Douglas MacKinnon: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is forgetting her roots at the expense of the working poor

While some on the right may refuse to admit it for reasons of ideology or out of petty spite, there really is much to admire about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.

Republicans, conservatives, and even Christians rightfully cry “foul” when the far-left demonizes President Trump or others on their political or moral side, no matter the good they accomplish.

Hypocrisy is often the coin of the realm of politics and Republicans, conservatives, and Christians must remember that it has less than no value and its use only reflects poorly on the valid points they seek to make.


The facts are that Ocasio-Cortez did come out of a working-class background. One that did see her working as a waitress and bartender right before she shook the very pillars of politics when she – against all odds – defeated 10-term, liberal entrenched-establishment Rep. Joe Crowley – seen as the next Speaker of the House – in New York’s 14th Congressional District to become the youngest congresswoman in U.S. history.

Impressive by anyone’s standards.

That said, it seems Ocasio-Cortez is in danger of forgetting the incredibly important lessons taught to her during her working-class years as she seeks out the spotlight of fame and fortune.

During what can be described only as a transparent political-stunt, Ocasio-Cortez went back to work for a day last week in Jackson Heights, Queens, as a bartender to draw attention to raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour across the nation.

She got her desperately wanted attention but at what real price?

Ocasio-Cortez in a tweet with a photo of her tending bar with next to no customers but plenty of cameras, said:

“I was nervous that I may have lost my touch – still got it!!!  That muscle memory doesn’t quit.  Now, let’s pass #RaiseTheWage and get $15 an hour minimum for every worker in America.”

Precisely because Ocasio-Cortez did work as a real bartender and waitress back in the day, she knows this is a disastrous policy for those workers. A policy which may lead to many of them being fired.

When I was a child, I grew up in abject poverty in a life much worse than that of Ocasio-Cortez. Like her, I worked as a bartender and waiter as well as a busboy and a dishwasher. All to try to bring home a bit more money to give to my mom to try and pay the bills overwhelming our lives.

Years later, having never forgotten those experiences or those lessons, I volunteer, among other things, to work with desperately poor students in need. Two years ago, some of those students were horrified to learn that a number of wealthy “do-gooders” were demanding that the fast-food establishments in their town raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour.

These ultra-poor students – also using the money they earned to help their moms and dads – instantly realized the “do-gooders” were putting them at risk of being fired and personally went to managers of these fast-food restaurants to “beg” them not to raise their wages.

These children already knew that when small business employers were forced to arbitrarily raise wages, they either had to let employees go to maintain their very tight profit margins, or even close shop entirely.

What does that reality say to Ocasio-Cortez?

For these poor students, the $8 to $10 dollars per hour they were making represented the difference between being evicted or not or having just enough extra money to pay for some essentials or not.

Ocasio-Cortez knows this to be true. Before the memory-erasing and judgment altering effects of the spotlight of fame and fortune, she worked as a bartender to help her mom make ends meet.

Truly laudable.


Ocasio-Cortez now sits atop a real platform of power and influence. One that can accomplish great good.

But for that to happen, she must cast aside the temptations of celebrity, Hollywood, and massive-book advances, and remain the Peoples-champion she proclaims herself.