Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez drew a huge crowd at South by Southwest as interest in the freshman lawmaker’s talk far surpassed any of the Democratic presidential candidates who took part in the annual festival. Ocasio-Cortez spoke in a huge ballroom that didn’t even manage to accommodate everyone who wanted to get a glimpse of the star lawmaker.
During her talk, Ocasio-Cortez came out strongly against moderates, expressing disbelief that it is often talked about as a desirable quality in politicians. “Moderate is not a stance. It’s just an attitude towards life of, like, ‘meh’,” she said as she shrugged her shoulders and the audience cheered. “We’ve become so cynical, that we view ‘meh,’ or ‘eh’—we view cynicism as an intellectually superior attitude, and we view ambition as youthful naivete when we think about the greatest things we have ever accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of visions,” she said. Ocasio-Cortez went on: “And the ‘meh’ is like worshipped now for what? Like, for what?” The audience cheered again.
In another part of the talk, Ocasio-Cortez was asked about machines replacing humans at work, and the lawmaker said the prospect should excite people, but bigger political forces make that impossible. “We should not be haunted by the specter of being automated out of work,” she said. “We should not feel nervous about the toll booth collector not having to collect tolls anymore. We should be excited by that. But the reason we’re not excited by it is because we live in a society where, if you don’t have a job, you are left to die.”
During the Q&A session, two young women wearing Girl Scouts of America vests who introduced themselves as part of Radical Monarchs of Austin, an organization designed to help young girls of color gain opportunities, asked Ocasio-Cortez for her advice on breaking into politics. “Stop trying to navigate systems of power and start building your own power,” she said. “There are so many subconscious forces that make us try to act like somebody else … but when you’re woman of color, there are so many things about you that is non-conforming,” she added.
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