U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, who required two overflow rooms for her appearance at South by Southwest Saturday, is, at, 29, the youngest woman ever to serve in Congress. If she were not, and if she were to be the constitutionally requisite age of 35 by the time the next president is sworn in, this women who is already known by her initials — AOC — would undoubtedly be the source of considerable excitement as a potential candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.
And if she were, her appearance in Austin this weekend might have marked the moment when she found her running mate — Bill Nye the Science Guy.
As Briahna Gray, senior politics editor with The Intercept, said that there was time for one last question before she drew the session, which was running over its hour allotment, to a close, there were whoops of excitement, including from Ocasio-Cortez herself, as the recognizable bow-tied figure of America’s most famous science educator came to the mic.
“Oh my God,” said Ocasio-Cortez, standing and applauding,
“Wow, greetings every one,” Nye said. “Here is what I think is going on.”
“As you know, I’m a white guy. I belong to two unions,” said Nye. “But I think the problem from both sides is fear.”
“People of my ancestry are afraid of having to pay for everything as immigrants come into this country,” Nye said.
“So do you have a plan to work with people in Congress who are afraid?” Nye asked. “I think that’s what’s happening with many of the conservatives, especially when it comes to climate change.”
And, Nye added, “Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution refers to the `progress of science and useful arts.′ So when we address climate change, we are going to have clean water, access to the internet and renewable electricity for everyone. Let’s go!”
Ocasio-Cortez applauded, briefly chanted, “Bill, Bill, Bill ... this is amazing,” and proceeded to respond.
“Dismantling fear is dismantling a zero sum mentality,” said Ocasio-Cortez, who said that means the “rejection outright of the logic that says that someone else’s gain necessitates my loss and that my gain must come at the cost of another person.”
“We are increasing our capacities for productivity so we can give without a take,” said Ocasio-Cortez, a democratic socialist who believes it is time to rethink “this idea of how you are going to pay for it, this idea that there is a person that pays for it, reviewing progress as a cost instead of as an investment. The difference between a cost and an investment is that an investment yields returns.”
Ocasio-Cortez, whose district includes parts of the Bronx and Queens, captured the popular imagination when she, seemingly out of nowhere, upended U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley, a Queens Democrat who was thought to be a potential future speaker of the House, in the 2018 Democratic primary. She hasn’t had a quiet moment since, becoming a leading progressive voice, an architect of the Green New Deal, a source of concern for more moderate Democrats and a favorite target of Republicans and conservative media, who, whatever else, pay a lot of attention to her.
Ocasio-Cortez said that it is up to people like her audience to hold public officials accountable, not just during election season, because otherwise, they can pass off their opposition to parts of the climate change agenda by saying they are hewing to the views of their constituents, when, she said, they are actually responding to the views of their top donors.
That will change, she said, “when we raucously participate in government in the off-season in our own self governance.”
“We’ve got to call our congressman as much as we call our local Chinese spot for takeout,” she said.
And, she said, “Courage is self-propagating. Courage begets courage.”
“The first person who stands up has to encounter the most amount of fear and discomfort,” said Ocasio-Cortez. “But once that one person stands up, it becomes immensely easier for the second and the third and the fourth until it doesn’t take any courage to stand up for something.”