purple (swing) districts. Only 90 of 235 House Democrats have signed onto the deal thus far.
But while Ocasio-Cortez has come to represent a Democratic Socialist movement whose influence is steadily growing within the Democratic party, the New York representative tells Time that her political leanings aren’t necessarily driven by ideology, but by her age.
Unlike recent “incrementalist” Democrats like President Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton, the magazine notes that Ocasio-Cortez views policymaking in terms of major, long-term change rather than more immediate baby steps. AOC agrees, and credits her coming-of-age as a millennial — a generation forced into the gig economy, often juggling multiple jobs to make ends meet — for truly defining the changes she wants to bring to Washington.
“There’s always this talk about division within the Democratic Party, ideological differences,” she explains “But I actually think they’re generational differences. Because the America we grew up in is nothing like the America our parents or our grandparents grew up in.”
More to the point: “An entire generation, which is now becoming one of the largest electorates in America, came of age and never saw American prosperity,” she says. “I have never seen that, or experienced it, really, in my adult life.”
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A year ago I was waitressing in a restaurant while organizing my community. In a time and place where we had been burned by so many politicians, and had grown deservedly cynical of the sad, familiar cycle of campaign promises and governance excuses, I was asking them, just once, to believe. . It was really hard, because how do you make that case? How to ask someone whose trust has been violated over and over to believe you? To believe in the movement for justice and economic dignity? . You show up. You give unconditionally. You show up when no one is looking and the cameras are off. You offer support when it’s risky, but necessary. You do it over and over again, without a need for recognition or expectation that you are “owed” something for doing the right thing. You just... engage in the act of loving your community. . Never in my wildest dreams did I think that those late nights on the 6 & 7 trains would lead to this. All this attention gives me a lot of anxiety (my staff fought to get me to agree to this cover, as I was arguing against it), and still doesn’t feel quite real, which maybe is why I remain comfortable taking risks, which maybe is a good thing. . I believe in an America where all things are possible. Where a basic, dignified life isn’t a dream, but a norm. . That’s why I got up then, and it’s why I get up now. Because my story shouldn’t be a rare one. Because our collective potential as a nation can be unlocked when we’re not so consumed with worry about how we’re going to secure our most basic needs, like a doctor’s visit or an affordable place to live.
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Whatever the cause, AOC definitely does things her own way. In January, a group of Democrats reportedly tried to rein her in to ensure she works with her party, and not against it. Part of their irritation, according to Politico, stemmed from Ocasio-Cortez’s promise to support truly progressive candidates, even if that meant going against incumbent Democratic leaders she deemed too moderate.
While the old guard may not be entirely on board with Ocasio-Cortez’s brand, Time notes that even when the general population doesn’t align itself with her brand of democratic socialism, her values and vision for the future are what many Americans crave.
And that’s probably why people are so drawn to the 29-year-old: Her goals (like the Green New Deal, free college tuition and Medicare for all) may be lofty, but they represent what can be done instead of simply following the status quo.
“I believe in an America where all things are possible. Where a basic, dignified life isn’t a dream, but a norm,” she wrote Thursday, in an Instagram post sharing her cover story.
“That’s why I got up then, and it’s why I get up now,” she went on. “Because my story shouldn’t be a rare one. Because our collective potential as a nation can be unlocked when we’re not so consumed with worry about how we’re going to secure our most basic needs, like a doctor’s visit or an affordable place to live.” Lofty goals, indeed.
(Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for SXSW)