Ocasio-Cortez does not. She depicts American history less as an arc of progress than as a circle, in which America repeats—rather than rises above—its past. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE’s) treatment of people of color, she told The Intercept, continues an American tradition: “The very first immigration policy law passed in the United States was the Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1800s, and so the very bedrock of U.S. immigration policy, the very beginning of it was a policy based on racial exclusion.” She told New York magazine that, “child separation is a barbaric new iteration of what is going on, but for a very long time.”

Some of this difference can be explained by context. It’s easier to stress the continuities between America’s racist past and present when you’re running for Congress in a bright blue, fifty percent Latino district, than when you’re running for president. But Ocasio-Cortez isn’t unique. Democrats who likely are running for president have begun speaking about America in harsher ways too. In 2015, Bernie Sanders called America “a nation in which [in] many ways was created … on racist principles.” This February, Elizabeth Warren told the National Congress of American Indians that, “For generations — Congress after Congress, president after president — the government robbed you of your land, suppressed your languages, put your children in boarding schools and gave your babies away for adoption.” And she explicitly linked that past to the present, declaring that, “The kind of violence President [Andrew] Jackson and his allies perpetrated [against Native Americans] isn’t just an ugly chapter in a history book. Violence remains part of life today.”