New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez visited Austin on Sunday to drum up support for congressional candidate Greg Casar and encourage Texans to organize to prevent fascism.
“There is too much at stake for us to resigned this November,” Ocasio-Cortez told a packed crowd at the Mohawk bar in downtown Austin. “We will not just lay back and allow fascism to roll out in the United States of America. We will not accept that as a foregone conclusion.”
Ocasio-Cortez said a corporate takeover of politics was contributing to that end, and that a progressive, labor-focused movement that elected people who gave a damn was needed.
“That’s how we combat fascism, with a multiracial democracy that centers economic dignity, that is our future folks,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Former Austin City Councilman Greg Casar, who is campaigning in Texas’ 35th Congressional District, spoke first at the rally and promised to continue his organizing efforts until democracy could deliver for Texans.
“We are facing real opposition: corporate interests, greed, a Republican Party that wants to end Democracy as we know it,” Casar said. “But our coalition is bolder, and kinder, and bigger. Look at all of us here.”
“It is our spirit that’s gonna win us Medicare for All, and comprehensive immgiration reform, and a Green New Deal, and a cancellation of all student debt, and free public college, and closing all private prisons,” Casar said to cheers.
Speaking to his time organizing with the labor group Workers Defense and his first campaign for Austin City Council when he was 24-years old, Casar said he and fellow organizers learned that their biggest opponent was not other candidates, but people’s lack of faith in democracy and belief that the empty promises of politicians would never be fulfilled.
“I can’t blame people for that, how could we when there isn’t a major American city in this country where the minimum wage covers the average rent,” Casar said.
“Why would people vote if we’re not delivering for them?” he said, later deriding Ted Cruz’ escape to Cancún during Winter Storm Uri and attacks by the Republiclan state legislature on transgender children and abortion rights.
“They want us to feel powerless, like there’s nothing we can change, but they’re wrong,” Casar said.
The rally comes a day after another major rally in San Antonio where Casar, Ocasio-Cortez and congressional candidate Jessica Cisneros gathered to get out the progressive vote in Texas — the state where the New York congresswoman said she first became an organizer.
“I started my entire organizing life here in the state of Texas,” Ocasio-Cortez said during the Sunday rally. “I was about 14 or 15 years old, it was grassroots organizers in Texas that first engaged with me.”
“It was when I first started coming out here as a teenager and in my early twenties that really led me to believe, even back then, that the seat of change in this country is going to come from the state of Texas,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Referencing a recent unionization effort of a San Antonio Starbucks as well as an ongoing strike by the San Antonio Symphony, Ocasio-Cortez said elected officials needed to make their organizing easier and expand on it. “That’s why we need to send Greg Casar to Congress,” she said.
Ocasio-Cortez also spoke about the importance of fighting for both social and economic issues.
“We see that sometimes folks say it’s either race or class, or we’re talking too much about identity issues etc.,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “There’s this insinuation that we have to ignore one in order to advance the other. But we know that’s not true. We know that race and racism, and misogyny and anti-queer violence, it doesn’t show up just at that, right? The outcomes of that show up in our pocket, it shows up in the air that we breathe, it shows up in the quality of our housing, it shows up in our ability to organize a union.”
“And when we wanna fight for elevated wages and universal healthcare and Medicare for All — the cost of racism is a lack of healthcare, the cost of discrimination is in our awful wages,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
The congresswoman concluded by encouraging people to become first-time organizers that phone bank and knock on doors.
“It may not be easy, but that is a skill that you will never unlearn,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “That is a door that will never be un-knocked. That is a person that when their neighbor talks to them and asks them how they’re doing, they will never unfeel what it feels to have someone give a damn about them. That is transformative.”
“Just get out there and care,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “And when we do that, we will win.”
Early voting for Texas primary elections begins on Monday, Feb. 14. Primary Election Day is March 1.
AOC photo: Matt Johnson / Wikimedia Commons
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org