Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez victory over Joe Crowley gives me hope for the future of America. She represents the best of what America can be. A couple weeks ago, I came across this video on Facebook in which Ocasio-Cortez powerfully articulates the need for change in the Democratic Party. I have never felt more connected to an American politician.
She begins by saying “Women like me aren’t suppose to run for office. I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family. Mother from Puerto Rico, dad from the South Bronx. I was born in a place where your zip code determines your destiny.”
My childhood home was a very small one bedroom apartment in Queens, New York. It was all five of us sleeping in that one room for ten years. Sometimes relatives slept on the living room pull-out couch for months at a time. My parents barely had enough money to support themselves, let alone 3 young kids. As the youngest child, I remember that almost all of my clothes used to be my older brothers.
When I was 8, I came home from school one day and saw police officers at our apartment door. Burglars stole the small amount of valuable material belongings we had. The police said, “We’ll file a report but there’s not much we can do.” Solving this crime didn’t matter to them. We didn’t matter to them. We didn’t have enough to matter.
My goal is not to make you feel bad for me. Instead, I want you to understand that poverty has nothing to do with your work ethic or race. It has everything to do with laws and policies crafted by corrupt politicians acting on behalf of the ultra wealthy.
People think of poverty as having less than others. That is most certainly true. However, growing up in poverty in America is like living in a different country than your neighbors. It’s not like being ‘broke’ for a couple months in your 20s. For better or worse, poverty shapes your outlook for the rest of your life. Living in poverty in the wealthiest country in human history shouldn’t be acceptable.
Poverty caps your potential. It is a cement ceiling. We need politicians like Ocasio-Cortez who support progressive policies like a $15 minimum wage, medicare for all, and tuition free public colleges and trade schools. These policies will unlock the potential of millions of Americans. We also need to educate our fellow Americans on why these policies matter.
The ultra wealthy have spent billions of dollars trying to convince you that those policies will bankrupt this country. These are lies perpetuated to divide us. Progressive policies will lift 30 million Americans out of poverty. They will create a more equitable America. They will create more wealth than any tax cut for the wealthy.
The ultra wealthy send their kids to schools that cost more annually than 2x the annual salary of someone living on minimum wage. Meanwhile, kids in public schools have to buy basic supplies for their classmates because public school budgets have been slashed by corrupt politicians across America. The Republican parties policies have systematically bankrupted vital public systems like education, health care and transportation.
The current state of politics is not acceptable. We shouldn’t accept the lie that the largest peace time military budget is the correct allocation of our tax dollars. Americans in Flint are being poisoned by their own water. We don’t need a faster drone to autonomously bomb countries more efficiently.
The current Republican Party is the most dangerous criminal organization in human history. They are racing towards the destruction of Earth with their policies on the environment. The Democrats are not perfect. But, constituencies matter. Ocasio-Cortez victory proves that. As she says, not all Democrats are equal. We need to contest Democrats who only feel responsible to the ultra wealthy.
Ocasio-Cortez is a step in the right direction. Let’s keep going.