Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, FDR
The AOC Fireside Podcast. Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below.

The big winner of tomorrow’s Iowa caucuses isn’t running for president. At least not yet. In fact, that wouldn’t even be allowed … after all, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) won’t be old enough to seek the presidency until 2024.

That’s convenient, because, unless President Donald Trump wins reelection and completely dismantles the Constitution, there will be a presidential election that year.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Unless a moderate Democrat loses to Trump this year, 2024 may be too soon for her. That would be the only scenario in which there would be an opening and an opportunity for her, i.e., no Democratic incumbent and a party base fed up with picking “safe” candidates only to watch them go down against the least qualified president in history.

The 2020 cycle has been great for Ocasio-Cortez so far. Since her meteoric rise to political stardom in 2018, she has backed up the hype with solid work in Congress. She has also avoided any major missteps. That’s quite a feat, because she is watched more closely than any other new member of Congress. The right-wing media is following her every move, ready to pounce on any mistake she makes – real, perceived, or manufactured.

Fox News, for example, is obsessed with her. A study from last year shows that Fox News and Fox Business mentioned her every day for six weeks in early 2019 — 3,182 times in total. That’s an average of 75 times per day. Trump also frequently mentions her in tweets.

Their vilification of Ocasio-Cortez, commonly also known as AOC, makes sense. Republicans and their allies must be scared to death of her. They are certainly no idiots and must realize that Ocasio-Cortez is a political threat to them and all they hold dear.

In fact, if you wanted to engineer a Democrat to win the presidency in the late 2020s and early 2030s, she would look a lot like AOC.

Perhaps most importantly, she speaks to young people. An entire generation of voters will grow up knowing her name as a leading progressive voice; and if neither Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) nor Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wins the Democratic nomination, then AOC will be the progressive voice going forward.

While your average Fox News viewer and many old people may be uncomfortable with her political positions, things like providing universal healthcare, protecting the environment, and making college affordable for all are very popular with the younger generation.

And those old voters will die out while a wave of young people who grow up familiar with AOC will become eligible to vote. By 2028, more than 20 million Americans born before 1964 will have died. At the same time, almost twice as many kids who are now between the ages of 10 and 18 will become eligible to vote. On average, they will be way more progressive than any other voters.

It will also help AOC that she is on the right side of history with her signature political issue, the Green New Deal. Much like Barack Obama in 2008, who made a major campaign issue out of his opposition to the highly unpopular Iraq War from the start, Ocasio-Cortez can say that she has fought climate change throughout her entire career. That is going to be a major advantage over others in a few short years when the devastating effects of climate change will be more and more difficult to ignore.

Ocasio-Cortez is not only on the same page as young people on the issues, she also knows how to communicate with them. She has a strong social media presence, is relatable, and represents a breath of fresh air in the stuffy world of politics.

While it may still be tougher for women to get elected, at some point in the near future, it’s very possible that the pendulum will swing the other way. First of all, women vote in greater numbers than men, and an increasingly smaller percentage of Americans is growing up with an antiquated view of gender roles. 

Having a Latina at the top of the ticket may also get more Hispanics, the fastest growing demographic in the US, to show up and vote.

And, while it shouldn’t matter, AOC’s attractiveness will be an asset as well. Research has shown that individuals considered to be good-looking are viewed as more knowledgeable and persuasive.

In addition to these attributes, it is already very obvious that Ocasio-Cortez is going to be a fundraising juggernaut. In the third quarter of 2019, she raised more money than any other House Democrat. The vast majority of it came from small donations and she did it without “dialing for dollars.” For a first-year congresspeson, that is unheard of.

Her fame and grassroots fundraising prowess also mean that she won’t be beholden to any special interests or even her own party — and an independent streak is something American voters have often valued in political candidates.

Finally, and this is what makes her the winner of the Iowa caucus, she is effective on the campaign trail. While Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), whom she endorsed, was in Washington, DC, for the impeachment trial, AOC became his most important surrogate in a state where he is now leading before tomorrow’s vote.

Speaking in front of packed houses, Ocasio-Cortez impressively showed that she can connect with voters not just in the Bronx but also in the Midwest. In addition, the experiences and connections she made while campaigning in the Hawkeye State will serve her well if she ever chooses to run for president.

And that’s a decision she has to make soon. 

Every politician has a window of opportunity during which a presidential run makes the most sense. If, for example, a Democrat wins this time around and picks a young running mate who becomes the heir apparent in 2032, then there might be a 16-year block during which she could only run as a party crasher. And nobody likes those.

Conversely, as we noted above, there may be an opportunity as early as 2024.

Some might say it’s too soon to worry about that. But in AOC’s case, it’s not. Because if she has White House ambitions, she has to watch her step now. There are plenty of people on the right, even in her own party, who want to maintain the status quo at all costs and would be thrilled to catch her in an embarrassing mistake.

If she can avoid that, stay grounded, and keep working hard on the issues important to young Americans, Ocasio-Cortez will be a formidable candidate down the road.

The cartoon above was created by DonkeyHotey for WhoWhatWhy from these images: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez caricature (DonkeyHotey / Flickr – CC BY-SA 2.0), hand (WesselFollow / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), room (Harris & Ewing / Library of Congress), fireplace (shirley binn / Flickr – CC BY 2.0), and smoke (Jo Naylor / Flickr – CC BY 2.0).

Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Matt H. Wade / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) and Matt Johnson / Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

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1 year ago


So says brian, a brown-shirted member of Trump Youth.

Scott Fulmer
Scott Fulmer
1 year ago

If you guys could see straight, the Democratic Party would be in focus. How can Democrats possibly have a tent that holds AOC and HRC? Simple. AOC is role playing while DNC makes up corporate rules and Democratic leaders prove they only know how to invigorate Trump’s election chances by running a doomed impeachment during the primary. There’s an attractive, experienced, principled, young woman who would build a broad coalition of electorate to deconstruct the military industrial congressional complex actually running for president. WhoWhatWhy seems incurious about the meaning of her campaign.

1 year ago

Failed to note that AOC and the rest of the squad right now are outliers but they might also be harbingers.
(signed) Someone who’s making monthly contributions to AOC’s PAC even though if she hadn’t moved back to the Bronx she maybe would be my Congress-person right now.

1 year ago

There’s a little buzz that the GOP has to lock in all that it can ASAP because the nation’s demographics are changing in a way that won’t help e.g. Caucasians becoming a minority.
But I wonder whether there’s a second demographic shift soon to hit the corporate Democrats: As the olds die out, the younger generations are living with the damage the former have done and will not accept “business as usual” but will demand and require real change, not lip service. In the past couple of decades, our elected officials have refused and/or failed to do anything the majority of people want. Sole exception was the ACA which, once passed, began to get undone starting in the 2010 election cycle when Dems ran against it. Since then, while difficult, the Dems have failed to protect it as the Rs whittle it out of existence. So query whether this serial failure (or refusal to act) will play much longer or whether there’s a sea change coming.

Steven Kamp
1 year ago

She might run for the U.S. Senate in 2024 by running against Gillibrand in the primary. In the he meantime she has to get reelected which she will because she has at least 5 primary opponents and there is no runoff primary.

Then she has to survive redistricting in 2021 when New York will lose a House seat .

1 year ago

I like AOC’s general program, but she is a person who points out problems and has not a clue how to solve them. Trump and Bernie share her approach. Among the Squad, Ayanna Pressley has class and common sense. But national media takes the easy way out and quotes the loudmouth. How do we run NYC without enough rooftop area for solar, enough electric power capacity coming into the city, without natural gas, and a housing stock that can be more efficient but is already far more efficient than the national norm?

Most green energy experts see natural gas as the bridge fuel… and new gas pipelines into major cities would be filled with hydrogen in 20 years, made with excess solar and wind power in slack periods. Most oil/gas companies get it. Even Saudi Arabia is raising money to turn its fossil fuels into things other than heating oil and gasoline. Most frack and have given up on new large-scale exploration… fracked wells tend only to produce for 10 years or so and most fracking is safe. AOC and The Nation HATE fracking but Green New Deal (and it is great) can’t do the entire job. I see ideology triumphing over science… just as in the Trump Administration. And AOC leads the way.

BTW, the major lunatic oil company is the largest private company, ExxonMobil. But many of the crazy companies are government owned, including PetroBras, which is partnering with ExxonMobil. CAsting this as an exclusively capitalist plot is nonsense.

1 year ago

I don’t think many people have any illusion that Ms Cortez preaches totalitarianism and fascist ideology.
She’s a great rabble rouser but, the citizens already know her too well to place her as a nominee much less in the Oval Office.

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