“A lot of this is pandering to the boomer-age viewers, so they can tut-tut about how irresponsible those avocado toast-eating millennials are,” Marcotte continues. “Instead, they should be asking why it’s become so hard for young people to save for the future. (Hint: It’s housing and student loans.)”

Ocasio-Cortez’s $7,000 in savings, similar to her brilliantly relatable Instagram presence, is exactly why she’s becoming a powerful symbol and a role model for young Americans desperate for hope and national political change.

Last week, the internet blew up when Washington Examiner writer Eddie Scarry tweeted a photo of Ocasio-Cortez walking down a hallway in a black suit and carrying her coat, along with the caption: “I’ll tell you something: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.”

Scarry deleted his tweet, but Ocasio-Cortez took a screenshot:

Image for article titled The obsession with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s finances only amplifies her power

She then fired back to this classist, sexist, and racially charged insult with an eloquent comeback:

As Annabelle Timsit explained for Quartz, Ocasio-Cortez “is in a position that is normally dominated by white, male members of society…Critics feel threatened by what she represents, and so they choose to focus on her clothes to show that she’s not who she says she is—and by extension, that she doesn’t belong.”

Ocasio-Cortez’s power is that she does belong, precisely because she is such an untraditional officeholder (not wealthy, white, and male). American college students and alumni collectively owe an estimated $1.5 trillion in student-loan debt. The skyrocketing cost of rent in every major American city, including DC, and the lack of affordable housing options just compound their financial imprisonment.

The squeeze is even tighter for women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, non-Christian Americans, and people of color who see a rise of sexism, racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, and nationalism as a frightening feature of public discourse in America. And as the #MeToo movement proves, barriers to entry and power remain formidable for women, especially women of color, in every major industry.

Ocasio-Cortez, like so many millennial Americans, has experienced these problems. Yet she refuses to indulge in a victim narrative. She defines herself as a survivor and as a change-maker. As she wrote on Twitter in response to Scarry, “Dark hates light—that’s why you tune it out.”

That’s why my friends and I were thrilled to hear that Ocasio-Cortez’s savings total mirrors our own:

“Wow, its honestly really refreshing to hear how much Ocasio Cortez has in her bank account,” a 23-year old colleague Slacked me this morning. “I’m almost there.”

“RIGHT,” I replied, “It makes me feel like I can do anything.”

“Anything she does makes me feel that way,” my colleague replied.

That is the definition of a political star worth watching—or fearing.

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