If you have not heard about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, honestly, I would only half believe you. She is NY-14’s Democratic Congressional Candidate and an advocate for progressive ideals. She is also a proud Latina from the Bronx who is taking the political world by complete surprise. Her candidacy for a congressional seat is a small role for the amount of media attention she has been receiving, but it is for a very good reason: she listens to the people.
When Ocasio decided to run for congress, she wanted to know more about non-voting New Yorkers who had the right to vote. She was concerned with why they felt left out and how she could be the candidate to change that. She sought these people out in her district (the Bronx and Queens) and started knocking on doors to hear them out. Giving people who have completely given up on politics an opportunity to speak about what was really on their minds.
This is not the norm, in fact, I have never seen a political candidate reach out to non-voting people, especially in a city like the Bronx and Queens. Majority of the candidates I have seen pay most attention to large financial donors of their campaign but nope, not Ocasio.
Not much later, Ocasio-Cortez defeated Joseph Crowley in the Democratic Primary to represent NY-14. Republicans anticipated she would lose although Crowley has never had an opponent. Meanwhile, his defeat turned her into an overnight sensation. It was one of the most surprising voter turnouts and political upsets for Republicans.
Since the primary race, working with citizens has been an ongoing effort for Ocasio and I was lucky to witness it. The opportunity was in my own community, a Listening Tour Town Hall event in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx. Each attendee had the chance to write down a question they could later ask Ocasio. As soon as she made her entrance, she briefly introduced herself, laid out how the evening would go, and immediately gave the floor to the people. It was extremely effective for the two-hour event.
“It’s important that we listen before we talk,” she said to the crowd, “learning where everyone is and meeting them there.”
Ocasio listened attentively and asked the room to applaud each time a neighbor would ask a question. I was in a room full of people I had probably never met, but the sense of community could be felt with each round of applause. Every person who stood at the microphone represented a different aspect of modern American values. The question topics ranged from gentrification in the Bronx to abolishing I.C.E. to raised pharmaceutical prices. During each of these Listening Tour events, Ocasio has put herself at the front and center, to find out first-hand what communities want and need. She, rightfully, called these get togethers the “seed of organizing.”
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Dem. candidate for NY-14) and Alyssa Perez (Editor of StayBlooming.com)
Ocasio was so personable and candid, replying to all of the questions with ease. You could tell she was used to this kind of setting with the community. As society is constantly evolving, it is imperative to have a leader that is paying attention to the people. Moreover, it is extremely moving to witness Ocasio speak and give me a sense of representation: a Latina with a strong political agenda. She is so intentional because she knows what it is like to be an average person in the city.
Her success, though, can be highly attributed to her one-on-one interactions with everyday people. She made herself available on-foot, on social media, at rallies, at marches, and in support of those at events all over New York City.
You simply cannot be a good politician because you can make decisions. It is a role that requires morality, a whole representation of your territory, and the ability to use one’s discretion in favor of everyone. It requires listening. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been on foot, knocking from door-to-door, and listening to her neighbors. Now they are following her as she paves her way to success.