How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Made Congressional History

It's hard to believe that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most prominent and well-known politicians in the country, has only been in Washington, D.C., for less than three years.

Prior to running for Congress, Ocasio-Cortez was working as a bartender in New York City (via Time), but she'd always had a passion for politics and social justice. Ocasio-Cortez studied international relations and economics at Boston University and interned for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. She also served as an organizer for Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential bid.

In June 2018, Ocasio-Cortez made headlines after she defeated incumbent Joe Crowley, the fourth-ranking House democrat, in the primary (via CNBC). Her victory shocked many, as Crowley had held the seat for almost 20 years and was considering running for House Speaker if Nancy Pelosi lost.

In November 2018, Ocasio-Cortez easily defeated her Republican opponent and won more than 75% of the vote, making her the new representative for New York's 14th Congressional District (via Vox). At age 29, Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman elected to Congress.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made history the moment she was elected

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is known for her progressive policies and using social media to connect with her supporters. Less than two years into her first term she had already garnered more Twitter followers than any other member of the House, per CNN. Today, Ocasio-Cortez has nearly 13 million followers on Twitter and 8.7 million on Instagram.

As reported by Time, Ocasio-Cortez's campaign was largely supported by young volunteers who saw the opportunity to have a voice of their generation in Congress. "We were all children of the recession," Waleed Shahid of Justice Democrats, who volunteered for Ocasio-Cortez, told the outlet. "There's an overwhelming sense that the economic and political system in our country is rigged."

During the 2020 election cycle, when campaign events were limited due to COVID, Ocasio-Cortez used social media to host livestreams that appealed to young voters — a key demographic in electing Democrats (via The National Interest).

"Representative Ocasio-Cortez's social media savviness has definitely helped her reach a national audience and especially young voters," Kira Sanbonmatsu, professor of political science at Rutgers University and senior scholar at the Center for American Women and Politics, told The National Interest. "It reflects a shared, generational experience with social media."

Although many dismissed Ocasio-Cortez due to her age, she has clearly used it to her advantage, as well as to the benefit of the Democratic party. As Sanbonmatsu noted, young people are drawn to the history-making congresswoman because ​​her successful run was "an inspiration to young people in politics."