Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t plan to let her detractors win.
One Sunday night, CBS aired the entirety of her much-anticipated interview with 60 Minutes’s Anderson Cooper—snippets of which have been sparking endless conservative panic all week—and though Cooper seemingly tried to steamroll Ocasio-Cortez’s ambitious platform, the new Congresswoman refused to let him get the upper hand.
“No one asks how we’re going to pay for this Space Force,” she told Cooper, when he asked her how she planned to fund programs like single-payer healthcare and tuition-free college, both of which were central components of her successful campaign. “No one asked how we paid for a two trillion dollar tax cut. We only ask how we pay for it on issues of housing, healthcare, and education.”
She added, “How do we pay for it? With the same exact mechanisms that we pay for military increases, for this Space Force, for all of these ambitious policies.”
When Cooper noted criticism that her policies were unrealistic, Ocasio-Cortez countered that the United States spends a disproportionate amount of money on healthcare and education in comparison to other wealthy nations. “For me, what’s unrealistic is what we’re living in right now,” she said. And when Cooper cited data showing record employment numbers, Ocasio-Cortez rightfully pointed out that there exists a stark difference between jobs and well-paying jobs.
I don’t think that tells the whole story. When you can’t provide for your kids, working a full time job, working two full time jobs, when you can’t have healthcare, that’s not dignified.
Ocasio-Cortez also discussed Donald Trump, whom, unlike many of her Democratic colleagues, she spends little time attacking publicly, preferring instead to focus on championing progressive policies that often seem overshadowed by the president’s antics.
“I think he’s a symptom of a problem,” she said. “The president certainly didn’t invent racism. But he’s certainly given a voice to it, and expanded it, and created a platform for these things.” Cooper then asked Ocasio-Cortez if she thought Trump was a racist.
“Yeah. No question,” she said, adding:
When you look at the words that he uses, which are historic dogwhistles of white supremacy, when you look at how he reacted to the Charlottesville incident, where neo-Nazis murdered a woman, versus how he manufactures crises like immigrants taking legal refuge on our borders, it’s night and day.
Ocasio-Cortez didn’t shy away from describing herself as a “radical,” noting that “Abraham Lincoln made the radical decision to sign the Emancipation Proclamation.” But though the 60 Minutes interview highlighted her head-butting with establishment Democrats like Nancy Pelosi—whose office Ocasio-Cortez occupied soon after her election along with a number of activists, in hopes of getting Pelosi to back her Green New Deal plan—in an unaired interview online, Ocasio-Cortez made it clear she hoped she wouldn’t spend her whole Congressional career spitting fire.
“There are a lot of folks that I think sometimes want to brand me as a flamethrower, but really, I think the truth of what I am is a consensus builder,” she said. “I like to think that I’m persuasive. And so I think a lot of that work is going to be on building relationships and trying to persuade and talk to my colleagues about building a progressive agenda for the party.”
But as Cooper pointed out, Washington politics are full of roadblocks, hence why ambitious campaign promises are so often turn into watered-down policies like the Affordable Care Act. Is Ocasio-Cortez worried her platform will get steamrolled on the House floor?
Not a fucking chance.
“I don’t worry about it,” she said, acknowledging that she knows “change doesn’t happen overnight.” But just because it’s hard to make radical change, doesn’t mean radical change isn’t something worth fighting for.
“I know that when the sun sets on my life, I want to be able to tell my grandchildren that we established a single-payer system, tuition for universities, and that we saved the climate for their future, because we decided to be courageous in the moment and make it happen,” she said.