When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC, defeated the fourth highest-ranking Democrat in the House, Rep. Joe Crowley, in 2018, it sent shockwaves throughout the system.
AOC became among the first of a wave of socialist candidates to win in the Trump era.
She called on the Democratic Party to become an activist party and return to what she called social advocacy.
AOC openly talked about her membership in the Democratic Socialists of America, her belief in “Democratic Socialism,” and her work as a community organizer.
Ocasio-Cortez’ agenda of achieving the so-called Green New Deal, establishing a $15/hour minimum wage, impeaching then-President Donald Trump, and instituting loan forgiveness became mainstream Democratic positions.
AOC Remakes the Democratic Party
“Her presence in Congress has been seismic,” Alexandra Rojas, the executive director of Justice Democrats, a progressive political organization that recruited Ocasio-Cortez to run for office, told The Guardian. “She has changed the whole ecosystem and expanded the idea of what’s possible in the minds of voters. That kind of change is on a scale that’s almost immeasurable.”
Throughout her early years in office, her social media presence acted as a flamethrower against the Democratic establishment and even was rumored to support a primary challenge against current House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y.
She went mainstream and the Democratic Party now marches to her beat. AOC was joined by other members of what she called The Squad, which includes Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn, Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.
AOC Adopts Less Radical Positions
Ocasio-Cortez has embraced several less radical positions as she has grown in stature within the Democratic Party. She defended a vote against supporting unionized rail workers who suffer some of the worst working conditions.
That’s very different from positions taken in her early days. After her election, she participated in a sit-in at Nancy Pelosi’s office on climate issues, calling on officials to not accept funds from fossil-fuel companies.
Likewise gone is the Ocasio-Cortez who announced following her election, “If you’re a one-term Congress member, so what? You can make 10 years’ worth of change in one term if you’re not afraid.”
Her shift from radical rabble-rouser to co-opted member of the Democratic Party establishment came following a meeting with Pelosi. She emerged from the meeting chastened and told reporters, “I think the speaker respects the fact that we’re coming together as a party and a community.”
Justice Democrats spokesman Waleed Shahid told The New York Times that Ocasio-Cortez had to figure out how to triangulate between her political views and Washington reality.
“Navigating her role as a legislator and a movement builder is basically what her career is about,” Shahid said. “We’ll continue to have that theory of change with one foot in D.C. and one foot in the movement. It’s really hard to do that.”
Ocasio-Cortez has learned that theory is not enough to win elections.
“When you talk about capitalism, socialism, et cetera—these are very high-minded debates. I think what’s important is we say, ‘Where’s the beef?’ What are the policies each candidate is actually proposing?” she asked following the 2021 Buffalo mayor’s race.
John Rossomando is a defense and counterterrorism analyst and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.