On Friday night, many Americans mourned the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But the tragedy left progressives with a particular sense of terror that President Donald Trump could appoint a third justice to fill her seat, someone who would want to control women’s bodies, take away voting rights, and discriminate against the most vulnerable populations.
Many became consumed with the daunting, terrifying question: What do we do now? Late on Friday night, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went on Instagram Live, in a fitting tribute to the late Ginsburg, to try and answer that question.
“It’s a really incredibly sad day and evening,” she began the 40-minute-long video. “I wanted to hop on because a lot of people were reaching out to me on Twitter and publicly and privately saying, ‘What now? What do we do? I’m scared.’”
After acknowledging the horrifying reality that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is already scrambling to fill the Supreme Court vacancy with someone who could rob Americans of every right Ginsburg doggedly fought for, she said now is the time for action, not cynicism.
“This moment is not the time for despair,” she said, wearing a blazer over a T-shirt that said “The Green New Deal.” “I got bags under my eyes — I know you got bags under your eyes … What we need to do is never give in.” Instead, make a plan.
Ocasio-Cortez started with the “ABCs” of political engagement: Check your voter registration and for God’s sake, get out and vote. (You can check your voter registration on the USA.gov website, which also has information about how to vote.) She was particularly adamant that voters under 40 cast a ballot, saying young people have the power to decide who sits in the White House. And she had a strong message for progressives who oppose the Democratic nominee: “Voting for Joe Biden is not about whether you agree with him,” she said. “It’s a vote to let our democracy live another day.”
She encouraged everyone to get involved in community activism, by showing up to protests and rallies. The congresswoman also emphasized that people need to leverage their personal relationships. She doled out some homework: Make a list of five people in your life who are on the fence about voting, who plan to vote for President Donald Trump, or who need help getting to the polls. Reach out to them. Explain to your uncle in a swing state why the current administration strips you of a basic right. Talk to your Spanish-speaking relatives about why the current president threatens their livelihood. “Get through to that person that only you can get through to,” she pleaded.
Ocasio-Cortez knows you’re scared! She is too. But she told people to use those feelings to become radicalized rather than paralyzed. “Feel your fear. Feel how it’s making your heart beat faster,” she said, thumping her hand against her chest, “feel the sweat, feel the antsy-ness, because it’s telling you to act.”
The comment section of her Instagram filled with people calling her speech “life-giving” and exactly what they needed to hear. And the congresswoman ended by saying that since McConnell and the Republicans are ready to fight, the left needs to be just as activated. “If Mitch McConnell is not going to honor RBG’s final wish, we will,” she said, putting her left hand on her heart before signing off.