“This kind of vacancy in the Court is earth-shattering in its significance,” this how New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, nicknamed AOC, opened her 40-minute speech filmed on her cell phone. Following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the historic Judge who served on the US Supreme Court for 27 years, AOC shared her condolences, but above all, she shared her call to mobilize, defining this moment in American history as a struggle against “an authoritarian regime.” AOC sees this moment of transition as the difference between having reproductive rights, or not; between the legality of gay marriage or its revocation; between giving our planet a future, or not.
Shortly before her death, historic pioneer of women’s rights and symbol of the struggle for equality, Ruth Bader Ginsburg dictated her last wish to her granddaughter: “My most fervent wish is not to be replaced until a new president has taken office.” That this was RBG’s last wish is emblematic of the current situation in America. Many have felt defeated, many are worried. They fear that Trump will soon be able to nominate and appoint a conservative Judge, which could result in the revocation of various human rights, from legal marriage for LGBTQ people to women’s inability to buy birth control.
That’s why AOC showed up. “I came here tonight to tell you that now is not the time for despair. This is no time for cynicism. This is not the time to give up,” said Alexandria. The Congresswoman’s appeal is divided into several sections, in which she explains to young people how they must react with determination and productivity to a situation that seems almost “hopeless.” But she speaks from experience.
“You want to talk about hopelessness? When I won my first primary, two weeks before my win, the polls showed me 25-30 points behind my opponent. And we won,” AOC said. And she also explained how her victory was possible despite the polls anticipating a defeat. “And let me tell you why the polls showed those numbers: because they only polled those ‘likely to vote’, which means they automatically assumed that young people would not vote.” That is how AOC explains her surprising victory. For the first time in history, the number of people under 35 who voted was equal to that over 60. And it was the young people who made the difference.
That is why AOC is begging young people to get involved. In a country where historically only 40% of the eligible population actually votes, every vote counts, every effort counts. “You have to vote. In this election, voting for Joe Biden does not mean that you agree with him, but it is a vote to make our democracy live for another day. That’s just what it is.”
The AOC speech has as its protagonist the individual citizen, who not only has the power, but above all the responsibility, to change the current situation. In all its oratory power, in the video AOC repeatedly states not only that the future of American democracy is at stake, but also the rights of the most vulnerable. “We need to act in solidarity and protection for the most vulnerable people in our society. We need to stand up and fight for them,” AOC said. “No candidate is the answer; no president is the answer; you are the answer; mass movement is the answer. I need you. We need you. “
As the youngest woman in American history to be elected to the United States Congress, AOC has always had a strong appeal for the younger population. Well versed on social media, from Instagram to Twitter, the Congresswoman has always communicated directly and honestly with her followers. But she has also never sugarcoated anything. In fact, she urged her followers to “do more and be even better.” She herself is tired too: “But that’s how authoritarianism works,” AOC warns. “It aims to wear you out until you give up. And right now, what we have to do is never give up.”
However, AOC did not only deliver encouraging words, but also provided helpful advice for those who want to do more. Among the things suggested? Make sure you are registered to vote; be more involved in your community, and try to join organizations that share your ideals; compile a list of 5 acquaintances with whom you can have honest conversations, people who maybe don’t vote, or don’t know what to vote for. “The beautiful thing about politics,” AOC says, “is that most of it is relational.” And so she urges Biden’s followers to be part of the fight, which she defines as “a struggle for survival.”
AOC then spoke about the administrative situation that will follow RGB’s death: it could in fact give President Donald Trump the opportunity to appoint a new judge and the Republicans have already made it clear, through Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, that they are ready to nominate and approve a judge even during the last days of an administration that could lose the election. AOC recalled McConnell’s words in 2016, when he warned then President Barack Obama not to appoint a judge during his last year in office, citing as a reason that “the American people must have a say in this regard.”
“In 2016, Mitch McConnell prevented Obama from nominating a Supreme Court candidate in his last year,” AOC says. “Do you think he cares about that now? No, he doesn’t care now.” While there is nothing in the US Constitution that does not allow the Senate to fill a vacancy in the court at any point, it was McConnell himself who cited a president’s last year in office as reason enough to wait for an election.
Instead, in a press conference last Friday, the Republican senator said: “The American people re-elected our majority in 2016 and expanded it in 2018 because we are committed to working with President Trump and supporting his agenda, especially his nominations for the federal judiciary. Once again, we will keep our promise. President Trump’s candidate will be put to the vote in the United States Senate. ” Although some Republican Senators have publicly opposed this measure, there is still fear that Trump will be able to appoint as many as 3 out of 9 of the members of the Supreme Court. But AOC doesn’t give up: “If Mitch McConnell doesn’t intend to honor RBG’s final wish,” says AOC. “We will.”
And, in the last part of her speech, AOC very honestly expressed how scared she is, but also reminded viewers that fear can become fuel. “Cynicism is not only unproductive, it is actively harmful to democracy. So let this moment radicalize you. Because this election has always been a struggle of, and for, our lives,” recalls AOC. “We have an authoritarian president. He has no regard for the dignity of human life, for the law, for justice, for anything, unless it personally benefits him.”
So how can we be brave? By taking this fear and anger, and turning it into something positive: “People often ask me: where do you get the courage to do things from?”, AOC said. “And I’m always surprised by this question. Because to me it’s not courage, it’s fear. I’m always scared too. So take your fear and turn it into fuel.”
Her final appeal? The struggle is far from nearing the end. There’s no going back to brunch, says AOC. Even if Democrats win in November, the presidential elections are only “the tip of the iceberg.” AOC then tells her followers to “arm yourselves, because we have a lot of rebuilding to do.”