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The Time for Shifting Partisanship: Alexandria Ocasio-Сortez

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This past June saw a tangible reflection of the changing tides in American congressional politics as Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez (AOC) delivered her victory speech to enthusiastic voters. AOC’s acceptance speech can be found on YouTube as provided by The Guardian. Although her speech is only a little over three minutes long, she makes very specific points on what enabled her to be elected, what it meant for the future of Congress, and what steps need to be taken for an improved representational government. Her impassioned, grassroots campaign unseated incumbent John Crowley from a New York district that had not called for primary elections in the past fourteen years Now a first-generation, working-class Latina is predicted to be youngest to walk the halls of Congress this November. Tracing both the conditions and decisions that allowed her to run for Congress, the following questions are introduced: is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory signaling the election of more progressive Democrat leaders with an involved voter demographic? If so, keeping in mind the current political climate, how does AOC take advantage of kairos in her speech delivery?

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez running for Congress is a response to the pendulum of politics. Post the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump, a reactionary group, Brand New Congress was formed. Their mission is to recruit working class Americans to run for office. They stand on a platform that above all seeks to take big money out of politics and reimagine Democratic Party representation. By a combination of traditional fieldwork and organizing tactics developed during Bernie Sander’s campaign, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez began her path to office. She confidently labeled herself a democratic socialist. A label that she explains to believe that “in a modern, moral and wealthy society no person should be too poor to live”. AOC reached out to predominately working-class minority Americans, people that were often disconnected from actively engaging in their government representation. Her background as a college graduate who waitressed and bartended on the side to keep her family’s head above water and continued to be a community organizer made her stand out. This is the same group of people she addresses in her victory speech in the venue of her watch party. While she doesn’t create Kairos in the sense that this is a moment that is given to her as a victor, after all, she must respond to the results, she takes the opportunity to manage kairos and emphasize why her election was possible and speaks hopefully about the future of better representative government.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez begins her winning speech by attributing her victory to her voters. At 0:19 she states, “this room won this seat”. This is a very specific choice. Her election would’ve been impossible without the tireless effort of her constituents and she is aware of this. Running for office is an expensive endeavor. To achieve it successfully a potential candidate must have money. If not money, then support from people. Ideally, both are vital for success. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez could not count on money and she capitalized on this. She relied solely on public support and was quick to condemn politicians that ran expensive campaigns. Her own opponent John Crowley invested around 3 million dollars for the congressional primary while AOC’s campaign was funded on donations that amounted to 300,000. This is an extreme 10 to 1 ratio. Her win proved that by galvanizing supporters through a narrative that resounded with many it is possible to have the same result of big money candidates. Her win is a message not only to communities seeking to elect progressive candidates but to Democrat politicians that have become complacent. At 1:01 she emphasizes that “it’s not okay to put donors before your community”.

Alexandria-Ocasio could have simply just thanked her supporters and only talked about her excitement to potentially represent her home state in Congress, but she did not. She branded her election as every person in the room with her going to DC with her (This is the Beginning) By doing this, she erases the distance between her and voters. She is saying that change will occur not only due to her will, but because it is the will of her voters, too. This is how she manages Kairos. She is aware of the momentum in the room and puts a large effort to keep it going beyond her primary election. For Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez her win is the turning point for a more diverse and representative government. In a separate interview AOC clarifies that she did not run on the notion of “vote for me, I’m a Latina” but because she believed that minorities deserved a seat at the table too. Her district is one where the minority is the majority. To have a congressman that not only does not live in New York but also relied heavily on endorsements from privileged networks and corporations distanced him from the real issues of the 14th district. AOC ends her speech by restating that the United States has a long way to go in terms of making change but candidates running primaries in other states like Ayana Presley in Massachusetts, Cori Bush in Missouri, Chardon Richardson in Florida and fellow New Yorker Julia Salazar will need the same support that her community gave her. By doing this she is expanding her platform from the locality of her home state to the national stage, which is where she is hoping to go by being elected to Congress. This is the overarching Kairos of her win.

She is not an isolated case. To elect a caucus, like AOC mentions, that is full of people that run on her ideals is necessary for the change her platform is elevated on: healthcare for all, abolishing ICE, supporting a federally backed jobs program, and making public college free. She is speaking to a demographic that has felt isolated and unconfident about voting: both younger and old generations of minorities. This could be compared to President Donald Trump’s own rhetoric. He reached out to the marginalized, those who felt were getting left behind in economic and political issues. Just as Trump’s rhetoric was a reaction to an unease and disconnect from certain communities, AOC’s campaign also works out of the need for there to be more inclusivity in political spaces. Her win is a shift toward that inclusivity. This is a specific inclusivity, however, because AOC does not just mean to support more Democrats in Congress, currently the minority. She means to have a variation of ideas within the Democratic Party.


It’s important to acknowledge that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the NY-14 seat as a democratic socialist. She did not hesitate to define her political alignment from the start and this was powerful. She openly adopts the world socialist, a world still greatly feared by Americans 10 to 20 years ago. The fact that she can do this without facing backlash speaks to the time in which she chose to run for office. Her victory in unseating John Crowley was Kairotic in that it was reflective of more progressive leaders appealing to their respective voters. Bernie Sanders also alluded to democratic socialism during his presidential campaign. Although he lost, his efforts assured a more involved voter demographics distinguished by both racial and generational differences. There is intersectionality to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez win and her victory speech defines this. Not only is she standing in front of her constituents as a Latina, a working-class woman, and a community organizer, she is standing there as a reflection of their desire for changed leadership in Congress. She positions herself as an alternate way of being involved in politics. By taking out big money out of her campaign, she is saying that not only privileged and well networked people can have the upper hand in getting elected. Other campaigns like hers exist as the United States, as mentioned in her speech, and her victory and responding speech speak to the future of diverse caucus. If elections like that of Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez can happen then rising leaders in other states can follow a similar path.

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