Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Nancy Kaufman
Observer Staff Writer 

From Bartender to Rising Political Star: Alexandria Ocasio Cortez Visits Los Angeles on August 2018

Alexandria inspires and empowers the left in ways in which we have not seen since Bernie's campaign.

 

August 9, 2018

From bartender to rising political star, Alexandria Ocasio -Cortez, Bronx born congressional candidate, whirled through Los Angeles last week during her campaign fundraising tour.

Running on a message of economic, social and racial dignity for the working class, Cortez, in a stunning victory, unseated 10th term incumbent, Joe Crowley, in New York’s 14th congressional district in the elections this past June.

During her primaries campaign, she called to attention Crowley’s vote to establish ICE back in 2002, by campaigning on Abolish ICE.

On Thursday, Ms. Cortez was the headlined guest at a luncheon hosted by coalition of 20 grass roots organizers, including Occupy Ice-LA, at the downtown Los Angeles theater center.

The Thursday event was sold out. About 600 people attended the rally to listen to Ms. Cortez, who describes herself as a “Progressive Democrat.”

“I’m an organizer first,” said the New York Democratic congressional candidate.

Cortez energized the crowd when she said, “The future of the United States is economic, racial and social justice.”

Before arriving in Los Angeles, Cortez told her audience that she had been in Michigan, stumping for Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Abdul El-Sayed.

Earlier this summer, Cortez had also stumped with Senator Bernie Sanders for James Thompson, Democratic candidate running for the 4th congressional district in the deep red Wichita, Kansas.

“When progressives win, We all win,” part of Cortez’s campaign message, was put to practice when she stumped for her fellow progressive party members. It’s all part of building a coalition of progressives across the country, according to Cortez.

Cortez said her support of these fellow progressive candidates was “building the slow front line to power.” She also said, “We can make a lot of wings this year. We’ve got Abdul in Michigan.”

“There is no left or right, blue or red, it’s top and bottom,” she said to a cheering crowd.

Cortez chanted, “So long as there are people knocking on neighbors’ doors and speaking truth to power, there is hope for our future.”

“The future is organizing,” she said. She also said that she is not the future of the Democratic Party, but that, “The people of color, the gender expanding people, the people of all status, that is the people of this party because that is the majority of this nation. We have to work to stay united.”

Cortez stated her platform points. “Make single payer happen, make tuition free college happen, and make transition to 100 per cent renewable energy happen.”

“The Bronx isn’t that different from Detroit,” the Bronx born candidate said as she focused on the struggle of the working class. “The fight of the working class is the same across the nation,” she said.

Cortez talked about the broken economy. She talked about how New York has suffered the greatest levels of homelessness since the Great Depression and that for every homeless person, there are three vacant luxury apartments. She said, “We could house every single person and still have two thirds of vacant luxury housing available.”

Cortez rallied her audience behind her words, “So long as suffering is a for profit enterprise, it will be incentivized in this country. It is up to us to say it is unacceptable to profit off the detention of children and families.”

“What I want you to do is check to see if your representatives are taking money from these folks because injustice is bipartisan in this country and we need to divest off of banks that are making money from prisons.”

Cortez doesn’t see her values or ideas as radical. “It is not us who is crazy, not with that man in the White House. It’s not crazy to say children and everyone deserve human rights.”

“We have to define the nation that we want to live in. I want to live in a country where every person can go to the doctor without a co-pay. I want to live in a country where every child is born not just with tuition free k-12 but tuition free through 16 and trade school.”

Her chant continued, “I want to live in a nation that does not throw people behind bars that do not commit violent crimes and whose worse crime was the non-violent possession of marijuana.”

“Engaging in the fights that you know are right,” she said, as well as, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose in the short term because you are building an infrastructure for the long run.”

Cortez is fighting to advance the front line for justice and a moral economy. “Justice knows no party. It’s a force. It’s universal. It’s our job to fix it wherever we see it.”

She gave as an example, Skid Row. She told her fellow progressives that “Skid Row is unacceptable,” and “that is not acceptable in the United States.”

Cortez said we will pay for all the things the progressives are fighting for, such as single payer healthcare, and tuition free college the same way we pay for military, police, and everything else. “We can empty our pockets for bank bail outs but as soon as we want to pay for someone’s chemo therapy treatment the pockets are empty.”

Cortez reminded everyone that although she’s working, that she’s just one of many. A couple of months ago she was bartending. She told the story of how she won the primary. She was not endorsed by a single incumbent in the state of New York.

After work at the bar on Union Square, she’d ride the subway uptown and go right inside peoples’ living rooms and tell them why they deserve new leadership in district 14. She chanted, “I would do that over and over and over again.”

This is the work of change. This is the work Cortez did for eight months. This is the work Cortez did and was laughed at. “But I knew that we were fighting for something right,” she said. “Tuition free college and single payer is nothing to laugh at.”

For eight months the young candidate from the Bronx talked to people in their living rooms, building a movement based on values she continues to believe in. “Knocking on your neighbor’s door and having important conversations, " she said.

“What is right is what will win in the United States of America, " Cortez told her audience of progressives and activists.

According to Trinity, the organizer of the grassroots group Public Bank, L.A., “Alexandria inspires and empowers the left in ways in which we have not seen since Bernie’s campaign.”

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