In 2007, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won an award at the largest pre-college scientific research event in the world. After having done three years of research on ‘how antioxidants could potentially help prevent degenerative illnesses induced by oxidative stress’, MIT rewarded the young student by naming a planetoid after her: the 23238 Ocasio-Cortez.
Although only a teenager at the time, Ocasio-Cortez was already able ‘to take complex topics and explain them to audiences of all levels,’ her former teacher Michael Blueglass said of her work in the science research program. That’s what’s she still does today and, I think, what makes this youngest Congresswoman-ever so successful. In my view, Ocasio-Cortez might just be the next in line to lead America in a few years.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (often simply referred to with her initials, AOC) is a 29-year Latina from a working-class family born in The Bronx. ‘Women like me weren’t supposed to run for office,’ she stated in her campaign video. But AOC did, and with success. After having beat a lifetime politician Joe Crowley in the primary elections last year, she became a Democratic member of The House of Representatives in January 2019. In the past 2 months, AOC has enlightened American politics with her passion and personality, raising awareness for racial issues, climate control, economical change and lots, lots more. Netflix has already acquired rights to a film about her campaign, paying 10 million dollars, reportedly the largest amount ever for a documentary.
With her strong appearance, her brilliant campaign design and her revolutionary spirit, AOC knows how to reach a wide audience. Earlier this month, she played a ‘lightning round game’, firing a series of quick questions about money and American politics at a panel of ethics experts. In the video, viewed 38 million times in two weeks, she demonstrates how easy officials in Congress and the White House can be bribed by donations from special interest groups. Political American corruption explained in just a few minutes: not many would be up for the task. But AOC does it eloquently and with ease.
“she has more engagement on Twitter than Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders”
Simplifying difficult topics is also what makes her popular amongst young voters. Her social media-use is impressively light on substance and therefore attracts many followers. According to an analysis by The Guardian, she has more engagement on Twitter than Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Especially when she expresses her own wonder about American politics, there’s massive response: a recent post about homeless people being paid by lobbyists to stand in line for a hearing and thus being just props, found its way to hundreds and thousands of followers.
But it’s not just her easy way of speaking, manner of performance and bald way of marketing her personality towards the public that makes AOC the powerful 29-year-old that she is. Her ideals and opinions are admirable as well, radically shaking up the white male dominated standards that American politics are bound to be characterized with. Recently, she introduced a minimum wage of 52 thousand dollars for members of her staff explaining that ‘if a person is working, they should make enough to live’. It shows that AOC doesn’t just go around screaming ideas, but actually practices what she preaches and holds on to what she stands for.
Take her ambitious Green New Deal, for example, which aims for free schooling, jobs for everyone and making America climate-neutral all within 10 years. It was received with both honor and scorn. According to critics, AOC’s program is far too idealistic. But isn’t idealism just the way to achieve a paradigm shift? ‘It’s creating all of this buzz. Why? Because no one else has even tried,’ AOC responded recently to the criticism on The Green New Deal.
It’s precisely this kind of moon-shot thinking that distinguishes AOC from her fellow-Representatives of the Democratic Party. Like Obama, who dreamed of Medicare for all, and Martin Luther King, who dreamed of a non-racial society, AOC dreams are big and, for some people, unrealistic, but she keeps her beliefs and won’t allow others to undermine her ideals. On the contrary: young AOC has no problem with being underestimated. ‘That’s how I won the primaries,’ she told The Washington Post with a broad smile on her face.
“Well, I think it only has been radicals who have changed this country”
After launching The Green New Deal, CNN’s Anderson Cooper asked AOC if she calls herself a radical. ‘Well, I think it only has been radicals who have changed this country,’ she replied, further referring to Abraham Lincoln and his decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation, and Franklin Roosevelt, who embarked on establishing programs like Social Security. Concluding: ‘Yeah. If that’s what radical means, call me a radical.’
Her self-confidence is powerful, and justified as well. Just like her inspirational predecessors, AOC manages to encourage a lot of people to believe in something big. Even though the concept might not be totally thought out, if enough people trust on the idea, a dream can ultimately transform into something real. That’s what we’ve seen in the past and it’s what we’ll see with AOC in the coming years. Just mark my words: keep an eye on this revolutionary woman, because she definitely won’t be a one-hit wonder.
Ricardo van Loenen is founder and CEO of B. Building Business and has a background in marketing.