After three years in Congress, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) said she firmly believes the institution is a daily “shit show,” but she remains hopeful that the kind of grassroots action that propelled her to Washington could affect greater change.
“It’s scandalizing, every single day,” Ocasio-Cortez told The New Yorker’s David Remnick in an interview published Monday. “What is surprising to me is how it never stops being scandalizing. Some folks perhaps get used to it, or desensitized to the many different things that may be broken, but there is so much reliance on this idea that there are adults in the room.”
She added that many Democrats were hyper-focused on programs like President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan or the perpetual threat of upcoming elections at the expense of even bigger ideas like the Build Back Better legislation or the protection of voting rights. Ocasio-Cortez said she wished Democrats had “more stones” and were “capable of truly supporting bold leadership that can address root causes.”
“Our job is to be able to engage in that conversation, to read what is happening and to be able to develop a vision and translate it into a course of action,” she said. “All too often, I believe that a lot of our decisions are reactive to public discourse instead of responsive to public discourse.”
Read the full interview in The New Yorker here.
Ocasio-Cortez also said the U.S. was in danger of a return to the Jim Crow era, when voting rights laws disenfranchised voters of color in the American South. She pointed to efforts in Texas and Florida to limit access to voting that were built on Republican dog-whistles about nonexistent voter fraud after Biden won the White House in the 2020 election.
“You have it already happening in Texas, where Jim Crow-style disenfranchisement laws have already been proposed,” she said. “The question that we’re really facing is: Was the last 50 to 60 years after the Civil Rights Act just a mere flirtation that the United States had with a multiracial democracy that we will then decide was inconvenient for those in power?”
Despite those concerns ― and an ongoing attack on her character from right-wing factions ― Ocasio-Cortez said she still believed in the idea of grassroots change.
“When people start engaging individually enough, it starts to amount to something bigger,” she said. “We have a culture of immediate gratification where if you do something and it doesn’t pay off right away, we think it’s pointless. But, if more people start to truly cherish and value the engagement and the work in their own back yard, it will precipitate much larger change.”