The Story-Telling Problem-Solver
Helping people to create better lives through efficiency, effectiveness, precision, self-awareness and game-based strategies
Q. What’s the story about the influential, dancing congresswoman from the Bronx? She seems to be trending everywhere.
A. Her name is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (born October 13, 1989) and on June 26, 2018, she won the Democratic Party’s primary election in New York’s 14th congressional district defeating the powerful, incumbent Congressman, Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, in the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm election primaries. At the age of 29, she is the youngest woman to serve in Congress in the history of the United States.
Since I tend to frame most things in terms of game-based strategic thinking, I found her and her winning strategy of great interest, especially since she likes to dance and few in Congress would openly express this passion. Here’s a short video about her
Ocasio-Cortez was the first person since 2004 to challenge the Democratic Caucus Chair, Joe Crowley, in the Democratic primary. She faced a significant financial disadvantage, but said, “You can’t really beat big money with more money. You have to beat them with a totally different game.” Nearly 75% of her donations were small individual contributions, while less than one percent of Crowley’s contributions were. The Ocasio-Cortez campaign spent $194,000 to the Crowley campaign’s $3.4 million.
Ocasio-Cortez had not previously held elected office, and her campaign video began with her saying “Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office.”
It seems that the big money democratic machine never took her seriously.
Governor Cuomo endorsed her opponent Crowley, as did both of New York’s U.S. Senators, Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, as well as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, 11 U.S. Representatives, 31 local elected officials, 31 trade unions, and progressive groups such as the Sierra Club, Planned Parenthood, the Working Families Party, NARAL Pro-Choice America and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, among others. California representative Ro Khanna, like Ocasio-Cortez a Justice Democrat, initially endorsed Crowley, later also endorsing Ocasio-Cortez in an unusual dual endorsement.
Following her win, Ocasio-Cortez explained her campaign strategy. It is pure game-based thinking
“I knew that if we were going to win, the way that progressives win on an unapologetic message is by expanding the electorate. That’s the only way that we can win strategically. It’s not by rushing to the center. It’s not by trying to win spending all of our energy winning over those who have other opinions. It’s by expanding the electorate, speaking to those that feel disenchanted, dejected, cynical about our politics, and letting them know that we’re fighting for them.”
On June 26, 2018, Ocasio-Cortez received 57.13% of the vote (15,897) to Joe Crowley’s 42.5% (11,761), defeating the 10-term incumbent by almost 15 percentage points. Time called her victory “the biggest upset of the 2018 elections so far”; CNN made a similar statement. The New York Times described Crowley’s loss as “a shocking primary defeat on Tuesday, the most significant loss for a Democratic incumbent in more than a decade, and one that will reverberate across the party and the country”. The Guardian called it “one of the biggest upsets in recent American political history”. Her victory was especially surprising as she was outspent 18–1.
Prior to defeating incumbent Joe Crowley in the 2018 Democratic primary, Ocasio-Cortez was given little airtime by most traditional news media outlets. Brian Stelter wrote that progressive media outlets such as The Young Turks and The Intercept “saw the Ocasio-Cortez upset coming”.] Margaret Sullivan said that traditional metrics of measuring a campaign’s viability, like total fundraising, were contributing to a “media failure”. Ocasio-Cortez was barely mentioned in print-media coverage until her primary election win.
After her primary win, Ocasio-Cortez quickly garnered nationwide media attention, including numerous articles and TV talk-show appearances. She appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The View in the first few days after the primary and later on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.
Ocasio-Cortez has been the subject of negative press coverage from right-leaning media outlets since her Democratic primary win in June 2018. Ocasio-Cortez criticized news outlets, such as Fox News and the Washington Examiner, for mocking her financial situation. In July 2018, conservative news outlet CRTV published a fake interview that featured footage of Ocasio-Cortez from a previous interview with PBS, spliced to appear as answers to questions read by CRTV commentator Allie Stuckey.
In December 2018, Ocasio-Cortez said the media’s treatment of her reveals a sexist double standard. She cited the example of Paul Ryan, who was also elected to Congress at age 28 but who was treated as a genius despite his “ill-considered policies” while she has been treated with suspicion and derision.
Ocasio-Cortez faced Republican nominee Anthony Pappas in the November 6 general election
Ocasio-Cortez won the election with 78% of the vote (110,318) to Pappas’s 14% (17,762). Her election was part of a broader Democratic victory in the 2018 midterm elections, as the party gained control of the House by picking up at least 40 seats.
Now about that dancing thing. It is nothing and a very big something. A video of the congresswoman dancing in college went viral and the right wing decided to use it to shame her and make her appear as a lightweight
Clearly, it backfired.
Her response as the video shows is to dance even more.
There is hope for change.
Where have I been?
I know, you have not heard from me in over a month. My wife and I have been traveling extensively through the Middle East visiting old friends and students, and teaching Harrison’s Applied Game Theory (HAGT) to a wide range of decision-maker and thought leaders.
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Learn to free your inner visionary through game-based thinking and gamification through my book
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If you have an interest in having a basic understanding of Applied Game Theory (and you need to) here is an interview I did with James Selman, a pioneer and innovator in Leadership research.
Just click below to watch the entire interview.
Listen here as Lewis explain the RealUGuru Project and how we can give up unnecessary struggle through visionary thinking in this insightful interview with award-winning journalist Phyllis Haynes about the RealUGuru Project
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