Signaling the importance of staying in touch with the grassroots, a 20-year member of Congress, the chair of the Democratic Caucus and in line to be Speaker, Joseph Crowley (age 56) was defeated in the June 2018 primary. He sent a substitute for a debate with his opponent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, leading to criticism from the New York Times editorial board. An educator working with high school students (a graduate of Boston University), Ocasio-Cortez said she spent two years talking with the voters in the New York City district, which is half Hispanic—she’s fluent in Spanish. She recruited volunteers to campaign in six languages.
She posted a viral video titled “The Courage of Change” where she said, “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.” She writes her own social media with a large Twitter following. She has a Puerto Rican mother, was born in the Bronx, is only 28, ran her first race against Crowley, is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, supports Black Lives Matter, and was outspent by at least 10 to 1. Before she ran, “I felt like the only way to effectively run for office is if you had access to a lot of wealth, high social influence, a lot of high dynastic power, and I knew that I didn’t have any of those things.”[i] What changed her mind was her participation in the Standing Rock protests against the Dakota Pipe line in 2016. The day she got back home, a national organization called Brand New Congress asked her to run for Congress. Ocasio-Cortez advocates eliminating ICE, universal healthcare, a $15 federal minimum wage, tuition-free public colleges, and making living in New York City affordable. Echoing the recent progressive emphasis on values, she said, “For me, it’s all about leading with our values and leading with our issues…in a moral society.” Hopeful, she says, “We are never beyond repair.” (She and Cynthia Nixon, candidate for governor, endorsed each other.)
[i] Gabriella Paiella, “The 28-Year-Old at the Center of One of This Year’s Most Exciting Primaries,” The Cut, June 25, 2018.