By Mairead Stone
29-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, commonly referred to as AOC, has emerged as a dynamic force within the US Democratic Party. In June last year, she unseated Joe Crowley in a primary election in New York and in November beat her Republican opponent Anthony Pappas in a general election, becoming the youngest woman in American history to enter Congress.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been extremely significant for political representation both as a Latina woman and in terms of socio-economic diversity, growing up in the Bronx and working as a bartender and waitress after college. Too often, white middle-class men have been the voice of politics in Western parliaments, creating a disconnect between the decision-makers and those affected. But Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez possibly marks a shift from this problematic system.
Rallying for Medicare, which has been implemented in Australia for 35 years, has caused opponents to degradingly deem her a socialist. Ocasio-Cortez has also supported a 70-percent tax proposal for Americans earning over $10 million. Just recently, her decision to increase the entry level pay for her staff to the minimum living wage has caused shock and claims of naïve inexperience.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez raised the entry-level wage to $52,000, decreasing the wage of senior staffers from the median pay of $154,634 to $80,000 to compensate. The current minimum wage in the US is 7.25 USD per hour, whilst the average living wage for a family of four was set at 16.07 USD per hour in 2017. There is a clear divide between the amount of money the average American is paid and the amount required for a normal standard of living.
America has a history of isolationist policy that has now culminated in a sense of nationalism, i.e. Americans placing their job security and wealth as higher in importance than other countries’. The entrepreneurial economy has produced a culture where middle-class Americans are more than happy to maintain their high wages at the expense of others’ living conditions. 2017 data has revealed that 40% of America’s wealth belongs to 1% of the population, whilst 12.3% live in poverty. Modern nationalism only protects the wealthy already living the ‘American Dream’. It divides society and serves the interest of the individual rather than the nation. Ocasio-Cortez proposes a system where that wealthiest 1% is taxed fairly to provide more Americans with a living wage, beginning with her own office staff.
With 1.16M views in just over 12 hours, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s first House floor speech has become the most-viewed video of any speech by a member of House, in which she spoke out against the recent US government shutdown. President Donald Trump’s shutdown from December 22 2018 to January 25 2019, the longest in US history, was initiated when Democrats opposed the 5.7 billion USD spending bill to fund the US-Mexico border wall. Consequently, 800,000 federal workers have worked without pay for the duration of the shutdown or were forced to take unpaid leave.
Republicans have been unable to effectively counteract Ocasio-Cortez’s founded criticism, instead resorting to comments on her clothing and integrity in an attempt to undermine her success. Her responses, calling out misogynistic double standards, have only bolstered support.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s passionate attitude, utilisation of social media and people-oriented policies have gained attention from both sides of the political spectrum. Her early career has been marked with success and continues to flourish as she speaks out against hypocrisy and the privileged political narrative. In a world dominated by self-interest, ignorance and hatred, Ocasio-Cortez has become a spokeswoman for the marginalised and is changing politics for the better.