Opinion: Don’t take progressive politicians at their word

Progressive politicians such as AOC and Jamaal Bowman have repeatedly abandoned their stated ideologies. It’s time we question if they truly champion the change we are looking for.

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Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez changed her vote on the development of the Iron Dome missile defense system in Israel from “no” to “present.” Ocasio-Cortez is not the only progressive politician who abandoned their campaign ideologies. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

By Srishti Bungle, Deputy Opinion Editor

In the last few years, the United States has seen a marked rise of progressive politicians like U.S. Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Ilhan Omar and — most famously — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. With their rise, many ideologically progressive citizens continue to idolize their political actions and legacies. However, recent events have brought into question just how dedicated these politicians are to the values they claim to uphold. 

Following a disastrous attempt at making a statement at the Met Gala, Ocasio-Cortez voted “present” — taking no official position — on a bill providing an extra $1 billion in U.S. aid to Israel and its Iron Dome missile defense system. Moments after casting her vote, Ocasio-Cortez broke down crying. In the past, she has made her distaste for Israel clear, even describing it as an apartheid state because of its systemic violence against Palestinians. 

“The rush of this vote into a matter of hours was threatening to tear our community apart, and permanently close the doors that we desperately need open in order to progress,” Ocasio-Cortez later wrote in a statement. “It certainly wasn’t the first time people’s wellbeing was tossed aside for political convenience, and sadly I do not believe it will be the last.”

Amid accusations of antisemitism due to her opposition to increased U.S. aid to Israel, many have suggested that Ocasio-Cortez was shifting rightward in preparation for a Senate campaign — including the Jewish Zionist organization StopAntisemitism.org.

“The ONLY reason AOC changed her vote from “NO” to “PRESENT” on today’s #IronDome bill is because she wants to take on @SenSchumer next year,” the organization tweeted.

Bowman, who is endorsed by the pro-Palestine leftist organization Democratic Socialists of America, voted yes on the bill to provide additional funding to Israel. Bowman’s election in 2020 had marked a victory against the Israel lobby by defeating incumbent Democrat Eliot Engel, an Israel-aligned centrist. Bowman has previously tweeted his support for the Palestinian people and called for an end to the occupation of Palestinian land, but his support of this bill indicates no real commitment to Palestinians and their fight against oppression. Ilhan Omar, who has notably met significant controversy for her anti-Israel sentiments, also surprised with her yes vote. 

The inability of these progressives to stand their moral ground underscores a more sinister truth: at the end of the day, all politicians really care about are elections.

This hypocrisy is evident among many other Democratic politicians today. The promises they make to progressive constituents are ultimately broken for respectability, electability and political expediency.

Early in his presidency, President Joe Biden abandoned his promises of a more humane and just immigration system by continuing to operate Trump-era detention facilities. Vice President Kamala Harris made a show of her commitment to criminal justice reform during her presidential campaign, brushing aside her controversial past of upholding California’s racist criminal justice system during her tenure as the state’s attorney general. Even former President Barack Obama committed to ending the Iraq War in 2008 only to implementing destructive right-wing international policies in attempts to do so.

Now, as marginalized people of this nation hunger for meaningful and lasting change, we must ask if we can expect it to come from these politicians. For the better part of the 21st century, our voices have been smothered by the very politicians that swore to represent us. Presidential candidates and local representatives alike have promised brighter futures, only to prioritize reelection over moral and ideological integrity.

Ocasio-Cortez may play up her distress about supporting the bill or supporting political convenience over human wellbeing, but she won’t admit that was the one in control of that vote. She was the one tossing aside oppressed peoples she once championed.

Our demands as citizens of the United States and the world have been ignored to further corporate political and economic agendas that benefit no one but the ruling class. It is a shame that this devastation is largely realized through betrayal by those we trusted to make a change.

Contact Srishti Bungle at [email protected]