Visible Women

This millennial politician’s victory represents a major blow against Trump

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Moya Crockett
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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a left-wing Latina from the Bronx, is against everything Donald Trump stands for. And she just won a major election in New York. 

By now, you might have seen photos of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez celebrating her election victory. On Wednesday (27 June), the former bartender from the Bronx triumphed in the Democratic primary election in New York’s 14th congressional district, a ward that encompasses neighbourhoods in the Bronx and Queens.

Within hours, footage of the moment Ocasio-Cortez realised she’d won went viral. She screams briefly as she staggers backwards, clasping her face in astonishment. For a moment, she is speechless. Then, she snaps into politician mode. “This victory belongs to every single grassroots organiser, every working parent, every mum, every member of the LGBTQ community, every single person is responsible for this,” she says. She is passionate, polished and articulate – and she’s just 28 years old.

To succeed in the primary, Ocasio-Cortez had to defeat Joseph Crowley, a veteran Democratic politician and congressman of two decades who spent a whopping 18 times more money than her on his campaign. The structure of the US election system means that she’s not a member of congress yet; having won the Democratic primary, she’ll now have to face down a Republican candidate in the mid-term elections in November.

But in a safe Democratic seat that hasn’t voted for a Republican representative in 25 years – and where 78% of voters backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election over Donald Trump – Ocasio-Cortez’s future as a congresswoman seems all but certain.

cynthia nixon and alexandria ocasio-cortez progressive women new york

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with Cynthia Nixon, who is running for governor of New York and backed her campaign      

In a week where we learned that nine out of 10 British women wouldn’t consider getting involved in public life in any formal way, such as standing for election – and that 43% of those women wouldn’t do so because they think they’re just “not that type of person” – Ocasio-Cortez’s victory is inspiring. The proud socialist, former Bernie Sanders campaign organiser and unabashed lipstick aficionado (her favoured shade is Stila’s Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick in Beso) has said that never imagined she could run for office. 

Because, guess what? She just didn’t think she was that kind of person.

“I counted out that possibility because I felt that possibility had counted out me,” she told The Cut in a recent interview. “I felt like the only way to effectively run for office is if you had access to a lot of wealth, high social influence, a lot of high dynastic power, and I knew that I didn’t have any of those things.”

But she ran and she won, the result of a grassroots campaign and progressive ideas that oppose everything the Trump administration stands for. While the president was quick to gloat over Crowley’s defeat, describing him as a “big Trump hater” on Twitter and speculating that “perhaps he should have been nicer, and more respectful, to his president”, he seemed oblivious to the fact that Ocasio-Cortez has taken a stand against him on almost every issue. 

The Trump administration has spent the last few months separating children from their parents on the US-Mexico border and clinging to its travel ban on people from Muslim-majority countries. Ocasio-Cortez, in contrast, joined anti-Trump protests at the Mexican border just days before her election, and is calling for a humane immigration system that protects the rights of unauthorised immigrants already in the US. 

Trump himself uses racist language and frequently demonises people of colour, whereas Ocasio-Cortez – now the first woman of colour to represent her neighbourhood – campaigned by reaching out to immigrant communities. Trump pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords, while Ocasio-Cortez wants the US to implement a carbon-free, 100% renewable energy system by 2035. Trump has proposed cutting public education funding by $3.6bn (£2.7bn), and Ocasio-Cortez is calling for free education for all.

More obviously, she is young, cool, fiercely intelligent, principled and stylish. In other words, she’s the anti-Trump. On Twitter, Deb Haaland – who is set to be the first Native American congresswoman in US history – summed it up.

“Congratulations, @ocasio2018!” she wrote. “And watch out Trump. Fierce women of colour are leading, and we are going to abolish ICE, win Medicare for all, and get 100% renewable energy for America. Be fierce.”

Stylist’s Visible Women campaign aims to raise the profiles of women in politics – and inspire future generations to follow their lead. Find out more about the campaign here, and see more Visible Women stories here

Images: Getty Images