On Tuesday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) took to Instagram Live to describe her experience of last week’s siege on the US Capitol in harrowing detail. Not only did AOC and other lawmakers have to contend with the armed, Confederate flag–wielding mob in the Capitol, but, as AOC pointed out, there was no safety among her so-called colleagues either. “There were QAnon and white supremacist sympathizers and frankly white supremacist members of Congress . . . who I had felt would have disclosed my location.”
Ocasio-Cortez is no stranger to death threats from the far right, misogynistic abuse from right-wing Republicans, and insults from the president himself. In the face of these attacks, she has remained consistent and defiant in backing policies to improve the lives of millions.
Yet the siege on the Capitol exposed AOC and others to another level of danger. Regardless of debates on the Left about how well-coordinated the attacks were, or whether they represent an advance or defeat for the far right, there is no doubt that last week’s attack — egged on by Trump, Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, and others — posed a mortal danger to lawmakers, and to left lawmakers in particular.
Liberals and conservatives have since joined hands in calling for an expanded national security state and new terror laws. But on Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez took a different tack.
She went on the offensive not only against Trump and the far-right mob, but every mainstream politician and corporate leader that emboldened the far right. She derided Republican cabinet members who belatedly resigned as “cowards.” She told Confederate sympathizers in Congress to leave public life in shame. She exposed the “blue lives matter” rhetoric for what it is — not a concern over law or anyone’s lives, but a preservation of white supremacy.
Most importantly, she insisted that the far right won’t win. “White supremacists will never, ever live in a world where they will see their fantasies come true, which is why they rely on violence.”
This was important not just for the Right to hear, but for the Left. Instead of abdicating anti-Trumpism to a liberal leadership, AOC has put forward a confident, inspiring call to action for the Left. Rather than cowering in fear, or giving the national security state still more power, we need to advance an alternative vision that forefronts humanity, solidarity, and policies that concretely improve people’s lives.
In her nearly hour-long speech, AOC connected Republicans’ prioritization of their own short-term gains over the long-term health of democracy with a system built on short-term benefits and long-term catastrophe.
That’s everything. When we prioritize this quarter’s profits over long-term economic well-being for all people. That’s why they’re paying people less than a living wage. Same thing with climate change. We’re clinging on to the system of fossil fuels because of short-term profits that it bears. Even though we know it’s allowing for the long-term destruction of our planet.
Ocasio-Cortez modeled what a fighting left alternative to Trumpism can look like, one that is rooted in our shared humanity but that makes no apologies or offers quarter to the Right. We would do well to take that spirit into our organizing efforts, and to build the kind of Left that can bury Trumpism once and for all.