Here’s what it’s like to be Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the most famous regular person on Capitol Hill.
Everyone is talking about her, whether she knows it or not. First, there are the two Wall Street guys in button-downs having coffee in Union Station. “I was so fucking mad when I saw that tweet,” one says.
Later there’s the young woman working the cash register at Au Bon Pain, who says, “She used to be a bartender!” after the congresswoman buys a sandwich.
Then she gets into an elevator with Mike Johnson, her colleague from Louisiana, and his family. “Alexandria,” he says, “just so you know, they were more excited to meet you than any of my colleagues.”
And still, when she heads to the House to introduce her amendment to an appropriations bill (which will pass), a security guard stops her at the door, missing her member pin that would let him know she’s not an intern, or a staffer. “Can I help you?” he asks.
Ocasio-Cortez has been navigating this double life since she won her Democratic primaryagainst Joe Crowley on June 26, 2018, the last time I saw her. It’s been exactly one year. “It feels like it’s been 45,” she says, when we catch up a week before the anniversary. “I am an old woman”—though, sitting in wood-paneled Capitol Hill rooms where portraits of largely old, even dead men hang on the walls, Ocasio-Cortez is remarkably youthful. She looks well-rested, especially for someone who stays up making impassioned statements of moral outrage (and tweets at Chrissy Teigen about garlic-peeling methods). And she has amassed a robust collection of rented designer blazers since I last saw her.
The 29-year-old has brought a different color palette and an eagerness to the usual proceedings that has shifted the stale air here. Walking with Ocasio-Cortez through throngs of admirers and selfie-requesters in Congress is like spending the day with Cardi B, if Cardi B were a democratic socialist (she kind of already is). But in terms of House hierarchy, she’s just a freshman from the Bronx. She does not belong. At the same time, it feels like she’s taken over the place.