Who Is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Like in American History? Historians Weigh InHistorians in the News
tags: historians, political history, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
With her unapologetic progressivism and remarkable social-media savvy, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has captured the national spotlight — and already helped shape the image of her party — to an extent unheard of in recent history for a rank-and-file Democrat, much less a 29-year-old. To draw a more appropriate parallel to past trailblazers, it’s useful to go farther back. Last week, the historian Rick Perlstein compared Ocasio-Cortez — or at least her tactics — to none other than Newt Gingrich. We asked three more experts a simple question: Who does Ocasio-Cortez remind you of most strongly in American political history?
Kevin Kruse, Professor of History, Princeton
I think she has a lot of echoes of Shirley Chisholm. Chisholm was in her 40s when she got elected — older than Ocasio-Cortez, which was more usual for that period. But they do come from similar places. Chisholm was from Brooklyn, and Ocasio-Cortez the Bronx. They represent some of the same kinds of communities.
The thing that really stands out is the attitude. In 1968, Chisholm was the first African-American woman ever elected to Congress, and really came in guns blazing. She took a committee assignment that wasn’t her dream: agriculture, which is a weird spot for a woman who represents Brooklyn. But she used it to help boost the food-stamp program, reaching across the aisle to work with Bob Dole, and that benefited a lot of people in a working-class district.
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