Ocasio-Cortez's leadership during the pandemic shows another side of national politics
With her district being one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz has had to resort to another way of doing things when it comes to providing answers to her voters.
The coronavirus pandemic has become one of the most critical episodes in the recent history of the world, not only because of its terrible humanitarian cost but also because of its effectiveness in demonstrating the most profound failures in the systems of government.
While countries like New Zealand, Germany, and Denmark managed to control the curve of cases following the recommendations of the World Health Organization and coordinating with specialists in the field, the American situation has become the maximum exponent of political proselytism –on both sides.
But for the progressive left, the issue has been like a blow against the wall of reality.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortéz (AOC), for example, has been one of the most critical voices against the strategies put in place by Congress to alleviate the health and economic situation facing the country.
In arguing her opposition to the federal funding package to alleviate the effects of the pandemic, AOC has highlighted how economic inequality has been the death sentence for many in the country, especially in her district.
"Nearly 20,000 people in my district have tested positive for a deadly virus," Ocasio-Cortez said in a statement Friday. "Thousands of my constituents are without work. We built temporary field hospitals in public parks. This is what a disaster looks like. FEMA needs to begin immediately dispersing aid to individuals hurt by Covid-19."
For the young representative, it's no longer about political tribalism or keeping a party's base solid in the middle of a presidential campaign, but about meeting the first needs of citizens.
With more than 63,000 deaths and more than one million cases in the country, AOC introduced a bill in the House of Representatives that would allow the federal disaster relief agency to assist the pandemic.
"In an emergency, relief isn't just about getting resources, it's also about getting them out in time without unnecessary hurdles," the congresswoman said.
The proposal would allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist financially and logistically states like New York, whose Bronx district AOC represents, in dealing with the recovery process.
According to Common Dreams, the plan would require approval from the governor and eventually, the president. It would allow affected citizens to apply for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) and the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP).
Likewise, and amid her campaign for re-election, the representative announced a new fundraiser for workers on the front lines of the pandemic, which includes the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as economic support for undocumented families, and other populations at risk, according to the Bronx Times.
Given the frightening numbers of coronavirus infections and deaths in her district –especially among immigrant families and families of color– the congresswoman is not afraid to call a spade a spade:
"Ultimately, it's inequality that's the pre-existing condition," she said last Wednesday on The View. "You can't just go to someone and tell them, 'Hey. You should have had health care this whole time when you're working an hourly job, and your employer doesn't give it to you'."
Finally, she added that, unlike a natural disaster, a pandemic does not occur in a vacuum, and has a widespread impact on all communities, not just "one geographic pocket."
"When a pandemic like this hits or even any natural disaster like a hurricane, like what we saw in Hurricane Katrina or hurricane Maria, they don't happen in a vacuum," AOC said. "they happen when communities are disproportionately located on the front line. Here in New York City, about 55% of our front line workers, including grocery store workers, delivery workers, and more, are black and brown."
"It's tragic, but it is also no surprise that it's impacting the vulnerable the most," she concluded.