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How AOC Owns the Cons

The self-owns are real, and they’re spectacular.
January 6, 2019
How AOC Owns the Cons

One of the #MAGA crowd’s favorite pastimes, aside from twisting themselves into logic pretzels to defend and celebrate Donald Trump, is to cackle about how easily the snowflakes are triggered. Nothing feels as good as owning the libs.

Which is why it’s almost amusing to see the same people who mock others’ outrage freak out every time Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the democratic socialist and newly elected House member from the Bronx, does something interesting or, dare we say, even entertaining.

Late last week, a Twitter account named AnonymousQ1776 sent out a video it had “discovered” that featured AOC dancing on a rooftop. She and her friends at Boston University did a rather spot-on homage to the dancing-in-the-library scene from The Breakfast Club. (You can see the original, which had been hiding on, um, YouTube, for the past eight years, here.)

Clearly AnonymousQ1776 thought he or she (hard to know, the account has been deleted) had discovered gold. As reported by various outlets, the now-disappeared tweet read:

“Here is America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is. … High School video of ‘Sandy’ Ocasio-Cortez.”

Sick burn!

Except that it’s . . . not. Leave aside for the moment that the video is from college, not high school—the only person who looks like a clueless nitwit here is the anonymous mouth-breather who doesn’t recognize a cleverly made homage to a classic ’80s movie.

And this wasn’t the first time that conservatives have been left sputtering with misplaced anger over AOC.

Back in November when AOC was in Washington for orientation, a conservative congressional reporter tweeted out, “Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now. I’ll tell you something: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.” After being sufficiently ratioed, that tweet, too, was deleted. You don’t have to agree with AOC’s politics to recognize that, in economic terms, she’s pretty close to the citizen-legislator ideal. Maybe you think that shouldn’t count for anything—and maybe it doesn’t, actually. But there’s something deeply weird about conservatives trying to discredit her by implying that she’s secretly rich.

In July, CRTV published a video in which a CRTV host appeared to be asking AOC questions, but the answers were spliced in from an interview she had actually done with PBS. The result was to make her look like she was spouting nonsense. This was, literally, fake news. Which caused CRTV to backtrack with an overly defensive claim that it was satire, but that they hadn’t marked it as satire, because people should have known better. (Pssssst, if no one gets a joke, that’s the fault of the comedian, not the audience.)

The hypocrisy in all of this—the snowflake-haters getting outraged over clever YouTube videos, the fake news-busters creating fake news—would be amusing except for the fact that it’s not only unnecessary, but counterproductive. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s political views themselves provide virtually endless opportunity for mockery: She ran a campaign based on Medicare for All, free college tuition, a federal jobs guarantee, and other programs that would cost north of $40 trillion. Her plan to pay for it would raise taxes by $2 trillion. Now that’s funny.

And the truth is, AOC doesn’t represent much of a threat to Republicans. She’s far more dangerous to Democrats. She’s energetic and attractive and charismatic. Those policy ideas she has? They are horrifying to Republicans, sure, but they also give most Americans—including those who vote Democrat—the heebie-jeebies.

Which is why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shot down AOC’s first big initiative, the Green New Deal. All that proposal would have done was require the formation of a congressional committee to meet the following goals (and many more):

  1. 100 percent of national power generation from renewable sources;
  2. Building a national, energy-efficient, “smart” grid;
  3. Upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety;
  4. Decarbonizing the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries.

What’s not to love? Oh, and she wants a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent because, apparently, she hasn’t heard about the 1970s.

But Democrats have to perform a delicate balancing act with AOC. On the one hand, they have to make sure that her policy ideas are kept far, far away from becoming reality. On the other hand, they can’t look like they’re doing that because she’s a formidable fundraiser and amazingly popular with their base. (Which is why Pelosi bought her off with a promise to establish a select committee “tasked with proposing climate policy recommendations to existing committees.” Say what you will about Madame Speaker, she knows how to identify and quell her internal opponents.)

Republicans, on the other hand, should be learning something from AOC: The source of her popularity isn’t her moonbeam democratic-socialism. It’s her character. She’s fresh and genuine. She does video chats while she does laundry. She is, honestly, a normal person. The freshman who most resembles AOC as a political commodity is probably Dan Crenshaw, the one-eyed Republican Navy SEAL from Texas. Their politics couldn’t be more different, but their appeals—normal, concerned, citizens who had to beat party political machines to get to the House—are pretty similar.

Republicans can continue to focus on the silly stuff with AOC—and keep making themselves look like clueless nitwits themselves. Or they can focus their attention on finding more candidates who have her charm and appeal, but without the terrible ideas.

Rachael Larimore

Rachael Larimore was the managing editor of The Bulwark.