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Op-Ed: Time for a Bottom-Up Congress and it Starts in Queens

Amanda Vender May 4

On Tuesday, June 26, I’m voting for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez against longtime incumbent Joe Crowley in the race for the 14th Congressional District in Queens and the Bronx. Here’s why.

Big changes are in store this 2018 election cycle, including a challenge to Queens Country Democratic Party Chair and Congressman Crowley. Crowley was hand-picked by the party for his elected positions over the last 30 years and hasn’t had a primary challenger in 14 years.

Career politicians like Crowley are bankrolled by Wall Street and real estate interests. No doubt this funding stream helped ensure Crowley’s votes in favor of the 2003 war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, the 2008 bank bailout, and the regime of test-and- punish in our public schools.

Crowley has not delivered on progressive legislation despite being in Congress for nearly 20 years, and having a solidly blue district. Why does it take a primary challenger to finally get Crowley to sign on to something as basic and needed in our community as Medicare for All? If he is not serving our district now, then when?

In April, Ocasio’s campaign collected 5,480 petition signatures through an all-volunteer effort to get her on the ballot. “I’m not running against Crowley from the left,” Ocasio told supporters at a fundraiser. “I’m running from the bottom.”

Ocasio pledges to take no corporate funding and to run a clean grassroots campaign. She’s banking on people being inspired by the campaign and willing to donate their time in a way people don’t for the Democratic Party machine. And with a platform that includes Medicare for All, ending the war on drugs, 100% renewable energy, tuition-free public college, and a simplified and welcoming path to citizenship, how can district voters not be inspired?

How will Ocasio deliver on this bold platform? By enlisting hundreds of volunteers, winning the primary, winning the general, and going on to speak as eloquently in Congress as on the campaign trail in support of her legislative agenda. And she won’t be alone. She’ll have many other newly elected progressive members of Congress, and the grassroots that elected her, to move policy forward.

A lot is at stake in 2018. It’s time to elect someone with a visionary platform who won’t sell out to corporations. Our district is over 70% people of color and 15% of people here live below the poverty line. It’s time for someone new who represents us. It’s time to stop being afraid of the party machine.

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Amanda Vender is a public schools advocate and high school teacher living in New York’s 14th congressional district.

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Photo: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Credit: ocasio2018/Instagram.