Earlier this week, Democratic political superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was a featured guest on our sister Futuro Media podcast, IN THE THICK with hosts Maria Hinojosa and Julio Ricardo Varela (Latino Rebels founder).
Here are some excerpts of what the congressional hopeful said in the show:
On Why She Decided to Run
I think I was literally in a situation where I just had absolutely nothing to lose. I was working in a restaurant. I was bartending. I had been working with families. I had been working with kids. After the 2016 election, a friend of mine, we put all of our stuff in a 20-year-old Subaru and we drove across the country to Standing Rock, and I was literally there standing with indigenous peoples and the Lakota Sioux, watching how a billion-dollar fossil fuel company had militarized itself against American people and Native American people….
It felt very Latino and Latina. That honestly was one of the most transformative moments of my life. It was spiritually transformative. It really was.
So when I went to Standing Rock, it was so hard to explain because like I felt this is me. I felt called…
And what was crazy was the trip down there. I was with two friends. One was a good friend of mine from Missouri. Another was a friend of hers. But I was the only kind of Latina in the car, and driving from New York to Standing Rock, in my heart, my whole being like I felt like I was a magnet. I felt like this kind of electric type of sensation. And the closer we got, like a closer a magnet gets, it’s like that’s how I felt in my body.
About the Local NYC Democratic Machine
Fighting against a Democratic machine means people are scared to take pictures with you. It means that when you’re walking in a parade, no one wants to be in front of you or next to you,… but I also got it. I wasn’t confused because I was also very pragmatic going in. Because I come from a third-generation Bronx family as much as the alt-right likes to say I that I grew up in Tatooine or whatever. But but I grew up in a third-generation Bronx family. And I know that machine politics is this crazy thing. And then the double layer of being a woman on top of it too because these county machines are almost all male, all male….
In Queens, it’s a little bit more white. In the Bronx, it’s very Latino. But it’s all male….
So it’s like you had two layers. And I just wasn’t part of the club. And when I first started, I knew that I was, I just knew, I’m not going to get accepted here. I’m not going to have hope that this system is going to work for me. So I was just going to build my own. I built my own club. And I said, let me see whose needs aren’t being met. Oh, almost everybody? Ok. I’m going to organize there….
I did not run against my opponent because I knocked on doors and nobody knew who he was. But it’s not just him. Most people don’t know who their member of Congress is, but that started a conversation because people feel guilty. People feel guilty. I don’t know who my member of Congress is. And I said, ok, listen. Relationships are two ways. Sure, you should Google who your representatives are every once in a while, but if your representative isn’t making his presence known in your community, that’s also on him or also on her or whomever.
About Her Stance on Abolish ICE
So I think Abolish Ice was a really, it was a really strong and important stance for my community. Given that we’re here in New York. ICE is what has presence. But really it is this whole system, you know from DHS down, that is broken. You know you look at USCIS and the fact that there are 20-year processing lines for some people and countries…
What my hope is that it is also part of a movement. Because when we talk about Abolish ICE, we’re talking about ending family detention. We’re talking about ending a militarized, traveling enforcement agency. But we do need to call a lot of these other things into question. You know DHS, and let’s say let’s say, you don’t care about Latinos or immigrants at all, right. Let’s say like you just buy into all of these dehumanizing arguments. The Civil Rights infrastructure of DHS is also concerning.
The United States Constitution does not say that citizens get these rights. It says “people.” This is the land of the free not the free people….
I do think it’s important to counter because movements cannot be on any one person’s shoulders and that’s the mistake we made with Obama…. The mistake that we made with Obama was, all right, we did it, he’s in, se acabó. Auto pilot. We automated our government because you know the prince of hope you know has been elected to the presidency. No one person, even if they are elected President, he needed continued grassroots movement and support. He needed the 2010 elections he needed the 2012 elections. He needed the 2014 elections, and we lost all of them. There is no one person that is the future of the Democratic Party. There is a people that is the future of the Democratic Party. There is a movement that I hope is the future of the Democratic Party. But if we take this moment and say, “she did it that’s it,” it’s not going to work. We need to elect lots of other people….
Whats Does a World Without ICE Look Like
I think, first of all, it’s not to say that we just revert back to the INS, which was the system that worked right before ICE because ICE was established in 2003. But we also have to ask ourselves the question of how much is this black box detention necessary. And you look at these facilities. We’re caging women and children. We’re jumping to criminalize people…
On How Best to Change the Democratic Party
I like to think that I’m really idealistic and optimistic about my goals and I’m very pragmatic about how I get there, which is one of the reasons why I think our campaign was effective. I didn’t run this campaign out of optimistic methods and processes but it also just because like the optimistic quote unquote way to run was the way that was most practical for me and how I got there.
And so I think that the Democratic Party must evolve to be stronger champions for working-class Americans. That’s my opinion. And I think that there are certainly incumbents that are sitting in those seats right now that I think some of them are kind of having a moment and going, “how can I adapt?” But I also think that there’s a potential that some incumbents… I got elected challenging an incumbent. And I like to think that my run was healthy. And so I think that really it’s about the openness to change, the openness to adaptiveness. I’m not out here saying everybody has to run and be me.
I’m not saying the Democratic Party has to be me, has to be my politics, has to be this. But I do think that we need to stop spending more time at lobbyists’ fundraisers than we are with our communities. I think it’s a problem in our government. I do.
On Reacting to the Trump Era
Well for me, on a personal level before the election, I stopped feeling despair when I started working my ass off. I felt despair when I was sitting on my couch and watching the news. When I was on the internet just reading every day go by in our nation sliding into an abyss. But when I started working my ass off, I stopped feeling that, and I can guarantee that if anybody is out there feeling despair right now, if you start working your ass off, it’s going to be exhausting. But it’s going to be really fulfilling.
Want to read more?
- Are Alexandria’s endorsements of Democratic insurgents paying off?
- How some Democrats are rethinking their own party.
- Learn about what Alexandria mentioned: that 60% Puerto Ricans were denied FEMA aid and why.