AOC Is the New TIME Cover Star: Inside Her Office (Complete with Cardi B Cutout) and More Details from Her Sudden Rise

Ocasio-Cortez, 29, was not in Congress a year — or even six months — ago, but she has attracted significant attention since taking office

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the cover of TIME magzazine
Photo: TIME

A Cardi B cardboard cutout, copies of both the Federalist papers and a book about the extreme dangers posed by climate change, photos of her family and her in the Girl Scouts — and, across from Cardi B’s face, a picture of Wonder Woman.

Welcome to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez‘s office in Washington, D.C., as described by TIME. It’s where dozens of people stop by each day (most of them friendly fans) and the door-knocking can come as often as every 10 minutes, with aides watchful for a threat against a woman facing widespread conservative ire.

Ocasio-Cortez, 29, was not in Congress a year — or even six months — ago, but she has attracted significant attention since taking office, knocking out longtime Rep. Joe Crowley, a major Democratic figure in Congress.

The headlines following her surprise primary victory last summer have only increased in volume and prestige. This week TIME announced Ocasio-Cortez, better known as “AOC,” as its next cover star.

“I used to be much more cynical about how much was up against us,” she told the magazine. “I think I’ve changed my mind. Because I think that change is a lot closer than we think.”

(Her rapid rise to prominence has more mundane drawbacks, too: “I miss being able to go outside in sweats,” she said.)

Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman elected to Congress and its most visible democratic socialist, which makes her a national target for conservative politicians and media, such as Fox News pundits. She is fluent in the many dialects of Twitter (the clap-back, the thread, the meme) but has also made viral moments from the daily work of legislating, including her questioning during Congressional hearings.

She is a main proponent of the “Green New Deal,” a vast proposal to fundamentally realign America’s response to climate change, which she believes poses an existential threat to daily life.

Meet the Press - Season 71
William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

Still, some on Capitol Hill (anonymously) tell journalists that she is more flash than substance and that her unabashedly progressive stances, naively or not, endanger the chance of Democrats winning voters across the country.

She explained to TIME: “There’s always this talk about division within the Democratic Party, ideological differences. But I actually think they’re generational differences. Because the America we grew up in is nothing like the America our parents or our grandparents grew up in.”

On Twitter Thursday, she reflected on the visibility of her cover story, which declared her “the phenom” and “America’s lightning rod.”

“Last year, I woke up to organize w/ my community & waitressed to make ends meet. Today, staggeringly, I woke up to this.”

She continued: “I believe in an America where all things are possible. Where a basic, dignified life isn’t a dream, but a norm. That’s why I got up then,& why I get up now.”

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