Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has not only shaken up the United States Democratic Party, but also the narrative around how the boomer generation communicates and works in the era of millennials. From the moment the nation was introduced to the energetic, bold candidate in June, it was clear her impact was meant to extend far beyond her home state of New York. At 29 years of age, her midterm election win means, when she is officially sworn in as Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on January 3, 2019, she will be the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress.
From bartender to congresswoman in less than a year, her come-up is nothing short of extraordinary. Throughout her campaign, the Bronx native has been met with a fury of criticism from the opposition. Whether the conversation focuses on her wardrobe or her lack of experience, each of Ocasio-Cortez's expertly worded clapbacks only strengthened her mental toughness, which is a character trait any freshman representative should possess.
Even better, her growing legacy is something to be admired for young people of color who are serious about pursuing a role in the political arena. Though historically it’s been implied that the role of lawmakers is reserved for old, white men, Ocasio-Cortez absolutely does not shy away from unsettling those who have become comfortable with that perception.
She has yet to officially vote on a single issue in Congress, but here are three reasons why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is undoubtedly the vibrant, intelligent leader young people of color didn't know we needed.
1. Ocasio-Cortez Quotes Cardi B, Proving That Real Recognizes Real
While plenty of Bronx natives have found fame in their craft, no other name readily comes to mind quicker than Belcalis Marlenis Almánzar, aka Cardi B. In the span of three years, the former stripper has released a platinum-selling debut album, welcomed a baby girl, and has found a forever home on the Billboard charts.Between Cardi and Ocasio-Cortez, it's impossible to declare who is living out their dreams the most. Nonetheless, the incoming representative paid homage to the "Money" rapper by tweeting lyrics from Cardi's "Best Life" song, featuring Chance the Rapper.
I never had a problem showin' y'all the real me/— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) November 20, 2018
Hair when it's messed up, crib when it's filthy/
Way-before-the-deal me, work-to-pay-the-bills me/
'Fore I fixed my teeth, man, those comments used to kill me/
But never did I change, never been ashamed/
First of all, we stan a relatable lawmaker.
That didn't sit too well with some members of the Twitter world, as many felt the need to instruct Ocasio-Cortez on how she should run her own Twitter account.
Perhaps tweeting rap (from others) is your thing. I suggest you leave the public service to qualified persons (perhaps adults with their brain fully matured). Come back when you have learned a thing or two. We all believe in second chances.— Yana Nar (@MeNJulioDownby) November 21, 2018
2. The Future Rep Knows How to Leverage Instagram (and Her Strategy Doesn't Include Selling Teas and Bundles)
One remarkable note about Ocasio-Cortez is that she built her entire campaign from grassroots influence, meaning that she relied on authentic interaction to drive her base. According to a report from Gothamist, Ocasio-Cortez “held more than 280 campaign events in addition to debates and town hall meetings” all around New York's 14th district — which she will now go on to represent. Successful due to the support of over 1,000 volunteers at her side, one team member described how Ocasio-Cortez's relationship with the public will help alter and influence the personal connection between an elected official and their voters.
"This massive volunteer effort lays the groundwork for a new kind of relationship between an elected representative and [their] constituency — one founded not on favor trading and machine politics, but instead on movement building and radical power sharing," Gabe Tobias, a field team leader for the Ocasio-Cortez camp, told Gothamist reporters.
It appears as though the future rep fully intends on keeping that same energy while in office, and she has already taken creative measures to connect with a broader base. Recently on her Instagram Live, Ocasio-Cortez documented herself making black bean soup. In the kitchen of her own apartment, she simultaneously cooked herself a meal while encouraging reportedly 5K viewers to ask her any questions about the democratic process. What's refreshing about this approach is how it offers the ability to learn alongside Ocasio-Cortez.
Unless it directly benefits them, millennials might not be particularly concerned with the idiosyncrasies of Congress. For Ocasio-Cortez, her brand is modeled around lending a full-time voice to people of color who Congress often ignores when they aren't pining for their votes. Those individuals who are regularly treated as a prop in a campaign ad are the same ones who the congresswoman-to-be fully intends on empowering so that they do not become even more of a silent minority.
Because they seem to have to find a problem with everything, this approach has angered some conservatives. Outside of calling her aloof and unfit for the impending responsibilities of a lawmaker, they never miss a beat, when it comes to shaming Ocasio-Cortez for every minuscule thing she does. Funnily enough, the same cowards dragging her for seemingly living her life will never attract even half the likability or popularity Ocasio-Cortez has eclipsed this year alone.
3. Living Ain't Cheap, and Ocasio-Cortez's Honesty Resonates With the Very Crowd the System Tends to Neglect
As I'm sure Ocasio-Cortez can relate: Pay day is like a mini Christmas that occurs every other week. After rent, bills and other necessary expenses, millennials are left slowly counting down to the next pay day, and the one after that. Ocasio-Cortez was brutally honest with how expensive it could be to live in Washington, D.C. According to reports from Curbed, the median rent in D.C. is about $2,700.
CNBC recently tried her when it wrote about how Ocasio-Cortez had less than $7,000 in savings to her name. While breaking down her campaign assets, the financial site also income-shamed her in the same feature. This naturally invigorated the Twittersphere, with folks immediately rallying around Ocasio-Cortez's defense.
CNBC gave air time to two people who complained that @Ocasio2018 didn't have a year's salary or "anywhere between $8,750 and $30,000" in savings — all while ignoring the fact those unrealistic/unattainable numbers are why millennials are entering politics in the first place.— Kat Bee (@katbeee) November 21, 2018
Unfortunately, the absence of savings is a sad reality for many millennials of color. According to an article by Inc., "A 2014 survey conducted by Prudential found that, when compared to the general population, Hispanics typically have less access to workplace-based retirement plans (72 percent versus 83 percent)." Not only did the survey reveal that Hispanics had a very poor of wealth management, but 67 percent of those surveyed also said they financially back someone else — minor or adult children, grandchildren and so on — with 42 percent of non-American Hispanics sending money to family in their home country.
For Black millennials, the numbers don't fare any better. Fast Company revealed that while in 2013 Black Americans had a spending power of $1.2 trillion, those same households only held a median of $11,000 in assets.
No matter how the opposition will attempt to justify this income gap, Ocasio-Cortez's forthcoming actions will quickly remind them that unlike how they choose to define representation, she actually exemplifies someone with the intentions to create a better future for people her age.
The orders Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez faces are nothing short of tall. However, there is a spirit about her that's been sorely absent in the United States Congress, and the issues she chooses to tackle in her freshman term will undeniably be the blueprint for any future representative looking to develop a similar level of clout with marginalized audiences.
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