Perhaps Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime newcomer when she burst into the political arena in 2018. But what if she was just the first of a wave of young, diverse, progressive politicians committed to pushing the establishment aside to make lasting, positive change? Jamaal Bowman’s success suggests that AOC was actually the initiator in a new movement from the Old Guard of the Democratic party.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, often referred to by her initials AOC, is the youngest woman to ever serve in Congress. The former bartender beat 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley by a huge margin in the 2018 primaries. By the time she defeated Republican opponent Anthony Pappas in the general election, everyone knew her name. She’s known for her progressive policies, her social media savvy, and her friendship with other progressive female freshmen who are collectively known as “the squad.” A favorite target of the right, AOC is never one to back down from her bold vision of how this country can be better for all of its citizens.
Like AOC, Jamaal Bowman was a young, first-time candidate of color, running to the left of a longterm Democratic incumbent. And like AOC, he won victory in the primary by a wide margin, crushing 30-year incumbent Eliot Engel in New Yorks’s 16th congressional district. Both Bowman and Ocasio-Cortez were deeply connected to their communities with backgrounds and occupations people could relate to. As AOC did before him, Bowman criticized his opponent for being out of touch with the people he was supposed to represent. Like AOC, he is predicted to win the seat in the 2020 elections this fall.
While his opponent was backed by establishment New York Democrats like Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, and Andrew Cuomo, Jamaal Bowman received endorsements from Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren as well as AOC.
Bowman is a black man, a middle school principal who grew up poor in the Bronx. He has faced police violence. In some ways, the huge margin of his success may be explained by this particular moment in time. As Newsweek puts it, Bowman “made the case for his candidacy in recent weeks by tying it to the dual crises in America: the coronavirus pandemic, which is disproportionately killing blacks and Latinos, and police brutality.” Who better than a black man to not only understand institutionalized oppression and police violence but to be driven to root it out? Who better than a black man to challenge the public health inequities this virus has amplified?
The 2020 elections may be the most important elections of our lifetimes, made all the more important by the dual crises we face right now. Will Jamaal Bowman see the same degree of victory in the general election as AOC did? There’s no reason to think he won’t. “This is what the future looks like.” So says Brad Bauman, the former executive director of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. We certainly hope he’s right.
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