Beyond platitudes, Ocasio-Cortez

By Aleina Dume

Richmond Hill, NY

When I first heard about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic candidate for New York’s 14th Congressional District, I was excited. She has advocated for issues I care about, like abolishing the federal Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency, reforming the prison system, and providing tuition-free public college nationwide. Like me, Ocasio-Cortez is a Latina who grew up in New York City. She embodies the demographics of my community. She looks more like a neighbor than a politician. Although I live in the 5th district, many of my family members live in the 14th. I was excited my community could vote for one of our own. 

With all of the media coverage surrounding her campaign, I tried to get more information on the specifics of her platform. On her website, Ocasio-Cortez advocates for things like a “Peace Economy,” and a national free public college tuition system. These are interesting ideas, but her website is light on details for how to finance or carry out these plans. 

In her proposal for higher education reform, for example, she references a “national education system,” which does not exist. She cites the University of California system as an example, but the system has struggled to remain affordable for many of its low-income students. The example also belies a broader problem with her plan, which is that tuition costs at public colleges are controlled by the state. She makes no explanation for how she would nationalize the system, which may not even be possible.

Similarly, she plans to turn America into a “Peace Economy” by bringing home our troops from engagements in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. Though she is right to tap into America’s exhaustion with foreign wars, she does not lay out a plan for how to remove troops in a way that will maintain stability in the region.

A former community organizer and educator with real ties to her community, Ocasio-Cortez is qualified. But she is living in the world of ideas without providing specifics. It’s important that people feel demographically represented, however identity politics can only take a candidate so far. Their specific plans to address the issues on their platform is what should take them to Congress. 

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