In June of 2019 I got the following text from my friend, “Just rode the elevator down with AOC and she said she liked my shirt so, happy Pride I guess!”
Political sightings in DC, where I lived for almost five years, weren’t anything out of the ordinary. One time I stopped breathing because I saw Sonia Sotomayor at the movies and I was so excited I couldn’t pull myself together, and another time I almost threw up because I saw Jared Kushner on a walk through Rock Creek Park. Yes, I was hungover but I still think it had more to do with Jared than it did with the previous night’s vodka sodas. Oh, also one time an entire restaurant I was in went silent because Malia Obama walked in to pick up food. It was amazing.
However, no sightings generated more excitement than those like my friend’s elevator ride - an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez run-in was, to the general public, much like what eating an entire packet of Fun Dip is to a middle schooler. A rush so intense you might think it temporarily jettisoned your consciousness to a higher plane of being on which you were able to see a version of the world not yet realized. Or, at least, that’s the feeling Bernie Sanders is hoping to capture from Ocasio-Cortez, who is currently traveling across the country speaking at rallies for his presidential campaign.
Most recently AOC was in Iowa City, speaking just days before the Iowa Democratic caucus, while Sanders himself is back in DC, inundated by the impeachment trial currently taking place. While certainly his presence would have been appreciated, for many, it doesn’t appear to have been missed, considering AOC was the main draw for those in attendance.
“She’s speaking for us. She’s speaking for the people. She has a passion for the millennials. She’s speaking for everyone in America who doesn’t have a voice,” said Brittany Springmeier, who was at the rally to see AOC.
“I love her vision.” said Wendy Stevenson, who brought her daughter with her to hear AOC speak, “And she’s not scared to challenge the establishment. Even the Democrats, she’s pushing them further than they feel comfortable going. I love having that voice.”
That voice, of course, is what’s put her at odds with so many congressional Democrats, and what has aligned her so closely with Sanders, whose anti-establishment positioning has frequently cause issues between him and the Democratic party. However, many people view that as a positive, rather than as a negative. And while some of her ideas might be considered at odds with her current Democratic colleagues, they open a conversation about what the future of the party, and politics, might look like.
“I hope she’ll be a powerful future politician that can change the way things are done.” Stevenson continued later on, “...She’s still young. I’m excited that things are moving further to the left with a lot more fresh ideas. I really hope she is the future.”
That future, of course, will become more clear in November after the general election, at which point we’ll see if AOC’s support of Sanders will help generate enthusiasm his campaign needs. For now, all I know is that if every Pride season started off by casually running into AOC in an elevator, my Pride would absolutely be better for it.