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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is under fire because she’s right

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 07: U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (C) during a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol February 7, 2019 in Washington, DC. Sen. Markey and Rep. Ocasio-Cortez held a news conference to unveil their Green New Deal resolution. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 775294543

U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) (C) during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol to unveil the Green New Deal resolution. | Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

The big guns are out for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the charismatic first-term legislator from New York.

In an apparent swipe at Ocasio-Cortez, Donald Trump used part of his rambling State of the Union address to say he was “alarmed by new calls to adopt socialism in our country.”

Billionaire former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz cited Ocasio-Cortez’s support for a 70 percent tax rate on income above $10 million a year as one reason he may decide to run as an independent for president, and not as a Democrat.

OPINION

The young congresswoman isn’t easily cowed. She called out Trump, saying “I think he’s scared.”

“He feels himself losing on the issues. Every single policy proposal that we have adopted and presented to the American public has been overwhelmingly popular, even some with a majority of Republican voters supporting.”

Ocasio-Cortez is exactly right. Schultz may think calls for Medicare for all are “un-American,” but the vast majority of Americans support it. Consider the following:

Reuters poll: 70 percent support Medicare for all, including 52 percent of Republicans.

Fox News poll: 70 percent support raising taxes on those making over $10 million a year.

Bloomberg poll: 62 percent support tuition-free college.

Kaiser Foundation poll: 92 percent support having Medicare negotiate with drug companies to lower drug prices.

Hart poll: 63 percent support $15 minimum wage.

Yale/George Mason poll: 81 percent support the Green New Deal plan.

There is a wide gulf between the political center and the moral center.

Dr. Martin Luther King used to teach that “cowardice asks the question, is it expedient? And then expedience comes along and asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? Conscience asks the question, is it right? There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right.”

Politicians worry about donors. They hear from lobbyists, from special interests, from corporations that can spend unlimited money in political campaigns without revealing it.

The moral center is concerned with what is right — and what can work.

What is different now is that the moral center — what is right — is also increasingly popular. The political class is running scared because more and more people understand that the rules have been rigged to benefit only the few. So Trump and Republicans and billionaires like Schultz yell “socialism,” “Venezuela,” “extremism,” “radicalism.” They need to spread fear to protect a discredited political center.

Don’t fall for it. Medicare for all isn’t socialism; it’s common sense. A living wage isn’t radical; it’s a moral imperative.

We now suffer an extreme inequality not witnessed since before the Great Depression. It is time for the moral center to make itself heard.

And now a new generation of leaders is rising that just may be ready to take on the fight. Like AOC, they will come under intense fire. They will succeed only if we build a popular movement strong enough to overcome the resistance.

AOC is young and smart and charismatic, and she and her colleagues may help us begin to heal a nation.

Email Rev. Jesse Jackson at jjackson@rainbowpush.org. Follow him on Twitter @RevJJackson.