The Everyday Woman Behind the Acronym: AOC
Updated: Aug 31
On running in 2018: “The fundamental question, in the beginning, is, ‘Why you?’ The reason ‘why’ was ‘cause, nobody else would. So literally anybody could, right? Because the alternative is no one” - AOC (1).
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, better known as AOC, rocketed to the forefront of American politics almost immediately. After less than two years in office, she has become one of the most well-known and impactful freshman congress members this country has seen.
AOC seems to be in the news constantly; she is consistently the target of attacks from President Trump, the rest of the Republican Party, and Fox News.
Most recently, Representative Ted Yoho (FL-03) accosted Ocasio-Cortez on the steps of the Capitol and called her despicable names (2). Instead of letting him get away with this display of disrespect and sexism, AOC addressed the event on the House floor. In the speech, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez mentioned her parents, childhood, and working as a bartender (3). So many people think they know all about AOC; however, in reality, very few know her background and how she grew to become so popular across the nation as a first-term Congresswoman.
AOC was born in 1989 in the Bronx to a second generation Puerto Rican father and a Puerto Rican mother (4). When she was young, her extended family each gave what they could so her parents could put a down payment on a house in Westchester county because of the difference in schooling. However, she spent most of her time in the Bronx with family and friends, where she started to see the difference in opportunity based on one’s zip code. In college, she studied Economics and International Relations at Boston University and worked as a Latinx youth organizer in the Bronx. Later, AOC organized her home for Bernie’s 2016 presidential campaign (5).
In 2016, Brand New Congress, an organization that recruits outsider candidates to run against established politicians, approached AOC about running for the House of Representatives in 2018 to represent NY-14 - covering parts of the Bronx and Queens. She’d have to challenge Joe Crowley, a ten-term incumbent and the fourth most powerful Democrat in the House (6).
AOC was not supposed to win. She was 29-years-old. She was a woman of color with no legislative experience. She grew up in a working-class, immigrant family, speaking Spanish. She had no ties to the Democratic Party and was going up against a political boss. That said, she ran a true grassroots campaign and ended up defeating Crowley by about 4,000 votes in the 2018 primary election. On November 6, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest person ever elected to Congress (7).
Since then, AOC has become a political powerhouse. She credits her quick rise to fame to social media, using Instagram and Twitter to facilitate voter outreach, fire back at GOP attacks, and communicate with supporters. The summer before she was elected, AOC had 49,000 Twitter followers (8). Today she has 8.3 million (9). Thousands tune in to watch Instagram Live videos of her doing normal things like talking about policy while she cooks dinner. She also answers questions from her followers on Instagram stories with an open and friendly “there are no stupid questions” approach. Below are screenshots from her Instagram story last Monday about how she prepares for Congressional hearings.
She is one of the few representatives who actually controls her social media. This allows her to shape her own narrative and truly explain her views on policy and the nation to her followers. Using these platforms, AOC speaks directly to young people, people of color, immigrants, and other constituencies which are often ignored (10). To read about AOC’s stance on a variety of issues, click here or check out her Twitter.
Along with AOC, three other barrier-breaking women were elected to the House of Representatives in 2018. Together, they’ve been dubbed “The Squad.” These four women represent the new face of the Democratic party: progressive women of color. Representative Ilhan Omar (MN-5), Representative Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), and Representative Ayanna Pressley (MA-7) are all up for reelection this November, too.
If you want to know more about AOC and other amazing women who ran for Congress in 2018, watch the Netflix documentary, Knock Down the House. Women are changing the Democratic Party for the better and lifting up others as they do. Read about women running across the country on the Women to Win website.
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