Why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Victory Is a Big Deal

Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday night.
Ocasio-Cortez on Tuesday night. Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images

Tuesday night brought a thrilling upset victory to New York’s 14th Congressional District. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 28-year-old Bronx-born socialist, ousted long-term incumbent Joe Crowley in the Democratic primary — and is now all but guaranteed to win in November’s general election.

Here’s what to know about the political newcomer, the significance of her victory, and why we’re excited to see what she does next.

Her political priorities are bold.

Ocasio-Cortez is a card-carrying Democratic Socialist, and ran a campaign entirely without accepting corporate donations. (In fact, 70 percent of her donations were small individual contributions under $200.) She’s aligned on standard Democratic issues like reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights, but also goes a step further in calling for Medicare for all, housing as a human right, a $15 minimum wage, and abolishing ICE. In the wake of the Trump administration’s family-separation policy, she even opted to travel to the U.S.–Mexico border the weekend before the election instead of campaigning.

She’s actually representative of her district.

New York’s 14th District — which is comprised of parts of the Bronx and Queens, and includes Rikers Island — is 70 percent voters of color and has a solid working-class presence, but has historically only had white representatives. Ocasio-Cortez is Latina, and the daughter of a Puerto Rican immigrant; she’s been a career organizer and activist for years, and was also supplementing that work with jobs like bartending as recently as last year.

“I counted out that possibility because I felt that possibility had counted out me,” she told the Cut about whether or not she had always had ambitions to run for office. “I felt like the only way to effectively run for office is if you had access to a lot of wealth, high social influence, a lot of high dynastic power, and I knew that I didn’t have any of those things.”

She shows what the Democratic Party can be.

Ocasio-Cortez’s victory (along with the recent handful of Democratic Socialist victories in Pennsylvania) over the old-guard demonstrates that Democrats can unabashedly move further to the left — and not only will they not risk alienating voters, they’ll actually gain more in the process. It’s one that they’d be wise to heed in the 2018 midterm elections, even if Nancy Pelosi doesn’t agree with that sentiment.

You can read the Cut’s preelection interview with Ocasio-Cortez here.

Why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Victory Is a Big Deal