US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has made headlines a number of times before, during, and after the midterm election last November in the US. Depending on your sources, she’s either the hero the country needs, leading younger grassroots campaigns inspired by Bernie Sander’s run for POTUS in 2016, or a spawn of the devil with the word ‘socialist’ written in blood above her head. But her recent line of questioning didn’t stand up to just the Republicans – what she had an uncomfortable room confirm applies to most Democrats as well.
In a video that seems to have gone viral, AOC set an uncomfortable atmosphere when she made the heads of a number of political ethics and financing watchdog agencies answer plainly in the affirmative to questions about just how much she could get away with in terms of advancing selfish and corporate interests without scrutiny. It was all stuff that most politically literate people knew, and while the US has the highest concentration of corruption, most also know it exists across the world (Australian Greens Senator Larissa Waters has suggested she might do a similar series of questions).
So why did AOC, or why would Waters, ask seemingly obvious questions? For two reasons. The first is that the majority of the population do not actually know the details about what their politicians can get away with – when it is put in simple terms, this information becomes accessible to a greater number of people. The second reason is that it jumpstarts movements to change these unfair laws. Once people know about how the system works, they begin to voice their dissent, and their representatives either have to concede to their constituents or they will be voted out.
While Australia has nowhere near the amount of, what AOC referred to as, ‘dark money’, we know that millions of dollars have been donated to most of our political parties from the private/corporate sector, the lion’s share to the LNP. The soft approach to the banking industry, even in the wake of the Royal Commission, is a result of donations. The continued threat of Adani and other fossil fuel ventures (like oil exploitation in the Bight) is a result of donations. The increased influence China (their government and businessmen) has over our country is a result of donations (it is telling that such a donation to ALP Senator Sam Dastyari a few years back ended with his resignation, but the LNP has been caught out countless times and both the government and the media are silent).
In the US, the cost of healthcare and medications are obscenely high for subpar services and products, and this is an area Australia needs to be mindful of as Medicare is slowly stripped down and private health insurers receive public money. Corporate interests are put ahead of the people time and time again, and people like AOC, parties like the Greens, are putting them in the spotlight. What needs to happen is a crackdown on political donations and an anti-corruption watchdog (with teeth, not the harmless solution the LNP has put forward instead) needs to be created. In the US, the Democrats need to run a damn good candidate against Trump and hope there are enough grassroots candidates elsewhere to bring substantial change. Their two party system is incredibly flawed, but as I mentioned in my piece about the Russian Revolution, change needs to first start from within, backed by the people; the Democrats is the only party where that would be vaguely conceivable.
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