When she was in high school, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won a national science prize and had an asteroid named after her. Last week, she pierced America’s political atmosphere and impacted on the Democratic Party, wiping out the dinosaurs. That’s what her supporters would have you believe, anyway.
The 28-year-old’s story is objectively remarkable, and it’s one that has Corbyn fans starry-eyed over a deselection fairytale.
Ocasio-Cortez, who last year was working in a Brooklyn cocktail bar, ousted ‘King of Queens’ Joe Crowley in the Democrats’ primary election for New York’s 14th congressional district, a party stronghold.
Crowley, a 19-year Washington veteran, was expected to take over leadership of the Democratic Party in the House of Representatives after November’s crucial midterms; instead, at 28, Ocasio-Cortez is all but certain to become the youngest woman ever sent to Congress.
She supports free universal healthcare, free university tuition, paid sick leave and renewable energy. That platform gets you tarred as a socialist in the US, but shows how meaningless labels are: Ocasio-Cortez would fit comfortably in the moth-eaten mainstream European left.
Her radicalism is relative, and her victory is a challenge to her own party. In 2016, the Democrats rejected an anti-establishment candidate in Bernie Sanders – who Ocasio-Cortez campaigned for – while the Republicans fell for theirs.
Since then, the American left has been torn over whether to pull on the central thread of Trumpism or cut it; whether to embrace so-called ‘identity politics’ – Ocasio-Cortez’s family came from Puerto Rico, but that doesn’t make them immigrants – or a message of economic exclusion that appeals to the white working class.
Perhaps the message from Ocasio-Cortez’s victory is simply to have a message, and present it with energy and honesty. Agonising Democrats haven’t done that in a while.