Ocasio-Cortez’s Victory – a Warning Sign?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Photo via ocasio2018.com)

News of the surprising triumph of 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, of Puerto Rican descent, in the Democratic primary over veteran Congressman Joseph Crowley was well received by the Hispanic community.

Since 2013, Crowley has served as the representative for the 14th Congressional District, which comprises parts of Queens and the Bronx. From 1999 to 2012, before redistricting changes, he represented the 7th District.

“Now that the people have shown they trust our platform, the plan is to prepare for the November election against the opponent from the Republican Party,” Ocasio-Cortez told El Diario.

The politician, who holds a degree in international relations and economics from Boston University, anticipated that she will spend the next few months working to ensure that her message reaches all sectors.

“We are going to create alliances with the groups that form the community so they know that their voice will be represented on this platform and, taking that into account, [we will] dive into our projects with a 100 percent commitment to the economic, social and racial dignity of our communities. To do that, we are calling and inviting more people to join our movement and also to vote.”

The candidate reiterated that she will remain firm in her refusal to accept contributions from corporations or lobbyists and that her campaign will continue to be funded by the people.

Ocasio-Cortez’s progressive platform includes abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), expanding Medicare, higher education for all, gun control and ending private prisons. This aligns with the needs of the district, where approximately 50 percent of the population are immigrants.

Changing the political landscape

The victory of the daughter of working-class Puerto Rican parents and who until nine months ago worked at a Mexican restaurant by Union Square, confirms a shift in political power in Queens and the Bronx.

Alvin Tillery, director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern University, said that Ocasio-Cortez’s victory over Crowley was a rebuke to the political machine and centrism of the Democratic Party.

“The victory, which effectively dismantles an ethnic machine in District 14 dominated by Irish Americans, was driven by decades of demographic change. In light of these changes, no impartial observer should be surprised by the collapse of the machine and the nomination of a Latina candidate,” stressed Tillery.

Tuesday’s Democratic primary was the Bronx native’s first incursion into the political arena as a candidate. Still, her experience working with The National Hispanic Institute, in Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, and at Sen. Ted Kennedy’s office gave her the drive to challenge Crowley. The political heavyweight is the chair of the House Democratic Caucus and the Queens Democratic Party, and was also considered the one likely to replace House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Ocasio-Cortez’s victory is a warning to the Democratic establishment that the current party’s centrist ideology is being rejected. This is especially true where minority voters represent the plurality of a district,” said Jaime Domínguez, of Northwestern University.

Domínguez, a lecturer in the political science department and an immigration, urban and Latino politics specialist, added: “Undoubtedly, the voters of the 14th Congressional District were clearly galvanized by the immigration debacle taking place along the southern border. Crowley clearly underestimated the volatility of the electorate.”

Ocasio-Cortez is expected to win the seat for the mostly-Democratic district, an area where the Hispanic population has multiplied in recent years. In September, the Democratic newcomer will face her Republican counterpart, Anthony Pappas.

Crowley’s defeat also points to an internal schism in the party, particularly in Queens, and it means that Council member Francisco Moya and new Assemblywoman Ari Espinal will lose their political godfather.

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