In an interview with the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, Ocasio-Cortez said too many candidates who say, “vote for me, I am this intersection of different identities” end up being “Trojan horses” who are financed by special-interest groups and don’t end up advancing the causes of the communities they represent. She said her identities—as a Latina, as a middle-class American, as a former restaurant worker—are most useful as “lenses” that help her understand and communicate with the neighbors she is highly likely to represent in Congress come 2019.
In other words, she’s saying, demographic representation in Congress doesn’t mean much if those representatives abandon the concerns of their demographics. Before the election, Remezcla got the then-candidate on camera making a distinction between someone saying “Vote for me, I’m Latina” and saying “Latinas deserve representation and a seat at the table.” In the video, Ocasio-Cortez makes the case that her identity and background are more than a few lines in her biography that attract voters who show up for their own. They’re lived experiences—epistemological frameworks, almost—that can’t easily be learned by outsiders. A transgender person, or someone with close transgender friends or lovers, is less likely to see fights over pronouns as fun intellectual debates. A woman who has had to consider what it means to relinquish control over her own reproductive organs is more likely to approach abortion rights with the life-or-death solemnity they deserve. A person who has worked alongside undocumented Americans in the restaurant and bar industries, as Ocasio-Cortez has, will have a deeper, more personal perspective on the family detentions happening at the border.