On Tuesday night, the Democratic National Committee gave U.S. representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — one of its party’s most popular lawmakers and powerful speakers, even off the cuff — just a minute to speak at the convention. But despite the time constraint, the freshman member of Congress managed to make a powerful case for the party’s prospective future. She also endorsed the nomination of Senator Bernie Sanders for the presidency.
“Good evening, bienvenidos, and thank you to everyone here today endeavoring towards a better, more just future for our country and our world,” she began, before running through a wide range of progressive issues in a short span of time:
In fidelity and gratitude to a mass people’s movement working to establish 21st-century social, economic, and human rights, including guaranteed health care, higher education, living wages, and labor rights for all people in the United States. A movement striving to recognize and repair the wounds of racial injustice, colonization, misogyny, and homophobia. And to propose and build reimagined systems of immigration and foreign policy that turn away from the violence and xenophobia of our past. A movement that realizes the unsustainable brutality of an economy that rewards explosive inequalities for the few at the expense of long-term stability for the many, and who organized a historic, grassroots campaign to reclaim our democracy. In a time when millions of people in the United States are looking for deep, systemic solutions to our crises of mass evictions, unemployment, and lack of health care, en el espíritu del pueblo and out of a love for all people, I hereby second the nomination of Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont for president of the United States of America.
As Ocasio-Cortez explained in a follow-up tweet — which extended her “deepest congratulations to Joe Biden” — Sanders was included in the roll call because he exceeded the qualifying number of delegates for nomination. “Convention rules require roll call & nominations for every candidate that passes the delegate threshold,” she wrote. “I was asked to 2nd the nom for Sen. Sanders for roll call.”
But even if it wasn’t an endorsement for the actual nominee, or a full-length speech to the nation, Ocasio-Cortez still managed to to surface issues — our country’s colonialist roots; the economic brutality of our capitalist system; and the implicit fact that it won’t only be citizens, but “all people in the United States” who are affected by the outcome of November’s election — that have received little to no air time during the convention. She didn’t waste her minute on Trump. Instead, she talked about the progressive movement in carefully calibrated, inclusive terms.
Which is about what we expected from AOC. Last month, she gave a short but electrifying speech on the House floor, responding to a colleague (Republican representative Ted Yoho of Florida) who stopped her on the steps of the Capitol to call her “rude,” “disgusting,” and a “fucking bitch.” This address, almost entirely improvised, castigated Yoho for his misogyny, and footage immediately went viral.
Ahead of Ocasio-Cortez’s slot at the convention, the Young Delegates Coalition launched a petition calling her 60-second speaking allotment “unacceptable,” particularly in a lineup that heavily prioritizes older, white, often-quite-wealthy centrists at the expense of its young progressives. AOC is, notably, one of just three Latinx speakers to take the stage this week.
The itinerary seems to underscore a view — one that Republican John Kasich (who spoke at the DNC on Monday, and for far more time than Ocasio-Cortez was allotted) recently voiced to BuzzFeed — that progressive ideals don’t represent the Democratic Party as a whole. “Because AOC gets outsized publicity doesn’t mean she represents the Democratic Party,” Kasich said. “She’s just a part, just some member of it.”
Ocasio-Cortez quickly responded on Twitter, saying she doesn’t think “a Republican who fights against women’s rights doesn’t get to say who is or isn’t representative of the Dem Party.” And on Tuesday, she once again demonstrated that she has a far firmer grasp on just how many different groups comprise her party than many of her Establishment colleagues.