“Experience Doesn’t Pay the Bills” Exploring the Identity-Populism Nexus in Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Political Activism

Margherita Rasulo


Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), currently the youngest Representative of the United States Congress, is intent on convincing the American political system to put the material interests of ordinary people above those of the economic elite. After her 2018 upset victory in New York’s 14th Congressional District, AOC seems to devote the bulk of her political message to establishing an identity-based connection with her constituents, especially through her Twitter account which she uses as an agenda-setting tool. However, her willingness to appeal to the people as well as her marked anti-elitist rhetoric have often aligned her with a populist identity which, this study poses, she leverages along with her personal, cultural and political identities to increase her relatability factor and legitimize her role as the people’s representative. The aim of this investigation is, therefore, twofold: firstly, to assess the extent to which this nexus or blend of identities influences AOC’s political activism and, secondly, to evaluate the impact of populist undercurrents on her style of communication. To this purpose, by applying a methodological framework that combines the resources of qualitative approaches, such as transitivity, appraisal and multimodal critical discourse analysis, this study analyzes a corpus of AOC tweets containing verbal and non-verbal instantiations of self-representational strategies and features that provide evidence of a nexus of identities and of how this construct can reconcile the coexistence of AOC’s multiple narratives.


identity nexus; multimodal critical discourse analysis; populist discourse; Twitter

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.13136/2281-4582/2020.i15.599


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