By Hefin Rees Edwards
Ever since the 26th of June, the name Ocasio-Cortez has become synonymous with progressive politics in the United States of America. Despite being heavily out-spent by a margin of 18-1 by a nearly twenty-year incumbent in Joe Crowley, lacking support from the Democratic Party establishment and having no real name recognition to campaign on, Ocasio-Cortez won by a stunning 15 point margin in New York’s 14th Congressional District Democratic Congressional Primary.
Now, Ocasio-Cortez has her eyes set on the upcoming congressional race against the Republican candidate Anthony Pappas. It is predicted that that Ocasio-Cortez is a shoe-in for the win. Her policy platform based upon Medicare for All, a $15 living wage and free college tuition is widely supported by Americans according to polls.
If she wins, Ocasio-Cortez will be the youngest female ever elected to the House of Representatives, with many hailing her as an example of the ‘progressive wave’ that is spreading through the party. Although progressive Democrats have had mixed results during primary elections in 2018, the fact they have some success is a sign of perhaps a longer term trend of reshaping the Democratic party, taking it towards the left.
Her openly progressive views and age have led to attacks from the right, with the Republican candidate for governor of Florida, Ron Desantis saying;“You look at this girl Ocasio-Cortez, or whatever she is, I mean, she’s in a totally different universe. It’s basically socialism wrapped in ignorance.” Ocasio-Cortez retorted that “Rep DeSantis it seems you’re confused as to ‘whatever I am’”… “I am a Puerto Rican woman. It’s strange you don’t know what that is given that 75,000 Puerto Ricans have relocated to Florida in the 10 months since [hurricane] Maria”.
By deciding to stress her Puerto Rican heritage (her mother being from the territory), Ocasio-Cortez is a candidate who shows that the Latino influence in American Politics is growing. According to data, around 28% of the New York population is either Hispanic or Latino and Democrats know that having a candidate who represents a sizeable and growing demographic in American politics can only be beneficial to the party going into the future. This is an advantage that many republican candidates lack, including Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional opponent Anthony Pappas who is an older white man.
Pappas has not actively campaigned in New York so far, knowing that the state leans heavily Democratic and contains six registered Democrats for every Republican, so that his victory is highly unlikely. Winning in in New York would mean that Ocasio-Cortez would be able influence policy in the House of Representatives, especially if the Democrats manage to take control of the house after the Midterm elections on the 6th of November with even some saying she has the potential for a Presidential bid sometime in the future.
For now, Ocasio-Cortez is focusing on her general election campaign with a slogan not too dissimilar to that of the UK Labour Party – “to create an America that works for all of us – not just the wealthiest few”. Refusing to take campaign contributions from big moneyed interests and describing herself as a ‘democratic socialist’; she really is a candidate offering a very different approach to American politics.