Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s livestream video in which she described how she feared for her life during the Capitol assault and revealed she is a survivor of sexual assault has reinforced why the US lawmaker is a leftist hero.
It also pointed to her status as a lightning rod for outrage among conservatives, whose insistence that Washington move on from the riots she likened to the denial tactics used by abusers.
“They’re trying to tell us to move on without any accountability, without any truth-telling, or without confronting the extreme damage, loss of life, trauma,” Ocasio-Cortez said in front of 150,000 people on Instagram Live.
“I’m a survivor of sexual assault and I haven’t told many people that in my life,” the 31-year-old told her followers.
“As a survivor, I struggle with the idea of being believed,” she added, without giving further details about the assault or when it took place.
Ocasio-Cortez, one of America’s most prominent progressive politicians and known widely as “AOC” — has harnessed the power of social media to galvanize young voters in the United States.
For just over an hour on Monday she detailed her experience of the January 6 storming of the US Capitol by pro-Tump supporters seeking to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden as president.
She described how she was forced to hide in a bathroom in her congressional office, fearful that the mob was going to kill her. Her account has now been watched more than three million times.
Ocasio-Cortez’s remarks drew widespread praise for bravery and honesty.
“She is an incredibly effective communicator on complex topics,” said Kelly Dittmar of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.
“She is very direct about her personal work in Congress and about her feelings.”
For Virginia Sapiro, a professor of political science at Boston University, the visceral and honest account will further endear Ocasio-Cortez to her loyal fans.
“I think people are sort of clutching their heart saying, ‘Oh my God, that must have been horrific,'” Sapiro told AFP.
Ocasio-Cortez’s account also highlights how she has become a target of the right since establishing herself as a leading light of the left of the Democratic Party in the two years she has been a congresswoman.
“AOC”, along with other left-wing female lawmakers dubbed “The Squad” — Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib — have been on the receiving end of numerous insults from former president Donald Trump and other Republicans.
Supporters say they are also victims of racism and sexism.
In July last year, Ocasio-Cortez, who was re-elected to her New York constituency in the Queens and the Bronx with 71 percent of votes, denounced a Republican representative who had called her “disgusting” and “a bitch.”
“As a democratic socialist, her support of policies like Medicare-for-all and a Green New Deal are anathema to conservative principles,” said Julia Payson, an assistant professor of politics at New York University.
“But she’s also young, a woman, and a person of color. She represents a threat to traditional white and patriarchal power structures.
“And she refuses to be quiet about either her policy positions or her identity, using both social and traditional media platforms to speak out about her experiences and her ideas,” Payson told AFP.
Ocasio-Cortez responded curtly on Twitter to Republican Senator Ted Cruz after he publicly sided with her criticism of stock market trading app Robinhood last week.
Cruz was among the conservative Senate Republicans who challenged the US presidential election results during proceedings that historically had been ceremonial.
“Happy to work with almost any other [Republicans] that aren’t trying to get me killed,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Fans of “AOC” hope that one day she can become leader of the House of Representatives, a prominent senator or even occupy the White House.
Moderates in the party fear she may be perceived to be too left-wing for middle of the road voters.
“I see somebody who is exciting and young. As she gains more political experience her abilities will grow, her political expertise will grow,” said Sapiro.
Payson thinks her political career will depend on “how much she is willing to put up with” in terms of vitriol from the right.
“I hope she chooses to keep fighting,” added the politics expert.