Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Really a Socialist?

Democrats and Republicans alike are a little confused about the Bronx native who beat out 10-term Democratic congressman Joe Crowley on June 26, 2018. Many wondered how this 28-year-old, running for the first time, won New York 14th congressional district with almost 58 percent of the vote. Even more amazing, this was the first time she ran for office. For progressives, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) looked a lot like a dream come true.

How Ocasio-Cortez won

Alexandria did not get her seat by having a fundraising advantage. Instead, she and her supporters organized an intelligent grass-roots campaign that included a viral video advertisement that stated:

Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.

After her victory, Ocasio-Cortez told her constituents that her win was only the beginning. She sent a message saying it was not right for candidates to put “donors before your community.” Ocasio-Cortez is now the youngest woman nominated to Congress.

Interview on Meet the Press

In an exclusive interview with Chuck Todd of Meet the Press, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seems to shy away from being labeled a socialist. When Todd asks about her political standing, Ocasio-Cortez said she prefers being called a Democratic Socialist.

She responded that this label is part of what she is, but not all of what she is. She added that she was an organizer, an educator, and a supporter of health care, housing, and education in the US. Ocasio-Cortez, who is Puerto Rican, also explained that there were plenty of districts like hers (New York District 14) around the country. She thinks perhaps her win is a precursor for the many communities like hers. She believes the message she stands for will change, at least, the manner in which problems are solved.

Why do many people dislike the socialism label?

George Orwell, in his book The Road to Wigan Pier, published in 1937, wrote:

To the ordinary working man, the sort you would meet in any pub on Saturday night, socialism does not mean much more than better wages and shorter hours and nobody bossing you about.

Orwell called himself a “democratic socialist.” But socialism has been a dirty word in American politics until Bernie Sanders, and Ocasio-Cortez came on the scene. Will Tomer, writing for the Toledo Blade, notes that a majority of US citizens want the government involved in the “regulation of the economy and the provision of various social programs.” Democratic socialism believes that the government of a country should assist people by providing their most basic needs. This way of governing also stands for helping people have equal chances of achieving success.

The Ocasio-Cortes platform includes a call for Medicare for all, tuition-free college, and an equitable housing system. Many millennials seem to be in favor of the apparent reintroduction to socialism thanks to Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez. Both of these political figures are Democratic Socialists but do not believe that the government should take control of all aspects of the economy.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s future in Congress

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez | DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez seems unafraid to voice that the emperor has on no clothes. She has said she would tolerate no nonsense. AOC, while being interviewed on 60 Minutes, called the President racist. She is making it possible for other candidates like herself (Puerto Rican [or any ethnicity], youthful, woman, progressive, middle-class background, Democratic Socialist) to have a voice, make positive changes, and even be defiant when necessary.

Historian Rick Perlstein, in an interview for The New Yorker, used these words to describe Ocasio-Cortez:

  • Authentic
  • Radical – in the same way that it was radical for Lincoln to sign the Emancipation Proclamation
  • Scholarly
  • Having the ability to learn from her mistakes
  • Brave

It seems AOC will be a refreshing addition to a Congress that may need a bit of “shaking up.”