Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: We Need to Confront Trump’s Creeping Authoritarianism

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Twenty-nine-year-old Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Ocasio-Cortez rose to national prominence in June, when she unseated 10-term incumbent Representative Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House. She was elected to represent New York’s 14th Congressional District by a landslide last night, defeating Republican candidate Anthony Pappas with 78 percent of the vote. Ocasio-Cortez celebrated her victory in Queens last night. Democracy Now! was there with The Intercept for our special election broadcast. We spoke with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about her plans for Congress.

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AMY GOODMAN: Well, as we talk about those issues, let’s go to Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. At 29, she becomes the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. She rose to national prominence in June when she unseated the 10-term incumbent Congressmember Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House. She was elected to represent New York’s 14th Congressional District by a landslide last night, defeating Republican candidate Anthony Pappas with 78 percent of the vote. She ran a progressive grassroots campaign as a Democratic Socialist, advocating Medicare for all, the abolition of ICE. She celebrated her victory in Queens last night, giving this speech.

REP.-ELECT ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: This is what is possible when everyday people come together in the collective realization that all our actions, no matter how small or how large, are powerful, worthwhile and capable of lasting change.

Words cannot express my gratitude to every organizer, every small-dollar donor, every working parent and dreamer who helped make this movement happen. And that’s exactly what this is, not a campaign or an Election Day, but a movement, a larger movement for social, economic and racial justice in the United States of America.

When I started this campaign a year ago, I was working in a restaurant in downtown Manhattan. And it wasn’t because—and we didn’t launch this campaign because I thought I was special or unique or better than anyone else. We launched this campaign because in the absence of anyone giving a clear voice on the moral issues of our time, then it is up to us to voice them. We launched this campaign because no one was clearly and authentically talking about issues like the corrupting role of money in politics, like the disturbing human rights violations being committed by ICE, by the fact that no one was giving voice to the idea and the notion that an entire generation is graduating with crippling loads of student loan debt, a ticking time bomb for our economy. No one was talking about these issues. And when no one talks about them, we have the duty to stand up for what is right.

I think about oftentimes that incredible day on June 26th, when, despite no attention, despite no media fanfare, despite the fact that no one wanted for us to get the word out on what was going on, we were able to organize everyday people, knocking on our neighbors’ door. And despite being outspent $4 million, 18 or 13 to one; despite the fact that we were running against a 10-term incumbent; despite the fact that it was your first time running for office; despite the fact that we didn’t have the money; despite the fact that I’m working-class—despite all those things, we won.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez last night during her victory speech. And right after that, well, in our special joint broadcast that Democracy Now! did with The Intercept, I got a chance to talk to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez about her plans.

REP.-ELECT ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, you know, I’m really looking forward to seeing and kind of analyzing more of the results tonight to see what kind of team we can put together. But I think that just as we ran and just as we said, we need to focus on putting progressive legislation and priorities at the top of the agenda. I think, for me, what that means is Medicare for all, where we have built so much power, over a hundred co-sponsorships in the last two years. It’s time to make a statement and really declare this as a part of our agenda.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what your stance is on Nancy Pelosi as House speaker, what you feel needs to happen right now, you, coming out of the Bernie Sanders faction of the Democratic Party? You’re an organizer for Bernie Sanders. Who do you think needs to lead the House? And would you consider the possibility of being the speaker yourself?

REP.-ELECT ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: I mean, I don’t want to bite off more than I can chew. I just won my seat. But, you know, what I do think is that in terms of her leadership in context, we need to see what our options are. You know, my fear is, I just wouldn’t want to see candidates running to her right and that being our only option. So, I think that what—no matter who it is, we need to make sure that we are electing party leadership with strong commitments to putting Medicare for all, tuition-free college and more at the top of the agenda, things like a living wage. And that’s what I’m going to be looking for in terms of where we want to select our next speaker. And I know that I certainly don’t want to support anyone who doesn’t have those missions in mind.

AMY GOODMAN: President Trump called tonight a success. What is your message for him?

REP.-ELECT ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, he’s bound to call anything a success and just kind of speak it into existence. But the fact of the matter is, we won back the House. We secured a full chamber in our government back, which is a very, very powerful check on the authoritarian creep that this administration has been pursuing. And we need to be powerful about it. We need to take this opportunity. This is not the time to negotiate with an administration that systematically and repeatedly violates human rights. This is a time for us to have a strong response and to really command the power that we secured tonight.

AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts on the Senate actually increasing its Republican majority?

REP.-ELECT ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Mm-hmm. You know, it’s very difficult, in many ways, that that’s the direction that things went. But what we also saw was that, this cycle, there were more Democratic senators that were up for re-election. And it’s really going to be 2020 that we’re going to have a slew of Republican challengers—rather, Republicans that are up for re-election, that could potentially be unseated. And what I hope we do, as a party and as a progressive movement, is that we need to really start building the movements around those challenges now, frankly. We need to start laying that groundwork, because in terms of the Senate, because of the re-election and who was up for re-election in terms of there being more Democrats, it was going to be tough. But, honestly, they had that majority before. They were putting through atrocious legislation before. They confirmed Kavanaugh. So, frankly, it’s more of the same when it comes to the Senate, but we really need to start laying the groundwork to take that chamber back in 2020.

AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts on President Trump’s latest anti-immigrant, racist campaigning as these domestic terror attacks occurred one by one in the last week, from African Americans killed in Kentucky to the letter bombs that were sent to perhaps 14 or 15 people or institutions, to the attack on the Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh? President Trump talked about terrorists coming up in a caravan, in fact, referring to immigrants, and threatening—saying that they were going to engage in illegal voting, though he had obviously no proof of this. But the assault of the last few weeks as he campaigned?

REP.-ELECT ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: In terms of the response to that, you know, I do believe that our president has abdicated his responsibility as a leader of all people in the United States. He has very clearly drawn lines into which Americans he champions and which Americans he doesn’t. And that is why I feel we have a very important duty to not only fight against the spread of anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, but that we need to affirmatively champion the causes of these communities and our neighbors, because this is a—this is a very dangerous time in our democracy, and this is a very dangerous administration that we cannot take for granted. And we need to make sure that we are shoring up support of these communities in very tangible ways.

AMY GOODMAN: Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, speaking last night on Democracy Now!’s special joint broadcast with The Intercept. Visit democracynow.org to see our full 6-hour special, that ended at 1:00 Eastern time this morning.

This is Democracy Now! When we come back, we go to Orlando, Florida, to speak with Desmond Meade, who spearheaded Amendment 4. It’s one of the most significant enfranchisement actions that have taken place in U.S. history: 1.4 million Floridians will now be able to vote. Stay with us.

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