After, making history at the US midterm elections last November by becoming the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has taken the American left by storm and has presented comparatively radical ideas in a house fixated on attacking the executive.
In an upset vote in New York’s 14th district of the Bronx, defeating veteran Joe Crowley, Ocasio-Cortez went on to win 78 per cent of the vote in the election. The self-declared ‘Democratic Socialist’ wasn’t even affiliated with the party and was instead working as a barmaid to support her working-class family. With her mother being a first generation Puerto-Rican immigrant and her father originating from the Bronx, Ocasio-Cortez states herself that:
‘Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office’.
This unfortunate truth is thankfully becoming less prominent with the first Muslim congresswomen, first Native congresswoman and first openly gay congressman all being elected in the 2018 Midterms.
After a rocky start to life, shuttling between home and her school district, Ocasio-Cortez went to Boston University to study Economics and International Relations. Although new to the House, she had previous experience when working for Ted Kennedy and Bernie Sanders on his 2016 Presidential campaign. Upon leaving she took on multiple jobs waitressing and bartending to supplement her mother’s income.
Although pushing an agenda which seems to make the lives of working-class New Yorkers better, her policies have come under considerable scrutiny from Republicans, right-wing media and even some members of her own party. Her idea for increasing the tax bracket of those earning over ten million dollars to 70 per cent has been purposefully misinterpreted by those on the right. Fox example, the figures seem to have been intentionally distorted in order to paint an image of Ocasio-Cortez as someone that wants to steal from the rich. Fox implies that 70 per cent of an individual’s full income will be taken, when in reality it is only money that reaches over ten million dollars which has been argued should be taxed at 70 per cent. Maybe the President is right about all this fake news? Although I’m sure he wouldn’t bundle his beloved Fox into that category.
We must also acknowledge that this isn’t even as high a tax rate as one Republican President set in the 1950s. Dwight Eisenhower set a tax rate of 91 per cent in his tenure as President which is even more colossal compared to Ocasio-Cortez’s meagre proposal.
Members of her own party also fear that her policies will move the Democrats further to the left. However in a country ever lying at extremes, would this necessarily be a bad thing? The Democrats are currently undergoing an identity crisis and a party which clearly defines itself on the left may assist the Democrats to take the executive in 2020. Leading figures of her own party have repeatedly told her to ‘Wait her turn’ and to ‘Be quiet’ but ultimately they are scared that the party which they currently control will soon shift to one unrecognisable to them.
Her other policies explore traditionally liberal views such as free healthcare, affordable housing and stricter gun control, to name a few. These policies all go against the current status quo of American ideology — as Obama discovered all too well — Ocasio-Cortez will therefore struggle to really push them towards actual legislation. Although the proposed tax reform would assist in paying for these things, reducing some of the highest levels of inequality in the developed world, Americans are often sceptical when more jurisdictive power is what the government seeks.
Although beating the locally dubbed ‘King of the Bronx’ who sits atop his multi-million dollar fortune in the elections, Ocasio-Cortez still faces significant opposition from the establishment of Washington DC. The American oligarchy will cause Ocasio-Cortez more problems than anticipated, I don’t believe she realises that unfortunately willpower alone cannot conquer the capitol.