If the 129-second video clip of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez going off on conservatives who mocked the Green New Deal wasn’t enough to convince you she’s serious about doing something about climate control — her MSNBC town hall defense certainly would. On Friday afternoon, the freshman Democrat spoke at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine for an hour-long TV special with Chris Hayes, which aired hours at 8 p.m Eastern. She promised a Green New Deal — that’s frankly hard to refuse.
Ocasio-Cortez went from Republicans attacking her on Tuesday, including President Donald Trump who referred to the Green New Deal as “an extreme $100 trillion government takeover” and a crowd full of MAGAs at a Michigan rally shouting “AOC sucks” to a packed auditorium in the Bronx Friday afternoon filled with supporters cheering “AOC AOC AOC we got your back!”
Hayes opens it up by asking Ocasio-Cortez: “Why do you have the politics you have?”
“You know, for me, I think that my politics is just an emergence of my life experience and it’s a reflection of all our experiences here, not just in the Bronx, but as working people… But to grow up to a first generation New York family on my mom’s side and dad’s side who was born in the South Bronx, two working parents and to live the American Dream,” she says. “You know, my dad started a small business, my mom to clean houses to get me through school. And to also experience the other half of — of that was in 2008, where you do everything right and have it all taken away at the same time. And what happens in that cause? And to me, when all of the happened, it became very important that — in my framework, in my belief —that we not just have a wealthy society but that we have a moral society.”
In 2008, Ocasio-Cortez lost her father to lung cancer. Her mother was now a single mother struggling to care for her and her younger brother and on the brink of foreclosure. AOC had just recently graduated with a degree in economics and was waiting tables to help her family get by. Her circumstances and the circumstances of so many of her peers who had to take low-paying jobs straight out of college, drove her to want to do something about the system that had failed her and so many others.
Throughout the taping Ocasio-Cortez outlined her plans to improve the nation’s environmental issues in a clear and concise way, while stressing the urgency of the matter.
“So this issue is not just about our climate,” she says. “First and foremost, we need to save ourselves, period. There will be no future for the Bronx, there will be no liveable future for generations coming for any part of this country in a way that is better than the lot that we have today, if we don’t address this issue urgently and on the scale of the problem.”
She also touched on things not often highlighted in the climate change conversation. While Republicans argue that climate change and environmental issues are an elitist concern, AOC is quick to point out how climate change actually overlaps with some of the nation’s other major issues including social justice and economics.
“And I also was looking at our issues of social justice, social and racial justice, of which we are — which we have a nexus here in the Bronx. And what I started thinking about to myself was listen, we’re looking at all of these ideas, Medicare-for-All, a living wage, tuition-free public colleges, and universities, and there’s this false idea that we need to put them all in a line and say, do this or do that. Do you care about healthcare or do you care about the economy or jobs?” she asks. “And then I started to realize that these are not different problems, these are all part of the same problem. And this is — in the post, we’ve confronted this type of stagnation and the type of systemic threat as a country.”
While Republicans have tried to play down the importance of actually doing something regrading climate change, Ocasio-Cortez and everyone who supports the Green New Deal believes we can’t afford to not act right now. We can’t afford to lose any more time.
“We don’t have time for five years, for a half-baked, you know, watered-down compromised position when people are dying because their insulin is skyrocketing, because when people — you know, they’re sending their kids to schools that have lead in the water. It is — this is urgent. And to think that we have time is such a privileged and removed from reality attitude,” she says before being followed with applause by the audience.
First and for most, Ocasio-Cortez wants Americans to know that climate change is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed immediately and that needs to be much more than just a conversation at this point. She argues that the plan is actually both financially and politically feasible and that acting on climate change should be non-debatable. But despite what Republicans fear, AOC is not suggesting we change our entire structure and start from scratch. Again, there’s no time for that. But something has got to change and robust action is our only option.
“The entire United States government knew that climate change was real and human-caused in 1989 — the year I was born. So the initial response was to let markets handle it, they will do it,” she says. “Forty years of free-market solutions have not changed our position. So this does not mean that we change our entire structure of government, but what it means is we need to do something. Something!”
Hayes brought up the socialist labels Republicans have thrown at AOC and even at the deal. She rejected the idea and kept the focus on the issues.
“This is not a Tea Party of the left, this is a return to American representative democracy,” she says. “The big difference? The Koch brothers funded the tea party. Everyday people funded my campaign.”
She adds: “And the other thing is I get that in our political context in history of health care, in the history of labor rights, in the history of women’s rights. These are long struggles and into generation struggles and that is something important for us as young activists to learn as well. We are not the first. We will not be the last. We stand on the shoulder of giants, but climate change is different because we have an expiration date and the ITCC report says we’ve got 12 years to turn it around — 12 years. So my concern is that we are going to be the frog in the pot of boiling water and we are going to debate and debate and then when we actually finally pass something it is a wimpy carbon tax and our kids are doomed.”
The kind of passion Ocasio-Cortez lets out when talking about climate change or other issues that are deeply impacting the nation, would leave anyone convinced working in government is her life calling. But the 29-year-old doesn’t exactly have her heart set on bidding in a future presidential election. Her only mission is to serve people.
“I have always felt, and for a very long time have felt that my life’s calling is to serve people. I didn’t know that that was going to lead me to Congress. I didn’t know that — that this is where it would take me,” she says. “And so I can’t, and I won’t project into the future. How I feel is that I will at any given time, do the thing that I think can create the most good, and the most opportunity for good. And that could mean that I’m in office for two years and I just take huge political risks for the next two years and they kick me out of there because they realize I don’t belong here, you know? Or it could mean that I’m there longer, but for me, I think that it’s always about asking the questions of where and how can I do the most good? And where can I do the most good for my community and my country? And that’s really what guides my decision-making.”