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WASHINGTON – Not so long ago, left-wing activists were dismissed as fringe or even kooky When they were pressed for proposals at 70 percent, to produce all of America's power through renewable resources or to immigration and customs enforcement.
Then along came Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – and here social media megaphone. 19659005] In the two months since her election, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez had the uncanny ability for a first-term member of Congress to push the debate inside the Democratic Party sharply to the left, forcing parties and 2020 presidential candidates to grapple with issues that might otherwise prefer to avoid
Ms. Warren and Senator Cory Booker, among others, have recently endorsed the idea of "Green New Deal," a call to reimagine and environment-first economy that would phase out fossil feels. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez thrust that issue in the national dialogue after she joined a sit-in protest in the office of then-incoming House speaker, Representative Nancy Pelosi, in one of her first, rebellious acts in Washington.
Her rise has stirred a backlash among some Congressional Democrats, who are seeking to constrain her anti-establishment streak and fear here more radical ideas could take the party as a socialist.
And it's not just Washington. Back home in New York, she has stoked opposition to a deal with Amazon to set up offices in Queens, putting pressure on Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, both Democrats, to justify corporate incentives.
Ocasio-Cortez, a Bronx-born 29-year-old of Puerto Rican descent, is the youngest congresswoman ever, and Washington veterans say they cannot recall a similar congressional debut.
“A bartender from the Bronx has been able to create a litmus test around climate change and economic policy for every 2020 Democrat, ”said Waleed Shahid, who was one of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez's early campaign advisers are now the communications director for Justice Democrats, a liberal activist group. “If not seen as a metric of success, then I don't know what is.”
Far beyond policy, she has emerged as a potent symbol for a diversifying Democratic Party: a young woman of color who is giving as good as she gets in a political system that has rarely rewarded people who look like here. Her mastery of social media has allowed her to connect with audiences who might otherwise be alienated from Washington.
Still, here unexpectedly outsize profile could bring perils. Democrats in future primaries in particular seem to have headed. Some whisper her tweet-first, ask-questions-later mentality reminds them or President Trump.
And while she has attracted considerable attention, policy making in Congress remains a long, slow gravel dominated by insiders. Ms. Pelosi, for instance, declined to grant the new climate change committee some of the powers that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez had demanded at the sit-in.
Many Republicans are downright at the notion that a self-described democratic socialist is driving democratic policy discussions. Congressional Republicans saw up close the dangers of having the more right-wing elements of the Tea Party to define their tenure in the House majority.
"Whether Democrats like it or not, Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is now the face of their party, ”said Steven Cheung, a former communications adviser in the Trump White House.
" Over 200 members voted for Nancy Pelosi " today, yet the GOP only booed one: me, ” she wrote on Twitter on Jan. 3. "Don't hate me cause you have me, fellas."
It has already been retweeted nearly 50,000 times.
Supporters and rivals agree that she has upgraded the traditional rules of engagement on Capitol Hill with a millennial's intuitive sense of what sells online – all before she has hung anything on her own office walls or even found a permanent place to live.
In an interview, Ms. Oceano-Cortez rejected "the general notion of," Oh, you're here and need to be quiet and keep your head down. "" [FormeespeciallyasamemberwhowonherseatviaaprimaryelectionagainstAnotherDemocratmyconstituencywastheexactoppositething"shesaid
Republicans, she said, fundamentally misunderstand here:" They think I'm just a Tea Party mirror. It's an easy and convenient way to frame something. But I don't think it's the same. ”Still, she has fully embraced the radical label – especially if it means pulling the Democratic Party to the left. “I think it only has been radicals that have changed this country,” she told “60 Minutes.”
It has all come in a rush: By the end of her full first day as a congresswoman, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez had taken over Ms. Pelosi's following on Twitter. Her initials and Twitter act, @AOC have become shorthand for the phenomenon that is the talk of Capitol Hill.
She had a full "60 Minutes" segment devoted to her on her first Sunday as a congresswoman. She was the first lawmaker that MSNBC turned to after Mr. Trump's first Oval Office address for analysis was Rachel Maddow's most-watched show ever. And she has become a viral internet sensation many times over, including one video of her dancing outside her office that has topped 22 million views across the globe.
She is a draw on the right as much as the left: Fox News spent more than two hours covering her first five days at Congress, according to tally with Media Matters, the liberal media watchdog group. MSNBC spent 52 minutes and CNN 96 minutes talking about her in that team
(Interest in Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is so intense that even her chief of staff has appeared on CNN – something almost unheard-of in Congress , where 30-second hits on cable are a most sought-after commodity for members of Congress themselves, not their aides.) In a recent Instagram chat – live from her kitchen with several thousand fans watching – Ms. Ocasio-Cortez outlined her strategy to “shape the national narrative” while chopping vegetables for an instant pot recipe.
“In Trump's America,” she explained, “I'm not a big fan of bipartisanship.”
On the environment, she said that her goal was to move the boundaries of far enough to the left that a carbon tax would look like the moderate option compared to "wildly ambitious" direct government intervention imagined in the Green New Deal. Perhaps Ms. Ocasio-Cortez's most talked-about idea, raised on "60 Minutes," is that people called "the tip tops" – those earning above $ 10 million – should pay a 70 percent rate on income above that threshold. The remark sparked days of debate among economists and pundits, on the right and the left, about tax rates in America in decades but common during the post-World War II era.
"I've been trying to open up this rhetorical space for many, many years, "said Stephanie Kelton, a former chief economist for Democrats on the Senate Budget Committee.
" They used to talk about the Oprah effect, "said Ms. Kelton, now a professor at Stony Brook University. "I think it's the Ocasio effect at this point."
Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and federal housing secretary who is running for president, was shown the clip of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez's tax comment during an interview with ABC's George Stephanopoulos – and then went even further than her.
"As you know, George, there was a time in this country where the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent," Mr. Castro explained. “Even during Reagan's era in the 1980s it was around 50 percent.”
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was still glowing about it days later.
"It's so incredible to see," she said in the interview. “First we had Elizabeth Warren out and talk about a Green New Deal. Next we have Julian Castro's marginal tax rates and it's basically saying we've got 90 percent plus in the past. It's totally changing the conversation. ”
She had some stumbles, including sparring with fact checkers after The Washington Post gift here," four Pinocchios "for a false claim about Pentagon spending. "I think that there is a lot of people more concerned about being precise, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right," she said on "60 Minutes."
makes them, odd Mr. Trump
The arc of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez's ascent is well known: A former bartender and organizer for Bernie Sanders's 2016 presidential campaign, she shocked the political world by ousting Representative Joseph Crowley, who had been in line to succeed Ms. Pelosi as the Democratic leader. It was the biggest primary defeat for a Democrat in the nation in 2018.
In the days after primary victory, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a likely presidential candidate in 2020, became the first senator to join Ms. Ocasio-Cortez in her call to "abolish ICE," the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency.
"She absolutely does have the ability to put issues on the map," said Representative Pramila Jayapal, a Seattle area Democrat and a leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. “It's not that there have been champions of these issues before. But when you've got 2.1 million Twitter followers and a press that will cover anything you say, it's a huge opportunity for us. ”
The sheer brightness of her starred has more than a few eye rolls among House institutionalists. Most people do not know quite what to do here yet.
“I love Alexandria Ocasio. I saw here the "60 Minutes" interview. I thought she was great, ”said Representative Adriano Espaillat, a 64-year-old Democrat from a neighboring district that includes part of the Bronx. “She is like one of our daughters. You know, she could be my daughter, one of anybody's children. She's an adult, obviously. But you know I love you. She's sharp, has a great smile, intelligent, is liberal, progressive. I think she has great ideas, bold ideas. ”
For all her focus on what she called" outside-inside "organizing, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez does seek power inside the Capitol
She raised her hand on the powerful Ways and Means Committee, though no freshmen got a seat on that panel.
York delegation to the Financial Services Committee, which would be a notable for a politician who has been appealing against the money in politics generally, and Wall Street in particular.
But when it comes to navigating internal house dynamics , democratically challenged in 2020 – virtually unheard-of in the cordial Capitol corridors – has left colleagues unnerved and less than trusting.
Asked about Ms. Ocasio-Cortez's splashy entrance into Congress, Mr. Jeffries instead goes through the names of every other incoming New York member, listing her last
“I don't think singling out one over the other is the appropriate thing for me to do, at least at this moment,” Mr . Jeffries said as he left a recent gathering of the New York Democratic delegation that she also attended.
As for the primary challenge matter, he said he and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez had not spoken about it.
“I’ve said hello,” Mr. Jeffries said. “We have talked about any particular issue beyond the logistics of its arrival into the United States Congress.”