The millennial who smashed the establishment

Fresh face: Ocasio-Cortez grew up in the Bronx and is from a Puerto Rican family. © Getty

Should more young people run for office? She is young, liberal, working class, and just won a shock election victory. For many, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represents the future of US politics.

“Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.”

So claimed 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in a campaign video that went viral last month. Now she is on the path to becoming the youngest woman ever elected to the US Congress.

That is, after she won an sensational victory in New York’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, where she defeated establishment grandee Joe Crowley.

The odds were stacked against her. Crowley has served in Congress for nearly two decades and had more campaign funds. He was even tipped as a future speaker of the house.

By contrast, Ocasio-Cortez is a political novice: a working-class New Yorker from a Latino family who worked as a waitress, educator and community organiser after graduating from university.

With the Midterm elections just months away, it will soon become clear just how far Ocasio-Cortez can go. Actress turned activist Cynthia Nixon hailed her “the future of the Democratic Party,” and is joining her to “take on the old boys club, [reject] corporate money and run people-powered campaigns.”

Should more young people run for office?

Power of youth

Absolutely, some argue. Young people have passion, enthusiasm, and are often more in touch with the type of citizens mainstream politicians ignore. Governments work most effectively when they represent the diversity of society — a political class dominated by older people simply is not fair. It is time for the young to get on the ballot.

Not necessarily, others respond. As author David Brooks wrote: “we get better at life as we get older.” Political power affects the lives of countless people, and requires experience and wisdom. We should avoid rushing people into public careers to soon, and let potential politicians grow from life experience.

You Decide

  1. Would you consider a career in politics?


  1. It is time for you to establish your own political party. In pairs or small groups come up with a name, a logo and three major policies that you would campaign for. Present your new party to the class.

Some People Say...

“Youth is the gift of nature, but age is a work of art.”

Stanisław Jerzy Lec

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Social media and grassroots funding were significant factors in Ocasio-Cortez’s victory. Her campaign video went viral and has over 12,000 retweets and 200,000 views on YouTube.
What do we not know?
Ocasio-Cortez’s seat in Congress will only be confirmed if she wins in November’s midterms. However, New York is usually a safe Democrat region.

Word Watch

On the path
She will have to beat Republican candidate Anthony Pappas in November’s midterm election to win a seat in Congress.
A decisive win, she secured 57.5% of the vote.
Before Republicans and Democrats compete in a general election, each party holds an election to determine their own candidate.
Speaker of the house
The parliamentary and political leader of the House of Representatives. The speaker is second in the line of succession to the presidency, behind only the vice president.

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