Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is campaigning with Bernie Sanders in Iowa, generally considered a conservative, red-state kind of place — so much so that Iowa GOP operators made a series of public predictions that she would be laughed out of the state. The state party chairman Jeff Kaufmann called her "Doctor Ocasio-Cortez" and Sanders "Crazy Bernie": "She's got a problem with our cows here!" while Iowa Senator Joni Ernst predicted that the pair would be booed offstage.
Instead, AOC and Sanders played to packed houses who cheered them on as they held a three-hour climate summit, with a panel featuring Sunrise Movement organizer Zina Precht-Rodriguez, and Naomi Klein, whose Leap Manifesto was the precursor to the Green New Deal. The panelists focused on the threats to agriculture from climate change and discussed how a just climate transition would protect small farmers and other workers who had seen their share of the profits from their labor fall even as the wealthy bosses, monopolists and middlemen waxed fat enough that they could peel off vast fortunes to sow expensive doubt about climate change and still retain enough cash to get unimaginably wealthy.
It turns out that the 99% of Iowa are just like the 99% of everyone: increasingly aware that they have been turkeys that were duped into voting for Christmas, and increasingly aware that the farmer is out there sharpening the axe.
Ocasio-Cortez also just happens to be uncommonly good at this, adept at inverting the arguments that have traditionally been wielded against people with politics like hers. "When it comes to a Green New Deal people say—always, always, always with this question of 'how are you going to pay for it?'" she said. "As if we're not paying for it now." She rattled off a list of recent, headline-grabbing shocks—the California wildfires, Hurricane Maria, decreasing crop yields.
"Coal miners are being denied their pensions while coal barons are being bailed out by the federal government," she said. The message of Bernie 2020 is that you're already paying for it.
Later that day, Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders spoke to a crowd of a few thousand at a field house in Coralville, near the University of Iowa campus. Sanders gear was in abundance, but he wasn't the main draw for everyone. Caleigh Stanier, a high school junior, told me she came for Ocasio-Cortez, not Sanders.
Turns Out, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Huge in Iowa [Tim Murphy/Mother Jones]