Fierce

AOC Reflects on ‘Inner Conflict’ When Young Girls Tell Her ‘I Want You To Be President’

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), didn’t learn about the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade until she encountered a group of protestors who were gathered outside of the Capitol. A little more than 18 months after the January 6 insurrection, AOC once again found herself in the middle of a culture war she didn’t see coming.

When she assumed office in January 2019 at the age of 29, AOC became the youngest congresswoman in American history, and her meteoric rise has been met with, to put it lightly, unbridled rage from her conservative counterparts. At first, that meant making fun of her background as a working-class woman who made her living as a bartender before running for Congress.

But as AOC’s successes have had more and more impact on the American public, the attacks, too, have escalated, even from members of the Democratic party. “It was open hostility, open hostility to my presence, my existence,” she said in a cover story interview with GQ while reflecting on the reception she got from members of her own party. “Sometimes I don’t feel powerful. Sometimes I feel very diminished, and sometimes I feel the least powerful here,” she added.

She also recalled a moment at the party’s new-member orientation, where the chair of the Democratic caucus, Joe Crowley, happened to be the person she defeated in the 2018 midterm elections, unseating a 10-term congressman in what was considered to be the election’s most prominent upset victory. “It would just be like these huge claps and whatnot,” she recalled. “And then it came to me. And it was very clear that the reception was not the same, just a smattering of applause.”

AOC noted that it hasn’t been easy to establish a good reputation with the Democrats, let alone the Republicans who actively mock and oppose her at every opportunity. “Since I got here, literally day one, even before day one, I’ve experienced a lot of targeting diminishment from my party,” she said. “And the pervasiveness of that diminishment, it was all-encompassing at times. I feel a little more steady on my own two feet now. But would I say that I have the power to shift the elected federal Democratic Party? No.”

The congresswoman knows that the resistance within her own party stems from the fact that she defeated a longstanding member of the party who was thought to be, by the Democratic establishment, untouchable. Especially by a young woman with no real experience in the political arena. To them, she represented a threat to their dominance in Washington, and a vast majority of elected Democrats did not take too kindly to someone they didn’t approve of joining their ranks.

Between discussions about her first term in Congress, her approach to politics in a post-Roe world —  “It’s really important for people to feel like their elected officials give a shit about them. Not from on high, but from the same level,” she said in response to a photo-op disguised as a peaceful demonstration whereby a number of elected Democrats sang “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps — and her decision to share her own experience with sexual assault, AOC touched on something that is as hard to read as it was for her to say: a large shadow of doubt cast over her ability to run for president in 2028.

“Sometimes little girls will say, ‘Oh, I want you to be president,’ or things like that,” she said. “It’s very difficult for me to talk about because it provokes a lot of inner conflict in that I never want to tell a little girl what she can’t do. And I don’t want to tell young people what is not possible. I’ve never been in the business of doing that. But at the same time…” Here, the writer behind the piece notes that he saw tears begin to form in her eyes.

“My experience here has given me a front-row seat to how deeply and unconsciously, as well as consciously, so many people in this country hate women,” she said. “And they hate women of color. People ask me questions about the future. And realistically, I can’t even tell you if I’m going to be alive in September. And that weighs very heavily on me.”

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