By Shane Goldmacher
Not so long ago, Left-wing activists were dismissed as fringe or even kooky when they pressed for proposals to tax the super rich at 70 percent, to produce all of America’s power through renewable resources or to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Then along came Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — and her social-media megaphone.
In the two months since her election, Ocasio-Cortez has had the uncanny ability for a first-term member of Congress to push the debate inside the Democratic Party sharply to the left, forcing party leaders and 2020 presidential candidates to grapple with issues that some might otherwise prefer to avoid.
The potential Democratic field in 2020 is already being quizzed about her (Sen. Kamala Harris praised her on “The View”), emulating her digital tactics (Sen. Elizabeth Warren held an Instagram chat in her kitchen that looked much like one of Ocasio-Cortez’s sessions) and embracing some of her causes.
Warren and Sen. Cory Booker, among others, have recently endorsed the idea of a “Green New Deal,” a call to reimagine an environment-first economy that would phase out fossil fuels. Ocasio-Cortez thrust that issue into the national dialogue after she joined a sit-in protest in the office of then-incoming House speaker, Rep. 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 her more radical ideas could tar the party as 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 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 and economic policy for every 2020 Democrat,” said Waleed Shahid, who was one of Ocasio-Cortez’s early campaign advisers and is now communications director for Justice Democrats, a liberal activist group. “If that’s not seen as a metric of success, then I don’t know what is.”