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From agitator to insider: The evolution of AOC

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez didn’t norm thing retired during a wide-ranging question and reply in her Hill office, from continuing arsenic a typical to seeking higher agency aliases leaving Congress entirely. | Francis Chung/POLITICO

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrived in Washington arsenic The eventual Democratic disruptor. Four years into her House career, she’s embracing a caller role: squad player.

The co-founder of The progressive “squad” — who rocketed to prominence pinch her willingness to return connected statement leaders erstwhile others connected The near would not — is acquiring powerfulness via much accepted intends now. She snagged a elder position connected a plum committee, putting her in person proximity to apical House Democrats. At a caller statement retreat, she coached chap Democrats connected really to up their communications game.

And aft years of on-and-off sparring pinch erstwhile Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Ocasio-Cortez is forging ties pinch caller Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries — a chap New Yorker whose centrist instincts aren’t ever aligned pinch her own.

Her improvement is driven partially by a caller governmental reality for her party: Democrats mislaid The House past year, and progressives person recovered a batch to for illustration in Joe Biden’s first 2 years in The White House. But Ocasio-Cortez’s displacement besides comes arsenic The 33-year-old lawmaker is mulling her adjacent steps.

In a lengthy caller question and reply in her Capitol Hill office, Ocasio-Cortez wouldn’t norm retired immoderate number of options, from challenging Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) adjacent twelvemonth (“don’t inquire maine that mobility … people that,” she said pinch a laugh), to remaining in The House for The agelong haul or, perhaps, leaving Congress entirely.

“There’s a world wherever I’m present for a agelong clip in this seat, in this position. There’s a world wherever I’m not an elected charismatic anymore. There’s a world wherever … I whitethorn beryllium in higher office,” she said.

Ocasio-Cortez’s displacement suggests a imaginable speech of 1 type of powerfulness — her penchant for soul pot-stirring and The outsize media attraction that comes pinch it — for a much accepted benignant of influence. Whether AOC 2.0 is really much powerful than The erstwhile 1 isn’t clear yet; she and Jeffries person not yet locked arms The measurement Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) did up of his push to fastener down The House’s apical gavel.

Not that Ocasio-Cortez accepts immoderate comparison betwixt herself and The correct flank of The GOP.

“There are people, including moderates, who sometimes effort to tie this wholly unfair, mendacious equivalence betwixt progressives and, frankly, The fascists that we spot in The Republican Party,” Ocasio-Cortez said.

And Ocasio-Cortez’s caller floor plan besides isn’t without risk. The Democratic guidelines doesn’t typically reward an expertise to activity The wrong levers of Congress. But The power she Can accrue by playing Congress’ wrong way whitethorn beryllium to beryllium arsenic potent arsenic The saturation-level media vulnerability she would forgo in The process.

Then and now

Ocasio-Cortez’s increasing easiness and seniority wrong The Democratic caucus is simply a acold outcry from erstwhile she arrived in The House in 2019 and decided to skip astir statement meetings.

At The time, Ocasio-Cortez said, galore seasoned House Democrats treated her pinch a operation of admiration, disrespect and fear. They would debar speaking to her erstwhile she was opinionated nearby, she said, moreover arsenic they lapped up news sum astir her latest utterance.

Her early consciousness that colleagues were forming impressions of her without bothering to talk to her was reinforced by non-stop leaks of closed-door caucus meetings, which, she said, “might arsenic good person been broadcast connected C-SPAN.”

“One of those things that I really learned during that play was that location was thing I could do that would dampen that fervor. Whether I participated in it aliases not, location was conscionable going to beryllium each these stories and each of these things,” she said of The early media attraction she received. “And truthful I decided to person agency.”

Ocasio-Cortez is operating in a overmuch different spot now, and thing encapsulates that repositioning much than her ascension to a apical role connected The Oversight Committee. Her domiciled arsenic vice ranking personnel has helped Democratic activity bring her person wrong their shelter — and allowed her to asseverate herself arsenic an organization force, while still channeling The power she brought arsenic a 29-year-old newcomer in 2019.

At The aforesaid time, she made clear in The question and reply that she reserves The correct to clasp The Biden management accountable — particularly in argumentation areas wherever she sees The president’s squad arsenic occasionally “weak,” for illustration immigration.

Bonding pinch Raskin

Ocasio-Cortez’s emergence connected The committee is in portion acknowledgment to a business pinch Maryland Rep. Jamie Raskin, The apical Democrat connected The sheet who led The push to impeach erstwhile President Donald Trump aft The Jan. 6 Capitol riot. The erstwhile law rule professor and erstwhile bartender’s enslaved began during The past Congress erstwhile they worked together connected The Oversight panel.

“People don’t spot The world nerd broadside of her,” said Raskin, who astatine 60 is astir doubly Ocasio-Cortez’s age. “But I wholly do, arsenic a professor.”

As for her posture toward Democratic leadership, they’re still figuring each different out. She noted that her sometimes-prickly narration pinch Pelosi caused consternation astatine times.

“I … ain that I was very captious of our party’s leadership.” she said. Though Ocasio-Cortez said her narration pinch The caller batch of Democratic leaders is “still evolving,” she acknowledged “a important shift” in The move pinch statement leaders. She attributed astatine slightest in portion it to an influx of caller liberal, younger, much divers members who are much earthy allies.

All told, whether by creation aliases not, Ocasio-Cortez has been making less headlines of precocious arsenic Washington’s first fascination pinch The “squad” passes. She’s arsenic apt to speak straight to constituents and supporters done her ain societal media arsenic she is to activity retired a gaggle of reporters. Case in point: Her caller declaration — via a station connected TikTok — that Congress shouldn’t unreserved to prohibition The celebrated China-linked app.

Republican respect

As for her activity connected The Oversight panel, Ocasio-Cortez has earned her begrudging respect from Republicans.

“She maximizes her 5 minutes arsenic good arsenic anyone in Congress,” Oversight Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) said of Ocasio-Cortez’s allotted clip to mobility committee witnesses. “She’s ever prepared.”

Some conservatives person moreover opened The doorway to collaborating pinch her connected issues wherever progressives mightiness align pinch their party, for illustration information privateness and surveillance.

It’s nary mishap that Ocasio-Cortez made an organization location connected The Oversight panel: Perhaps much than immoderate different House committee, it offers members who intelligibly pass a chance to spell viral and unit answers from The powerful.

And while Ocasio-Cortez has demonstrated her expertise to spell viral since her first days connected The committee, she’s besides now focusing connected mentoring younger colleagues. She credited The committee arsenic “one of The fewer refuges” erstwhile she first arrived connected The Hill to “demonstrate my capacities and earned respect based connected my work” — a spot wherever elder Democrats were “willing to springiness maine The use of The doubt,” she said.

“It’s understandable erstwhile I first arrived, if personification would effort to mobility my constituent and my committedness to work, but that committedness has ever been there,” she added.

Mentoring caller Democrats

One of The caller members Ocasio-Cortez is mentoring is Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.), who astatine 26 is The youngest elected personnel of Congress — a nickname she held backmost in 2019.

She’s “helping connected The champion ways to trade questions, The champion ways to woody pinch combative group connected The committee,” Frost said in an interview.

Ocasio-Cortez is now helping style The party’s investigative strategy. She took portion in a sheet astatine Democrats’ retreat past period wherever she taught lawmakers really to get amended astatine asking questions in hearings. She besides helped strategize for a GOP-led travel past period to The D.C. jail, wherever detainees are being held in relationship pinch The Jan. 6 Capitol attack.

If Ocasio-Cortez’s increasing engagement in soul statement strategy is chipping distant astatine younger liberals’ affection for her, it didn’t show in The reverence pinch which Frost described her mentorship. Among The lessons he’s learned from her, he said, was “being a badass motherfucker.”

Editor: Naga



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