Saturday, May 4, 2024

#125 / AOC

AOC is pictured above. While you can look her up by simply using her initials - just type "AOC" into your browser search bar - her full name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. As perhaps everyone reading this blog posting will know, Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the United States Congress, first elected to Congress in 2018. She represents the 14th Congressional District in the State of New York, which includes a significant portion of the Bronx

As Wikipedia tells us, Ocasio-Cortez gained national recognition by defeating an incumbent, and not just any incumbent:

On June 26, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez drew national recognition when she won the Democratic Party's primary election for New York's 14th Congressional District. She defeated Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent, in what was widely seen as the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm election primaries. She easily won the November general election, defeating Republican Anthony Pappas. She was reelected in the 2020 and 2022 elections. 
Taking office at age 29, Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress. She has been noted for her substantial social media presence relative to her fellow members of Congress. Ocasio-Cortez attended Boston University, where she double-majored in international relations and economics, graduating cum laude. She was previously an activist and worked as a waitress and bartender before running for Congress in 2018.

The Wikipedia write-up from which I have just quoted outlines some of the reasons that AOC became so "famous" - virtually overnight, and on a national level - after defeating Congress Member Crowley in the 2018 primary election. Her youth, her educational accomplishments, her work experience in the service industry as a waitress and bartender, as well as her personal charm, and the fact that she defeated one of the leading members of the Democratic Party in Congress, all made her story a compelling one. 

But let me suggest an additional reason. 

Our system of government is based on the idea that we elect "representatives" who then act, and govern, on our behalf. A "representative" is a person who is given significant authority to speak for and/or to act for another, with the idea being that the "representative" will advance the interests of the person who is being "represented." Attorneys, for instance, are often called "representatives." When you tell someone you have been sued (or charged with a crime), a friend will almost immediately say, "Oh, dear. Who is going to represent you?" Members of Congress are also called "representatives." In fact, the so-called "lower house" of the United States Congress is officially described in the Constitution as the "House of Representatives." Of course, persons serving in the Senate, and the person serving as President, are also supposed to "represent" the voters who put them in office. All elected officials are supposed to do that! That's true at the state and local level, too.

While our government is based on the idea that we govern through our elected "representatives," who do, indeed, "represent" us, by taking action in our name, many people don't really believe that their "representatives" in the House of Representatives actually represent them at all - and they have a similar lack of faith in Senators and the President. People often conclude, and with good reason, that instead of actually working to advance the interests of those whom they officially "represent," elected officials end up representing the economic intersts of the corporations and the wealthy individuals that provide them, directly and indirectly, with huge amounts of campaign money. 

The fact that this is an all too common feeling among voters is an indication that "we, the people" have lost a lot of faith in our government. It is this loss of faith in our "representatives" - which is so often a justified loss of faith - that has provided Donald J. Trump with an opportunity to be taken seriously as a candidate for the presidency. Trump says that the government isn't working for ordinary people. And, in fact, that is what lots of ordinary people actually believe - and correctly believe! If you are not paying close attention, Donald J. Trump can be seen to be a "truth-teller," worthy of the public trust, not as the psychologically damaged and dishonest person that he actually is. 

I think AOC's instantaneous notoriety, occurring nationwide, came from the fact that she was seen as a genuine "representative" of the Congressional District in which she defeated a Democratic Party leader who was not seen as someone truly "representing" the voters to whom he was accountable.  In other words, AOC's victory in 2018 gave people hope - all across the United States - that maybe our system of "representative government" can be made to work, after all. 

I think "representative" government can work. It has worked, throughout our history. But representative government only works if we, the people who need to be represented, insist that our representatives actually do what we want. That means we need to be involved, and engaged, and "organized." I keep saying this because it's true. Self-government only works when we get involved in politics and government ourselves

Ocasio-Cortez has a great deal of personal charm, but she wasn't elected because of her personal charm. She was elected because people organized in her district to put someone into Congress whom they believed would better represent them. And In 2018, Ocasio-Cortez wasn't the only woman working to bring better representation to the United States Congress. Here's the trailer for Knock Down The House. Check it out, if you haven't already seen the movie. 

We need to keep knocking!!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!