Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) took to Instagram Live on January 12 for more than an hour, spending the bulk of the time sharing limited information about her experiences during the January 6 fascist insurrection in the U.S. Capitol and blasting Republicans for their opportunistic cowardice in handling President Donald Trump.
For roughly 40 minutes, the second-term congresswoman known to many as AOC discussed what she called a “violent and traumatizing week” since last Wednesday’s attack. Here’s what she had to say.
On the threat Congress faced
Ocasio-Cortez did not mince words as she laid the blame for the Capitol attack at the feet of the Republican president and his support from within the GOP’s congressional ranks.
“The president — frankly, assisted by members of Congress — incited an attack on the United States Capitol,” she told viewers. “This is known as an act of insurrection, an act of sedition. And, frankly, he is a traitor to our country.”
“If you’re Senator Ted Cruz or Senator Josh Hawley or, frankly, if you’re many members of Congress, you cast that vote not out of genuine belief, but you cast it out of political ambition,” AOC said of the Republicans who levied challenges against certified Electoral College results. “They incited an attack on the capitol.”
“Many, many, many members of Congress were almost murdered,” she said. “Many congressional staffers were almost killed.”
“As for myself, I had a pretty traumatizing event happen to me, and I do not know if I can even disclose the full details of that event due to security concerns,” she shared. “But I can tell you that I had a very close encounter where I thought I was going to die.”
“It is not an exaggeration to say that many, many members of the House were nearly assassinated. It’s just not an exaggeration to say that at all,” she said later in the stream. “We were very lucky that things happened within certain minutes that allowed members to escape the House floor unharmed. But many of us nearly and narrowly escaped death.”
On dealing with trauma
AOC said that she experienced fear that she would not live through Wednesday — both “in a general sense, but also in a very, very specific sense” — and reflected on the profoundly traumatizing experience.
“I think it’s an opportunity for a lot of us to talk about trauma as well,” she said. “I think what’s really important is whenever any person has an encounter where they think they’re going to die and they go through that process, that is a traumatizing event and you don’t have to — things don’t have to get that far for things to be traumatizing.”
Ocasio-Cortez looked beyond herself, recognizing that the events of this week didn’t have to put someone in direct danger in the Capitol themselves to trigger trauma responses.
“You could’ve just seen it on TV. You could’ve just heard about it,” she said. “But if you at all feel unsettled in a deep way, that your intuition is kind of telling you something’s not right, go check in with somebody. There’s no problem with that. There’s no shame in that. It’s health care. Mental health care is health care, which is why — by the way — why we fight for mental health care to be included in health-care provisions and bills like ‘Medicare for all.’”
On betrayal in the Capitol
Ocasio-Cortez lauded police officers, especially officers of color, who defended Congress. But she also called out what she called “acts of betrayal” that put people at risk.
“To run in the Capitol, in our nation’s capitol, and not know if an officer is there to help you or to harm you is also quite traumatizing,” she said before turning to discuss the threat some Republicans posed to their colleagues. That came as Representative Ayanna Pressley’s (D-MA) chief of staff told the Boston Globe her office’s panic buttons were removed ahead of the attack.
“There’s a secure extraction point and a secure room that you may have heard a lot of people, members, give interviews from,” she continued. “Republican members of Congress didn’t wear masks. They refused to wear masks in that enclosed, secure location, and now we are on — just in the last 24-48 hours — our third Democratic member of Congress who just tested positive for COVID.”
“I myself did not even feel safe going to that extraction point because there were QAnon and white supremacist sympathizers — and, frankly, white supremacist members of Congress — in that extraction point, who I know and who I have felt would disclose my location and allow me to — who would create opportunities to allow me to be hurt, kidnapped, et cetera,” she said. “And so I didn’t even feel safe around other members of Congress. And to be kind of fending for yourself in that way is traumatizing.”
On GOP cowardice and white supremacy
Ocasio-Cortez reiterated calls for Trump’s removal from office, specifically mentioning the 25th Amendment (which would let his own cabinet remove him) and the impeachment process (which the House is expected to vote on Wednesday).
“We know that Donald Trump cannot be president,” she said. “We know that we cannot wait until January 19, we cannot wait until January 20, we cannot wait until Inauguration Day. He cannot be president right now. He should’ve not been president yesterday, he should not have been president the night of the attack.
“Because Republicans and the people around him are cowards, they will not do it,” she said. Then, she went in on cabinet members like Elaine Chao and Betsy DeVos for resigning since last Wednesday.
“I have a message for anyone who is resigning after Wednesday: Too late. Too late!” she said. “You’re not gonna resign after Wednesday and act like you weren’t a part of it. Were you secretary on Wednesday? Yes, you were? You were a part of it. Were you secretary every single step leading up to Wednesday? Yes? Then you were a part of it. You don’t get to allow for an attack that kills five people and then afterwards, you say, ‘I wasn’t a part of it.’ Yes! You were!”
“They think that resigning is going to clean that blood off their hands. It is always on them,” she said. “They are forever stained with the deaths of five people, especially when they did not invoke the 25th Amendment to remove this president when they had the power to do so. Cowards. Cowards. Couldn’t even stand up in the memory of these officers that they pretend to care, that they pretend to care about. I don’t want to hear or see the Republican Party talk about ‘blue lives’ ever again. This was never about safety for them. It was always a slogan.”
“They don’t give a damn about the law. They don’t give a damn about order. They don’t give a damn about safety,” she said. “They give a damn about white supremacy. They care about preserving the social order and the mythology of whiteness.”
“They lust for power more than they care about democracy,” she said. “That’s what those people did when they voted to overturn the results of our free and fair elections — and you can barely call them that with the amount of voter suppression that they have engaged in across the country. It is generous, to say the least, to call them that.”
“With all of the rules rigged in their favor — the Electoral College is built on a compromise with slavers — the Senate is rigged in their favor — gerrymandered districts are rigged in the Republicans’ favor. […] All of it rigged in their favor and they can’t even win with the whole deck stacked with them,” she said. “So what they were willing to do is set a match and watch our entire democracy catch on fire, so that they can uphold the social order of white supremacy.”
“Their lust for power has driven them away from loyalty to democracy, so it’s not just Trump that has to go,” she said.
On the future of U.S. democracy and the long-term threat of white supremacy
Granting that our democracy is only free and fair in the most generous assessments, Ocasio-Cortez shared what she thinks the future of the country must look like.
“The only way forward is a multi-racial democracy that fights for the economic rights of all people and the civil rights of all people. Period,” she said. “And they would rather see our country burn than to see them be shoulder-to-shoulder, equal to others. That is the tragedy of white supremacy. The tragedy of white supremacy is that it is doomed to fail. White supremacists will never, ever, ever live in a world where they will see their fantasies come true — ever! Which is why they rely on violence.”
“Every other way is democratic and cooperative, where we all must share our genius with one another, where our society is not built on supremacy or on a politics of domination of one another,” she continued. “And they can’t live in that world. They can’t live in a world without supremacy, without domination. They can’t live in a world where they can just coexist.”
“What is the result of that? Nothing. It’s nihilism,” she said. “It’s just destruction. And then what claim will you have? That you rule over a destroyed society? That the ashes belong to you? Never. Never.”
On short-term politics, Ted Cruz, and Josh Hawley
AOC offered pointed critiques of the moves by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO), two of the congressional ringleaders behind the effort to object to the election results, telling them they do not belong in the Senate or in “any democratically elected seat when you do not believe that that election was even legitimate, according to your own self-serving claims.”
“Get out,” she told the GOP senators. “If they had any shred of integrity, any shred of integrity about their claims — their lies, really — but their claims, they would take off their pin, and turn it in. But this isn’t about the truth to them. This is about if they want to be president in 2024.
“Let me give you a sneak peek,” she continued. “You will never be president. You will never command the respect of this country. Ever. Ever. And you should resign. So should every member of Congress that voted to overturn the results of our election because they would rather cling to power than respect our democracy. That is putting the short term above the long term.
“So many of our problems — so many of our global problems, our societal problems — are all the way down, comes down to that, it comes down to that,” she said of short- and long-term politics. “It comes down to putting the short-term gain and prioritizing small, short-term gains and allowing them — just grabbing at them at the expense of long-term structural losses. That’s everything, where we prioritize this quarter’s profits over long-term economic wellbeing for all people.”
She said the same was true of climate change (burning fossil fuels while “causing long-term destruction of our planet”), the media (where “conflict-driven news cycles […] get elevated every day” and produce “short-term nonsense in our headlines”), and in U.S. democracy.
“If they cared, they would’ve done and acted with integrity. But they didn’t,” she said. “They care about themselves. They care about their elections. They care about their next gig. They care about their money, their power, their fame, and this is how democracy can burn. It is fragile. We must cherish it. And they didn’t. And they don’t. So they need to leave.”
On what’s next
In addition for calling for Trump, Cruz, and Hawley to leave office, Ocasio-Cortez said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Representative Steve Scalise (R-LA) should go, too, “along with anybody who sided with these confederate traitors.” But that is ultimately the tip of a vast and highly radicalized iceberg.
“What we have to do right now — I need folks to understand that all of us have to strap in,” she said. “Because the amount of people that have been radicalized in this country is very, very large, and it is deep. And this is a generational wound that we’re going to have to fix.”
She also pointedly blamed Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, for that social network’s role in what she said was effectively fostering a growing white supremacist movement before continuing.
“We’re going to have a lot of work to do. They created this mess. They created this violence for short-term gain knowing the long-term loss, knowing the long-term cost, and they will do it over and over and over again until they experience personal consequences,” she said. “That’s why they need to experience consequences — not because it’s punishment, not because it’s, ‘I’m getting back at you.’ But because consequences are the only way they will stop contributing to violence. It’s the only way they will stop contributing to undermining our democracy.”
“That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to organize,” she said, highlighting the Georgia Senate runoffs wins as proof that “southern states are not red states, they are suppressed states, which means the only way that our country is going to heal is through the actual liberation of southern states, the actual liberation of the poor, the actual liberation of the working people from economic, social, and racial oppression.”
Watch the entire video, below.
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