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Ocasio-Cortez: 'I Understand Disaffected Voters Because I Once Was One'

Democratic congresswoman from New York issues powerful warning against nullifying voters clamoring for transformative change.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) holds hands with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) during his speech at a campaign rally in Queensbridge Park on October 19, 2019.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) holds hands with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) during his speech at a campaign rally in Queensbridge Park on October 19, 2019. (Photo: Kena Betancur/Getty Images)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Monday said on Twitter that she understands the feelings of disaffected voters, having been one herself, and urged voters in the 2020 Democratic primary to back the campaign promising "progressive, mass-movement politics that expands the electorate and fights for working-class and marginalized people."

"Turning back the clock may sound appealing to some, but we must recognize how we got here in the first place," Ocasio-Cortez added.

"I understand disaffected voters because I once was one," said Ocasio-Cortez.

Ocasio-Cortez's comments seemed to be a reference to the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The freshman Democratic Congresswoman in New York endorsed Sanders for president in October. 

The Sanders campaign has emphasized its goal of bringing non-voters into the democratic process and focused on a message aimed at the working class, calling for a major change in how the economy and U.S. society are run. 

Supporters of the Congresswoman like RAICES chief advocacy officer Erika Andiola concurred with Ocasio-Cortez's assessment of that disaffection. 

"I understand disaffected voters, even though I can't vote," said Andiola. 

The material reality of her life in her pre-Congress days was diametrically opposed to how Ocasio-Cortez remembers television personalities explaining the economy when she was in her 20s, she said.

"As a waitress, I'd watch pundits on TV talk about how we didn't need to improve the ACA much when almost no one I knew could afford insurance," Ocasio-Cortez said. "Or they'd talk about how great the economy was when everyone I knew struggled."

"And while folks on TV went on about how we don't need substantive change in America because things 'aren’t that bad,' I couldn't help but feel lied to," the Congresswoman continued. "Mountains of student debt. Friends working multiple jobs just to afford rent. Not one person I worked with had insurance."

That lived experience has stayed with her, Ocasio-Cortez said, and makes her advocate for a different path.

"There will always be people who make the case against transformative change," she said. "But today our generation's prospects are worse off than our parents'. Today people are dying because they can't afford insulin. Today the for-profit caging of people is normal."

"I, for one, choose change," said Ocasio-Cortez.

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