Donald Trump’s shocking victory in the 2016 presidential race caused liberals across the United States to question whether the country was indeed ready for a woman president. Since then, there has been much speculation about various female politicians and celebrities running for office, including Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Kamala Harris, Oprah, Michelle Obama, and others. There have even been rumours that Hillary Clinton might run again.
I, however, don’t see any of these women making it to the White House. I think the first female president of the US will be New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (or AOC as she has come to be known). It may take her another six years to get there, but the youngest woman elected to the US Congress will win the presidency. Here is how and why.
Alexandria is not Hillary
Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 election but lost key swing states and, under our complicated and arguably unfair Electoral College system, this meant losing the presidency.
But the biggest political upset in recent US history cannot simply be blamed on the unfairness of the electoral system, under which countless Democrats managed to defeat opponents stronger, and more experienced, than Donald Trump.
Clinton lost the election because she failed to convince working class voters that she would be able to understand and address their growing grievances. While she started her journey as a young, educated, idealistic feminist believing in social justice and equality, over the course of her life in the political limelight, she (and her husband) made a fortune of over $50m, including $21m in speaking fees she was paid by Wall Street businesses and other interest groups. She gradually became an unrelatable poster-child of corporate America’s greed. This, combined with the proliferation of fake newsand misinformation provided by Trump’s campaign were the proverbial “nails in the coffin” for her presidential bid.
Unlike Clinton and most politicians for that matter, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez rejected donations from corporate political action committees, or PACs. She didn’t take millions from Wall Street and then preach to blue-collar Americans that she understood their struggles. This helped her not to be perceived as a member of the Washington establishment like Clinton and her peers Senators Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, for example.
Moreover, Clinton just offered middle-of-the-road policies that simply promised more of the same. By contrast, Ocasio-Cortez, as an out and proud democratic socialist, advocated for federally guaranteed jobs and “Medicare-For-All,” called for tuition-free public colleges and the dismantling of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. With this, AOC made it clear that she offers a different kind of politics that is unadulterated by corporate and lobbyist connections. This is, in fact, what helped her defeat a 20-year incumbent and the fourth-ranking House democrat, Joe Crowley, in the Democratic race for New York’s 14th Congressional District.
After she was sworn into Congress, she continued talking about progressive policies, calling for a return to John F Kennedy’s 70-percent tax on the wealthiest Americans and supporting a “Green New Deal”, a proposed economic programme addressing climate change and inequality. If Ocasio-Cortez continues down this path and successfully rejects cooptation by PACs, working-class Americans across party lines would undoubtedly be moved to vote for her.
AOC is also a master of grassroots organising and, while her actions convey that she is in touch with the challenges ordinary Americans face, her greatest asset may be her ability to connect with them in a way that feels genuine and not contrived. Millennials, for example, find AOC more relatable than any other potential presidential candidate. With her 2.37 million Twitter followers and growing, she is a skilled social media user who knows how to connect and communicate with the younger generation and will certainly be able to secure their vote. And in the coming decade, it increasingly seems that it will be the millennials who will become the most important voting bloc within the US electorate.
And finally, AOC was also able to capture the attention of the press and has already shown much skill in fending off public attacks. Even before she was sworn into office on January 3, conservatives had already launched a smear campaign against her, which is indicative of how much she scares them.
First, there was noise about the house she grew up in in a New York suburb; then much discussion about designer clothes she wore during a 2018 photo shoot. Just after her swearing-in, the right-wing news site The Daily Caller posted a fake picture of her in a bathtub. And then the conservative media tried to troll her with a video on the internet of her dancing in her college days. But this turned out to be a media boost for the freshman Congresswoman and she trolled them right back by making a wildly popular video of herself dancing into her Congress office.
With the election of Trump and AOC’s rise to stardom one thing has become undoubtedly clear: US voters are desperate for new politics and fresh faces who can offer real change. And with her charisma, presence and political acumen, Ocasio-Cortez is able to tap into these sentiments. To put it in Trump’s words, Ocasio-Cortez is a “winner”, she is “winning”.
Her popularity in the press parallels Trump’s during his presidential bid in 2016, when he proved true the cliché “any press is good press”. Yes, it was thanks to the media’s obsession with him, both on the right and the left, that he remained a constant figure in the public eye, which ultimately paved the way for the unimaginable to happen – his win over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election.
The same is already proving true for AOC. She is the Democrat that Republicans (and even some Democrats) love to hate, and she will be all the better for it.
AOC will run in 2024 after eight years of Trump
Although Alexandria has much political potential, she is unlikely to run in 2020 and challenge Trump. After Clinton’s upset in 2016, the Democratic establishment does not want a socialist to run for president, who would be seen as a “a radical” and would risk alienating more conservative Democrats.
The Democratic Party is more likely to nominate someone like former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who will stick to the traditional Democratic centre-left talking points: “compromise, compromise, compromise”. If that happens, Trump will certainly bully him into a corner on the campaign trail and during the debates and will go on to win the 2020 presidential election, to the despair and shame of millions of Americans.
Another Trump presidency will certainly drag the country into deeper political, social and economic crises and will convince disillusioned voters once and for all that the Donald was never the man who could or even wanted to “drain the swamp”. It could finally be the wake-up call for millions of Americans to realise that they need to try something drastically different – something “radical”. That something, as Ocasio-Cortez has repeatedly pointed out, could be what has already been done successfully in Scandinavian countries, for example.
At the same time, these five years will also give AOC the time to understand how Washington works, build her political profile and prove herself as a house representative. She will also quietly make more allies in the Democratic Party and after her two-year-term as congresswoman is over, she may choose to move up the political ladder by running for office as a senator for her home state of New York, in order to broaden her political experience before a run for president in 2024.
Yes, it will take all of that for Ocasio-Cortez to win the 2024 Democratic nomination. I would even venture to predict that she will run on a ticket with a female vice-presidential candidate, perhaps Senator Kamala Harris, if the forces that are the Democratic National Committee (DNC) permit such a scandal. Don’t forget how the DNC buried Senator Bernie Sanders in his run for the nomination in 2016. But after eight years of Trumpism, I believe that America will make sure that doesn’t happen again to AOC.
But apart from resistance within the DNC, perhaps the greatest challenge Ocasio-Cortez will face along the way to 2024 is remaining true to herself and her principles and withstanding the ineluctable and incessant weathering of the +lobbyists who effectively run Congress behind the scenes. In her 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper she admitted she is worried about how Washington would change her because it inevitably changes everyone.
If she manages to “survive” Washington and emerge stronger, the 2024 Democratic nomination for president definitely has “Ocasio-Cortez” written all over it. I, for one, will definitely vote for her.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
Three bodies found after days of unrest in Solomon Islands
Australian police are now helping patrol Honiara, the capital, which was relatively calm on Saturday morning.The bodies of three people have been discovered in a burnt-out building in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, police said on Saturday, the first reported deaths after days of rioting in the restive city. The charred bodies were…
Australian police are now helping patrol Honiara, the capital, which was relatively calm on Saturday morning.The bodies of three people have been discovered in a burnt-out building in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, police said on Saturday, the first reported deaths after days of rioting in the restive city.
The charred bodies were discovered in a store in the Chinatown district, which has been a target for looters and protesters. A security guard told AFP news agency he found the bodies in two rooms late on Friday.
Police said forensic teams had launched an investigation and were still on the scene but that the cause of the deaths was unclear.
The streets of the capital remained relatively quiet on Saturday morning as residents began to assess the damage left by days of rioting.
A curfew had been imposed on the restive capital overnight after a third day of violence that saw the prime minister’s home come under attack and swathes of the city reduced to smouldering ruins.
Australian police officers and local police monitoring a crowd in Honiara on Friday after days of rioting [Jay Liofasi/AFP]Australian police officers, who arrived in the country late on Thursday following a request from the government, also joined their Solomon Islands’ counterparts on the streets to help restore order and protect critical infrastructure.
The explosion of violence is partly a result of frustrations with Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare’s government and chronic unemployment — a situation made worse by the pandemic.
Experts say the crisis has also been fuelled by long-standing animosity between residents of Malaita, the most populous island, and the central government based on the island of Guadalcanal.
The archipelago nation of about 700,000 people has for decades endured ethnic and political tensions.
Malaita residents have long complained that their island is neglected by the central government, and divisions have intensified since Sogavare suddenly switched diplomatic recognition to China from Taiwan in 2019.
Songavare on Friday blamed foreign powers for stoking the unrest, but did not name them.
‘Incomparable’ Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim dies at 91
Legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, widely credited with revolutionising musical theatre, died on Friday at the age of 91, The New York Times has reported. Lawyer F Richard Pappas told the newspaper that Sondheim – renowned for musicals including West Side Story and Sweeney Todd – died suddenly at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut,…
Legendary composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim, widely credited with revolutionising musical theatre, died on Friday at the age of 91, The New York Times has reported.
Lawyer F Richard Pappas told the newspaper that Sondheim – renowned for musicals including West Side Story and Sweeney Todd – died suddenly at his home in Roxbury, Connecticut, the day after celebrating Thanksgiving with friends.
“There are no words. He had them all. And the music. He was incomparable,” the UK-based Stephen Sondheim Society, which is dedicated to promoting and studying his work, tweeted along with three heart emojis, one of them broken.
“He was God to many of us. We loved his work. And god he was good.”
Born on March 22, 1930, to an affluent family in New York City, Sondheim was involved in musical theatre from an early age.
He started playing piano at age seven and, after his parents divorced and he moved with his mother to Pennsylvania, learned to write musicals with neighbour Oscar Hammerstein II, who with partner Richard Rodgers wrote hugely popular shows including The Sound of Music.
Sondheim’s got his first big breakthrough on Broadway in 1957 with West Side Story, which transplanted Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to working-class Manhattan.
‘We are all blessed to have been alive at the same time as this theatre legend… & to have received from him a gift as precious as his art’
Stephen Sondheim has died at the age of 91. The @SondheimSociety’s @craigglenday offers a few initial thoughts…https://t.co/UVcbLvWCHy pic.twitter.com/P5mzITxPPV
— MusicalTheatreReview (@MusicalTheatreR) November 27, 2021
He left us with so many words, but none enough for this post. Goodbye, old pal. Thank you, Stephen Sondheim, for so much brilliance in the theatre and sharing your music with us all. pic.twitter.com/Qe55GcDQeS
— The Tony Awards (@TheTonyAwards) November 27, 2021
Later successes included Sweeney Todd, about a murderous barber in London whose victims are served as meat pies, which opened in 1979, and Into the Woods, which opened on Broadway in 1987 and used children’s fairy tales to untangle adult obsessions.
“I love the theatre as much as music, and the whole idea of getting across to an audience and making them laugh, making them cry – just making them feel – is paramount to me,” Sondheim said in a 2013 interview with National Public Radio.
‘Singing your songs forever’
Sondheim won numerous awards during his career including eight Grammy awards, and eight Tony awards, including the special honour of Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. He also picked up one Academy Award and a Pulitzer Prize, and was nominated for many more Grammys and Tonys, as well as two Golden Globes.
In 2015, then-US president Barack Obama presented Sondheim with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honour, for his life’s work.
Several of Sondheim’s musicals have been turned into films including West Side Story in 1961, which won an Oscar, and Into the Woods, starring Meryl Streep, in 2007. A new version of West Side Story, directed by Steven Spielberg, is due to be released next month.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, who created the smash-hit rap musical Hamilton and was mentored by Sondheim, has called him musical theatre’s greatest lyricist.
Sondheim, who was gay, reportedly lived alone until his 60s, keeping his sexuality under wraps. In 2017, he married his partner Jeffrey Romley, who survives him.
“Thank the Lord that Sondheim lived to be 91 years old so he had the time to write such wonderful music and GREAT lyrics!” tweeted singer Barbra Streisand.
Actress and singer Lea Salonga, who was the first Asian woman to win a Tony for originating the lead role of the musical Miss Saigon, thanked Sondheim for his “vast contributions to musical theatre”.
“We shall be singing your songs forever. Oh, my heart hurts,” she wrote on Twitter.
From the Mediterranean to Europe — the complicated path of natural gas
PARIS: As natural gas becomes one of the main energy sources across the world, the Middle East and North Africa region is witnessing a peak in the tensions surrounding this resource. The decommissioning of the Algeria-Morocco gas pipeline, the repercussions of Turkey’s actions in the Mediterranean and problems related to the delineation of Lebanon’s maritime…
PARIS: As natural gas becomes one of the main energy sources across the world, the Middle East and North Africa region is witnessing a peak in the tensions surrounding this resource.
The decommissioning of the Algeria-Morocco gas pipeline, the repercussions of Turkey’s actions in the Mediterranean and problems related to the delineation of Lebanon’s maritime borders are among the many disputes.
The discovery and exploitation of new resources in the MENA region, like the regional crises, intensifies the tug-of-war surrounding gas. We see a complex interaction between energy and geopolitics, which are usually connected.
The Middle East’s gas reserves have been seeing the fastest growth in the world since 2009. These “proven” gas reserves (the quantity of hydrocarbon resources that can be extracted from a field with a reasonable level of certainty, NDLR) have soared to 40.4 percent in 2020, compared to 31.4 percent in 2000.
In conjunction with the development of natural gas in the region, we are witnessing an increase in the battles and showdowns taking place. This energy resource, which is far from appearing as an element that promotes cooperation, has indeed become a factor causing tensions.
The consequences of the decommissioning of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline
Following the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Algiers and Rabat last August, Algeria continued to retaliate against its neighbor, putting an end to 25 years of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline service — the operations contract ended on Oct. 31, 2021.
However, this decision affecting Morocco is also contributing to disrupting an already unstable regional context (from Libya to Mali, passing through Tunisia). It might also affect Spain, which, like a good portion of Europe, is threatened by a gas crisis attributed to Moscow, especially as this pipeline represents the main source of the country’s natural gas supply.
At first glance, it was a severe blow for Spain because Algeria is its main natural gas provider, supplying half of its yearly natural gas consumption: Madrid would have experienced a significant increase in the prices of gas as well as electricity. To avoid such a scenario, Algiers proposed to “continue to ensure, in a better way, the delivery of gas through Medgaz, according to a well-defined schedule.” The submarine natural gas pipeline Medgaz, which was inaugurated in 2004, directly connects the two countries.
However, some people doubt that this alternative will be sufficient to cover Spain’s needs. The capacity of the Medgaz pipeline is lower than that of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline: It delivers about 8 billion cubic meters a year, while the capacity of the decommissioned gas pipeline was 10 billion cubic meters a year. Algiers is therefore relying on “the recent project to extend the capacity of the Medgaz pipeline.”
Ultimately, Algeria’s decision will greatly affect the economy of Morocco, as the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline supplied the production of electricity in Morocco before reaching its final destination in Spain. Some statistics show that Morocco used to produce almost 17 percent of its electricity through this channel. Morocco will also lose the transit-related taxes (between €50 and 150 million a year).
In addition, it will not be easy for Morocco to find an alternative to supply itself with gas. The options are currently limited and uncertain.
On the other side of the Arab world, the situation seems less tense.
The gas issue in Syria, Turkey’s greed and the commissioning of the Arab gas pipeline
For several weeks now, the focus has been on restarting the “Arab gas pipeline” from Egypt toward Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. This phase is taking place with the initial approval of the US (to make an exception regarding the Caesar Act, which imposes sanctions on Damascus) in conjunction with the arrival of Iranian diesel to Lebanon based on Hezbollah’s initiative. It is also considered an entry point for a partial normalization of ties with the Syrian regime.
Since the multifaceted Syrian conflict started, natural gas has been perceived as an indirect cause of the Russian intervention. After that, there has always been a certain connection between the continuity of the military presence of the US and eastern Syria, which is rich in energy resources.
Consequently, gas will undoubtedly have an impact on the shape of the future map of Syria as well as the maps of the new Middle East.
In a wider context, the contemporary theories of strategic security highlight the importance of energy not only from an economic perspective, but also as a trigger of conflicts and a power elements indicator of the countries of origin, the countries through which the pipelines pass and the downstream countries. In any new process of delineation or demarcation of borders, it is highly probable that the energy resources of gas, oil and water will be taken into account.
Within the wide geographical range of the map of gas fields, markets and passage routes of pipelines, Syria occupies a significant position because it is located at the heart of the Levant, while its seas and coasts, like the rest of the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean basin, are rich in energy resources.
In addition, gas could become an important pillar of the economies of numerous Arab and Mediterranean countries, which could provide Israel with the opportunity to integrate economically into the regional economy. This evolution would naturally become a source of worry for Iran and Qatar when it comes to their role as pioneers of the gas market. It would also have the ability to unsettle Turkey, which could lose its status as a crossroads to ensure exportation; this country is the point of arrival of pipelines and gas pipelines.
In a broader context, we should point to the emergence of the East Mediterranean Gas Forum in 2020, which comprises seven countries: Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Greece, Jordan, Palestine and Italy (with the US, the EU and France as observers). This was the culmination of efforts exerted by the forum, which was established in 2015 under the same name. Egypt became a new leader in gas; this was enough for Ankara to see it as an attempt to intimidate it due to the disputes that are either territorial or based on the region’s wealth. This was the case particularly after the signing of several bilateral agreements aimed at delineating the maritime borders, such as the agreements signed between Egypt and Greece or between Greece and Italy.
During this period, litigation and disputes related to the exploration rights in the Eastern Mediterranean basin intensified. These developments were preceded by a Turkish advance in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean, which defined the maritime borders with Libya, or through the disputed fields over which it is at odds with Cyprus and Greece.
Last year also saw the resumption of negotiations aimed at delineating the maritime borders between Lebanon and Israel. Several gas fields are involved, particularly block 9, which is at the center of a dispute between the two countries.
We can conclude that relaunching the idea of the Arab gas pipeline after two decades would be beneficial for the concerned parties, especially for a country such as Lebanon. However, it cannot take place without a tentative agreement or mutual consent between the major regional actors and a certain American-Russian agreement.
• This story originally appeared in French on Arab News en Francais