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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:Lessons from 2018 that keep on resonating

by Susanna Joseph

In 2018, the tide turned on progressive politics across the Atlantic. Now the floodgates have opened, can we expect these issues to be mainstream in the GE?

For anyone who spends an amount of time on the internet, a sense of virality becomes ingrained, after a while. When you spend an amount of time observing the memes that stick, the jokes that have longevity in landing, which caption-ready quips are sure to secure praise across different factions of the online community, it becomes clearer how buzz is generated online. But while understanding what makes something appealing to a widespread internet audience may be straightforward, it’s something else entirely harnessing this second language for political gain. Pundits suggest the embarrassment induced by Hilary Clinton’s infamous “Pokemon-GO to the polls!” may have actually rendered legible Millennial voters immobile on voting day, costing her the 2016 election.

Therefore, it cannot be understated what a relief that with the unique challenges found in 2019, we have a new generation of politicians to confront them who are fluent in Twitter, Instagram, and the specific brand of sincerity that brings success on both. I’m talking, of course, about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Congresswoman from New York who has spent the following months since leading a successful grassroots campaign in 2018 quickly establishing herself as the face of the future Congress. And why not? To win her seat, AOC had to beat Democratic incumbent Joe Crawley, a representative for the 14th district for 20 years. AOC hit Crawley hard on the status he worked hard for over his political career as a party insider, the reputation that had buoyed him up the ranks of the Democratic leadership in the House. AOC swiftly took control of the narrative, and the ladder that had propelled Crawley to the top became equivalent to a cage.

At 29 years old, and of Latino descent, AOC is a Washington outsider. The average Member of the House for this 115th sitting Congress is nearly 58, white and male. But it is the platform she and her fellow freshmen delegates ushered to the forefront that they attribute to their success, not biological makeup. And following the results from Tuesday’s election, the agenda is anything but politics as usual. Kentucky, a State which came out overwhelmingly for Trump in 2016, just elected a Democratic Senator, and Virginia Democrats now have control of the full state government for the first time in 26 years. Rules that prior to 2018 seemed set in stone are eroding. While these results are a testament to the terrific groundwork of activists, organisers and volunteers first and foremost, it cannot be ignored that the climate-tackling, worker-orientated agenda Republicans have spent the last year bashing came through for the Democrats. Kentucky Governor-elect Andy Beshear’s detractors attacked by tying him to AOC and the Green New Deal. Instead, he performed well in coal country, as those employed by the fossil fuel sector seemed to respond to his message of diversifying the State’s energy portfolio in a way that protects impoverished families.

2020’s Presidential election is just under a year to the day off. Trump will run for reelection; the Democratic candidate has not yet been decided, but frontrunners include former VP Joe Biden, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. AOC has endorsed the latter recently but has lent words of support to Warren’s candidacy in the past. Both are running on a platform of tackling wage inequality and climate change, championing ‘Medicare for All’ and rejecting corporate money, so if either win the nomination, it will be an achievement for the progressive movement that is changing the face of politics on the left. And against an increasingly erratic, populist and extremist opponent, something bold is needed to confront Trump’s outlandish claims of fire and brimstone accompanying any Democratic gains.

In this country, the coming election is a once-in-a-lifetime vote. Depending on the outcome in December 2020 looks set to be a totally different landscape (unless the electorate reaches the exact same conclusion as it did in 2017, in which case… alright.) The UK has many marginal seats, held by a couple of thousand to tens of votes. This General Election is a chance to not only vote for what you believe in but fight for it too. After AOC’s victory in 2018, everyone wanted to know how she’d done it. But there was no trick to point to, just a pile of worn-out shoes after months of canvassing. December 2019 is the chance of a lifetime to show that there is a new generation of voters who will not turn away from a fight from what they believe in.

Corey Torpie
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