Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a 28-year-old Latina that recently won the Democratic primary in New York's 14th congressional district, which is made up of parts of Queens and the Bronx. She was campaigning against Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, who had not had a member of his own party run against him in 14 years. Ocasio-Cortez' win was seen as a shock to many because she was much farther left than her opponent. She is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, ran a campaign that focused on obtaining the support of young people and people of color, and had stances that were seen as too radical. Her platform advocated for these three main policy positions: abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Medicare for All, and a jobs guarantee where the federal government would promise a job to every unemployed American.
Her ideas are similar to those of Bernie Sanders, which is why many people doubted she would be successful since Sanders did not receive the nomination during the 2016 presidential election. However, Ocasio-Cortez was able to come out victorious because she grew up in the Bronx and has experienced first hand what issues her community faces and has been able to come up with solutions as a result. It was a breath of fresh air to see Ocasio-Cortez running against Crowley and then proceeding to win, because as she stated in a campaign advertisement,
"It's time that we acknowledge that not all Democrats are the same. That a Democrat who takes corporate money, profits off foreclosure, doesn't live here, doesn't send his kids to our schools, doesn't drink our water or breathe our air cannot possibly represent us."
Even though this advertisement was directed towards the people of Queens and the Bronx, her message resonates with the country because, in an era where we have all felt that politicians have been taking advantage of us and lying to us, it was a welcome surprise to see someone like Ocasio-Cortez enter politics.
Her critics have claimed that she defeated Crowley was because she is Hispanic and the population of New York's 14th congressional district is 49 percent Hispanic. Of course, Ocasio-Cortez' ethnicity is an important part of her identity, but it is insulting to both her and her constituents to believe that it is the only thing she has to offer. People of color do not vote for a candidate simply because they have the same heritage. Yes, representation is important, and yes, it is always comforting to see someone that looks like you running for a position of power. However, their background means nothing if they do not have the skills to fulfill their campaign promises.
Ocasio-Cortez proved that she has the determination, intelligence, empathy, and leadership skills to be a politician that the people deserve. She ran a grassroots campaign that was successful because of how she tirelessly knocked on doors before the election - to the point where holes formed in the soles of her shoes. She also joined protestors at an ICE detention center in Texas, which only shows how committed she is to the cause of standing up for immigrants and putting an end to ICE. Ocasio-Cortez worked diligently on her campaign and that is why she was able to beat Crowley.
It is ridiculous that it is even looked down upon for a politician to make their identity a part of their campaign. Nobody wants someone representing them that is out of touch and cannot relate to the struggles that they face. A politician that has faced similar trials to the ones you have will be better equipped to make the necessary changes to their community because they witnessed themselves where the problems exist.
Ocasio-Cortez' victory is inspiring to me because as another Latina who has an interest in politics and activism, she has shown me that we can still come out on top despite how hard this current administration and our society try to silence us.