Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) recalled feeling “open hostility” from her Democratic colleagues during her first term in Congress in a GQ feature published on Wednesday.
Asked if she feels politically powerful, the progressive “Squad” member said: “There’s the political power of public opinion. There’s the political power of social movements. There’s a political power of platform, and in those ways I feel powerful. But since I got here, literally day one, even before day one, I’ve experienced a lot of targeting diminishment from my party.”
She added: “And the pervasiveness of that diminishment, it was all-encompassing at times. I feel a little more steady on my own two feet now. But would I say that I have the power to shift the elected federal Democratic Party? No.”
The progressive social-media darling said her Democratic colleagues were spiteful during her early days in Congress: “It was open hostility, open hostility to my presence, my existence.”
Ocasio-Cortez, then a bartending political newcomer, was elected after defeating Representative Joe Crowley, who held his seat for 20 years, in the 2018 Democratic primary.
She recalled attending new member orientation, where Crowley was present as the chair of the Democratic caucus.
As the newly elected representatives were introduced “it would just be like these huge claps and whatnot. And then it came to me. And it was very clear that the reception was not the same, just a smattering of applause,” she said.
She told GQ that an older male member of Congress sat next to her while Crowley was speaking at the orientation and said “It’s a real shame that that girl won.”
“I turned and I said, ‘You know that’s me, right?’ ” she told the magazine. “And obviously, his face turns pale.”
She said her colleagues “treated me like a one-term member of Congress, and they worked to make me a one-term member of Congress.”
“There was a very concerted effort from the Democratic side to unseat me,” Ocasio-Cortez added, saying she finally felt more acceptance after winning her second primary election. She said “…it felt like after that election was the first time that more broadly the party started treating me like a member of Congress and not an accident.”
However, she said her oft-reported feud with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in her first-term was overblown and chalked it up to the media’s obsession with pitting successful women against each other.
She said she and Pelosi have a professional relationship, adding, “I wouldn’t say it’s personal.”
Yet Ocasio-Cortez said that, in general, her “everyday lived experience [in Congress] is as a person who is despised.”
“Imagine working a job and your bosses don’t like you and folks on your team are suspicious of you. And then the competing company is trying to kill you,” she said.
The article details several clashes Ocasio-Cortez has had with colleagues in recent years, including in July 2020 when then-Representative Ted Yoho (R., Fla.) allegedly called her “disgusting” in passing on the Capitol steps and later called her a “f***ing b****.” Yoho denied ever using “offensive name-calling words” but apologized.
The House of Representatives voted last November to censure Representative Paul Gosar (R., Ariz.) and remove him from his committee assignments after he posted a violent animation of him killing Ocasio-Cortez.
Asked if she believes she or someone like her could ever lead the U.S., Ocasio-Cortez said, “realistically, I can’t even tell you if I’m going to be alive in September.”
She explained that little girls will tell her they want her to be president and it is “very difficult for me to talk about because it provokes a lot of inner conflict in that I never want to tell a little girl what she can’t do. And I don’t want to tell young people what is not possible. I’ve never been in the business of doing that. But at the same time…”
She then grew quiet and tearful, according to GQ, and said that while she has the “relentless belief that anything is possible” her experience in Congress has given her a “front-row seat to how deeply and unconsciously, as well as consciously, so many people in this country hate women. And they hate women of color.”
She continued: “People ask me questions about the future. And realistically, I can’t even tell you if I’m going to be alive in September. And that weighs very heavily on me. And it’s not just the right wing. Misogyny transcends political ideology: left, right, center.”
The article explains that the congresswoman, who is described as the “right wing’s night terror in the flesh,” used to commute to her congressional office on foot for her first two years in Washington, D.C., though she “felt forced to change” her routine after the January 6 Capitol riot as a “necessary safety precaution.” Now, she drives the few blocks from her apartment most days.
The article concludes by suggesting that if Ocasio-Cortez were to be elected president, she would “face a system—from the Senate to the Supreme Court—both empowered and inclined to thwart her most sweeping ambitions.”
“There are still plenty of limitations,” she said. “It’s tough, it’s really tough.”