The “socialist” and “socialism” words get thrown around a lot when it comes to new Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But is it true? Is Ocasio-Cortez a socialist?
For starters, Ocasio-Cortez was elected as a member of the Democratic Party. However, she is commonly described as a “Democratic Socialist.”
Ocasio-Cortez, at just 29-years-old, is now the youngest member of the United States Congress. In fact, according to CNN, Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. (The woman who held the record before – Rep. Elise Stefanik – was only 30 when she took office.)
Ocasio-Cortez, a political newcomer, upended the political establishment when she defeated a veteran Democrat, New York Rep. Joe Crowley, to take her seat in Congress. She is scheduled to appear on 60 Minutes on the evening of January 6, 2019. Since her victory, she has floated jacking up taxes on the rich to fund a “Green New Deal,” saying, “Once you get to, like, the tippy tops — on your 10 millionth dollar — sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent.”
Here’s what you need to know:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is a Member of the Democratic Socialists of America
Many prominent and respected news organizations have reported that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America – among them, The New York Times, which labeled her a “democratic socialist.” The Democratic Socialists of America are sometimes called DSA.
The Times also reported that Ocasio-Cortez says she may “continue to support progressive challengers to Democratic incumbents,” upsetting some national leaders of the Democratic Party. “It’s all kind of a case-by-base basis,” she told the newspaper, which added that she had said the “the fight to change the Democratic Party” would be tougher than taking on President Donald Trump or the Republican Party.
You can see where she stands on the issues here via her campaign website. Among the proposals she supports: “A Federal Jobs Guarantee would create a baseline standard for employment that includes a $15 minimum wage (pegged to inflation), full healthcare, and child and sick leave for all” and “transitioning the United States to a carbon-free, 100% renewable energy system and a fully modernized electrical grid by 2035.”
According to VOX, DSA “believes in the abolition of capitalism in favor of an economy run either by ‘the workers’ or the state — though the exact specifics of ‘abolishing capitalism’ are fiercely debated by socialists.” Vox added, “In practice, that means DSA [members advocate] ending private ownership of a wide range of industries whose products are viewed as ‘necessities,'” and “DSA members also say that overthrowing capitalism must include the eradication of ‘hierarchical systems’ that lie beyond the market as well.”
The DSA website describes the organization thusly:
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States. DSA’s members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly democratic socialist presence in American communities and politics.
At the root of our socialism is a profound commitment to democracy, as means and end. As we are unlikely to see an immediate end to capitalism tomorrow, DSA fights for reforms today that will weaken the power of corporations and increase the power of working people. For example, we support reforms that:
-decrease the influence of money in politics
-empower ordinary people in workplaces and the economy
-restructure gender and cultural relationships to be more equitable.
We are socialists because we reject an international economic order sustained by private profit, alienated labor, race and gender discrimination, environmental destruction, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo.
We are socialists because we share a vision of a humane international social order based both on democratic planning and market mechanisms to achieve equitable distribution of resources, meaningful work, a healthy environment, sustainable growth, gender and racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships.
The organization has a Q and A section on its website that further explains, “Democratic socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically—to meet public needs, not to make profits for a few. To achieve a more just society, many structures of our government and economy must be radically transformed through greater economic and social democracy so that ordinary Americans can participate in the many decisions that affect our lives.”
Asked whether Democratic socialism means the government would own and control everything, the DSA responded, “Social ownership could take many forms, such as worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Democratic socialists favor as much decentralization as possible.”
The group concluded, “We can learn from the comprehensive welfare state maintained by the Swedes, from Canada’s national health care system, France’s nationwide childcare program, and Nicaragua’s literacy programs.”
The tax proposal that Ocasio-Cortez floated sparked a sharp back-and-forth with Republican leader Steve Scalise, who wrote on Twitter, “Republicans: Let Americans keep more of their own hard-earned money Democrats: Take away 70% of your income and give it to leftist fantasy program.”
Ocasio-Cortez retorted, “You’re the GOP Minority Whip. How do you not know how marginal tax rates work? Oh that’s right, almost forgot: GOP works for the corporate CEOs showering themselves in multi-million💰bonuses; not the actual working people whose wages + healthcare they’re ripping off for profit.”
According to an opinion article on Fox News, “The Green New Deal would dramatically reshape the U.S. economy and add tens of trillions of dollars to the national debt. The radical plan would force families to pay more to heat, cool and provide electricity to their homes. It would raise the same costs for businesses, farmers, government and organizations, driving up their operating costs – and raising the prices for just about all the good and services Americans buy.”
Ocasio-Cortez Has Worked for Ted Kennedy & Bernie Sanders
Ocasio-Cortez once worked for a lion of the Democratic Party: the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy. She also worked as an organizer for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, an Independent.
Ocasio-Cortez wrote about her work for Ted Kennedy on Twitter. “About 10 years ago I worked in Ted Kennedy’s foreign affairs/immigration constituent office. I REGULARLY fielded calls from panicked mothers who came home to missing family members. ICE was created in 2003 along w/ the Patriot Act. It was a weapon waiting for a tyrant,” she wrote.
As Rolling Stone put it, she “had been a field organizer for Bernie Sanders, phone-banked for Barack Obama and worked in Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office as a college student.” But all of the experiences had left her jaded.
“I wasn’t sure if our democracy and its electoral politics were really salvageable in the interests of working-class people,” she told Rolling Stone, which added that she participated in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.
Ocasio-Cortez Thinks the Democratic Party Compromises Too Much
Ocasio-Cortez’s 60 Minutes appearance was scheduled for 7 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. She told Anderson Cooper on the program that she believes Democrats have compromised too much with Republicans but also said she was open to compromising in some cases, saying, “I think so. I think — I think we’ve compromised things that we shouldn’t have compromised, whether it’s judgeships with Mitch McConnell, whether it’s compromising on climate change. I think we’ve — there are some things that we’ve compromised a little bit too much on. But am I open to compromise on certain ways to get things done? Absolutely. Absolutely.”
According to the New York Post, Ocasio-Cortez was born to Puerto Rican parents who worked as an architect and cleaner. Her father is deceased, but her mother Blanca Ocasio-Cortez works in Florida as a school secretary, The Post reported. She also has a brother named Gabriel Ocasio-Cortez. She has worked as a waitress and bartender to help pay the bills. Her father died in 2008 after suffering from cancer.
She graduated with a degree in economics and international relations from Boston University in 2011. At BU, she was involved in student activism. For example, she was president of a group for Latin American students called Alianza Latina.
Congress was her first bid for elective office. She is also the founder of Brook Avenue Press, which publishes children’s books, according to Ballotpedia.
Ocasio-Cortez is very close to her mother. In fact, she wrote a lengthy and emotional tribute to her mother on social media, writing, “What can I possibly say except thank you? So many people sacrificed so much for this to happen ― my mother most of all.” She added, “Mami mopped floors, drove school buses, + answered phones. She did whatever she needed to do, for me. When my father died, she was left a single mother of 2, and again she had to start over. After he passed we almost lost our home, so we sold it and started over. & over. & over. It was not long ago that our family’s hope was so dim it was barely an ember. Darkness taught me transformation cannot solely be an individual pursuit, but also a community trust. We must lean on others to strive on our own.”
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