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Is AOC Really a Progressive?

Hillary Clinton
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joined a rally in her home district, which she termed “the People’s Republic of Astoria,” for the district’s tendency to elect socialists. At the rally, AOC endorsed many progressive priorities in New York’s state budget.

Namely, AOC talked up “good cause” eviction and the Build Public Renewables Act. AOC was also critical of “unjust rollbacks” to the state’s bail laws, an effort AOC attributed to Governor Kathy Hochul and others.

Progressive representation actually means something, it means commitments to our issues, commitments to the working class, commitments to a livable New York,” AOC said at the rally.

The Specifics

AOC endorsed “good cause” eviction legislation. Good cause eviction “would effectively restrict rent increases on market-rate apartments to 3 percent or 1.5 times the rate of inflation,” POLITICO reported. “That’s not too wild of a demand, is it?” AOC asked the crowd. “We have to push Governor Hochul to make sure that she includes this in the budget.”

The New York Senate and Assembly both nodded to the legislation in their own budgets – but naturally, the city’s real estate industry is fiercely opposed to the legislation and Hochul left it off her “wide-ranging housing plan.”

AOC was critical of proposed changes to bail laws that would “complicate” plans to shut down Rikers Island prison.

“The way that we shut down Rikers is not by exploding the population of people that are kept there,” AOC said. AOC is implying that the tweaks to the bail laws will make obtaining bail harder, hence leaving more people in prison, hence making it more difficult to close that prison. There’s not a direct relationship between bail law and shutting down Rikers Island – although denying bail does seem to run counterintuitive to the goal of closing up a prison.

Still, AOC would find her way to opposing the bail changes, regardless of the Rikers Island circumstances, which presented themselves conveniently as a practical article within which to embed AOC’s criminal reform agenda. That’s good. Practical arguments are more effective, in my opinion, than moralistic arguments.

AOC Talks the Talk…

Cortez has always said the progressive thing, but she doesn’t always do the progressive thing. AOC still identifies as a Democratic Socialist, and she jokes about the People’s Republic of Astoria, and she endorses rent-hike caps. But then AOC votes Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House; AOC votes to provide the funding that will sustain the Russo-Ukraine War in perpetuity; AOC votes to send unconditioned aid to Israel. She cries about it after and feels bad and goes on Twitter and says the correct things and wears a dress with a progressive war cry etched on the back – but the end result is still a fairly mainstream Democrat.

Briahna Joy Gray, a Bernie Sanders 2020 alum with progressive leanings, has used her podcast, Bad Faith, to discuss AOC’s drift towards the mainstream. The conversational consensus hypothesized that AOC moderated as a way of self-preservation and that she then rationalized her moderation as being acceptable because she was still better than the alternative. Maybe. It’s also possible that AOC is recognizing the potential she’ll have if she agrees to play nice with the establishment, kind of like Marjorie Taylor Green over on the right.

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Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.

Written By

Harrison Kass is a Senior Defense Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, he joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison has degrees from Lake Forest College, the University of Oregon School of Law, and New York University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. He lives in Oregon and regularly listens to Dokken.