The 116th Congress convened with the most diverse group of members in history on January 3, 2019. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (popularly known as AOC) entered with no seniority as the youngest member ever elected. Cortez was a bartender and waitress just months before starting her campaign. With a passion to make change, Cortez became the first person since 2004 to challenge the preceding representative for New York’s 14th Congressional district, Joe Crowley. Through her social media reach and activism, AOC has quickly become a national figure for the democratic party.

During her 2018 campaign, Cortez was endorsed by many progressive organizations such as MoveOn, Brand New Congress, Sunrise Movement, Black Lives Matter, and Democracy for America. According to AOC’s campaign website, her platform stood primarily on the pillars of supporting gun reform, climate action, Medicare for All, criminal justice reform, and women’s rights. When looking at her posts on social media alongside statements made over the course of the campaign, we can see that potential voters wholeheartedly shared these beliefs with her.  For Cortez, one of the largest factors in her success was sharing her views and values throughout her campaign on her social media accounts.

AOC has supported today’s activists for climate who organize strikes in order to capture the attention of legislative leaders. On November 13, 2018, Cortez joined a climate change protest outside of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s office. The purpose of the protest was to urge democratic leaders to take action against climate change after winning the house majority. Pelosi responded to the protest in a tweet saying “I strongly support reinstating the select committee to address the crisis.” While this was seen as a dissatisfying response by most who were involved with the protest, the organizations were thankful for the participation of Ocasio-Cortez.

As her first piece of submitted legislation, Cortez presented the “Green New Deal,” a bold stimulus with the purpose of transforming the economy in order to greatly reduce the climate crisis. The Green New Deal intends to make these great strides through weatherizing buildings, creating sustainable jobs, purchasing goods that are manufactured with clean practices, and tackling pollution. The stimulus was supported by AOC and Senator Ed Markey. Unfortunately, on March 25, 2019, the resolution failed to advance in the Senate.

The passion behind climate justice and the Green New Deal has helped to fuel strikes and protests all over the world. Many of the democratic 2020 presidential candidates have expressed support of the stimulus: Bernie Sanders was a co-sponsor of the proposal, Cory Booker expressed his favor of itin a report to the Washington Times, and Elizabeth Warren tweeted that she is “excited” to support the Deal. Beyond Congress,  response to the Green New Deal has impacted politicians and activists all around the world. We can see from this legislation that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not afraid to push for “radical” environmental change.

One of the organizations behind Ocasio-Cortez’s platform has been the Sunrise movement, a youth-led political action organization that advocates for climate justice and the Green New Deal. During the 2018 midterms, Sunrise supported candidates who actively refused funding from fossil fuel companies. Their support of Ocasio-Cortez did not end after the election. One of the major goals of Sunrise has been to create a select committee (a fairly small legislative committee appointed to address a specific issue) on the Green New Deal. AOC has partnered with these youth activists to educate others about the effects of climate change while simultaneously protesting for action from fellow politicians.

Cortez recently made a statement referring to the United Nations report explaining that unless carbon emissions are greatly reduced over the next 12 years, the effects of climate change will be both irreversible and deadly. When rebuking complaints against the Green New Deal, she has stated that we are either going to “pay to react or pay to be proactive” when it comes to the effects of climate change. She has decided to make a platform and push the belief that we need to be proactive because if the world does not start making great strides in the area of climate justice, we will begin seeing the deadly effects sooner rather than later.

After only four months in Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become a democratic force to be reckoned with. She is not afraid to speak her mind and get in the faces of senior Congress members. From a waitress who spoke out to a congresswoman making history, the story of AOC is only just beginning.

Photo: Sarah Silbiger