You need to stop coddling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
She’s a politician, not your infant child.
To date, I have found that I have 2 valid concerns for Ocasio-Cortez: 1. Her position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict favors Israel 2. She’s taking on far too many interviews and public appearances.
My issue with #1 is it’s an aggressively centrist position to have, especially given how clear Democratic-Socialists have been in condemning Israel’s continued oppression of Palestinians. How many politicians have said “I condemn the attacks on innocent civilians but I support the state of Israel’s right to exist.”? I didn’t even have to google it, that’s how often that line gets thrown out. It’s perfectly middle-of-the-road.
My issue with #2 is a little more nuanced. Whenever there’s a woman speaking, there’s a tendency for folks not used to hearing women speak at length to go “oh my god shut UP.” Whenever there’s a freshman politician speaking, there’s a tendency for them to get backed into corners they can’t get out of and to say soundbites their opposition will gladly hold against them for the rest of their political careers.
The latter came to my attention from people freaking out over the former: There’s a compilation video making the rounds among conservative figureheads highlighting how she’s dumb and bad or whatever, when really she’s saying good things but edited in such a way as to seem bonkers. I sat on why I felt something hitch in my throat over the abundance of interviews. I considered: would I feel this way if it were a man? Granted, it wouldn’t be covered the same way were it a man. But my mind immediately went to Giuliani, how insufferable he’s been, going on any network that will take him and spouting nonsense, desperate to take advantage of the constant publicity. Ocasio isn’t doing anything close to Rudy’s weird ass circus act, but oversaturation is a real problem that happens to any public figure. Remember “Clinton fatigue”? Or “Bush fatigue”? Folks were reserved about the prospective candidates because they were just tired of hearing the names. We were tired of Trump ages ago, but back then his asshole antics were cordoned off to easily ignorable corners of the entertainment world. I digress.
After Fox News tried attacking Ocasio’s platform, which resulted in a ton of free publicity for common sense policy, conservatives opted instead to go after the one thing they could: she’s a woman, talking more than they’re used to women speaking, saying things they don’t like. It’s a dumb thing they’re mad about. But it highlights a growing problem that has nothing to do with the bigoted bullshit unintentionally making that problem visible.
From my view, Ocasio has been pushed to becoming an overnight rockstar, a figurehead for an entire movement she’s only been part of (and many of us have been aware exists) for just a few years. On top of that, she is expected to, effectively, run campaigns all across the country rather than, say, calling on DSA NYC, by far the largest branch of DSA, to help those campaigns find similar footing the same way DSA NYC helped Ocasio. Whoever’s booking her for all these appearances needs to cool it. She’s got the seat, more or less. The work hasn’t even begun, yet here’s Ocasio speaking for an hour on this show, making a speech at a rally in this state, over and over again. Her voice will be hoarse before she ever gets to the House floor.
Remember what happened to Bernie Sanders? His supporters went insane to back him and oppose anyone not-him, all it did was sow division. It wasn’t until *after* the election that anyone really bothered talking about DSA as an organization. It was all focused on Bernie. And those divisions are still thriving, discouraging people from joining DSA because of its popularity with folks who become absolutely rabid the second you posit maybe Bernie isn’t all that great about, say, women’s rights. Get over it. He’s a grown man. He can handle a little criticism whose job is to reflect the needs of his constituents. Criticism from supporters is what encourages progress, growth, change. I digress.
Right now, people are propping up Ocasio the same as they did Sanders, letting this singular person represent a movement, sending the big name in to sell the product rather than making a product that can be sold by anyone. Shipping Ocasio all over the country to advertise prevents others from becoming rockstars of the movement, too. It’s “I got mine, let me get yours too” politics that goes beyond just endorsing other candidates: We are watering down the movement by replacing it with just her name, with the expectation that things need her stamp of approval in order to be legitimately good. “Democratic-Socialist” became “Ocasio-Cortez” overnight. We’re abandoning the movement to religiously praise a single person who benefitted from the movement. That’s, for lack of a better term, majorly fucking wack. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s overcompensating to cover for the blatant sexism thrown at HRC as proof it wasn’t sexism, but that’s a whole other thing.
For this, I worry. I worry because Ocasio’s great. She’s absolutely an image of what is possible. A tiny sliver of hope amid a sea of despair. But she alone is not change. And we need to stop treating her as though pointing out these problems will jinx her, or will kill the movement happening around her.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as of June 26, 2018, is a politician. She is not your friend. She is the megaphone through which you speak, but there will be times when she doesn’t say your message. When she falls for another, safer message instead. There will be times when we say “Don’t forget who elected you!” or the like. It is in these moments, not in the blindly rabid all-weather support, that the movement can thrive.
It’s in the moments of: “I am a huge supporter of Ocasio-Cortez’s policy on X but ____” that you can find common ground with people who aren’t as deep into politics as you are or who don’t know or support her, or who also have problems with whatever that “but _____” is and are open to having a dialogue with someone they half-agree with — a perfect pitch to sell something to a skeptic. It’s how Bernie supporters broke through to Trump and Hillary supporters during the 2016 election: “I’m not a fan of Trump’s bigotry/racism/sexism, but I agree we need to reimagine how our government works, and for whom.”
“I love Hillary’s positions on women’s rights, but I’m not convinced she’s going to listen to the needs of black women once the election ends.”
“I am so proud that Ocasio is helping to make leftist policies mainstream, but I’m concerned she’s being put on a pedestal that will inevitably fall and opponents will take down her allies along with her, the same as how the GOP is aligning Dem candidates as friends with Pelosi to divide the Dem base.”
It’s in those moments that we can push our elected officials to do better. It’s in those moments that we can bring in someone hovering on the sidelines into the thick of it, radicalize compassion, and make legitimate progress versus just celebrate the image of the hope of progress, maybe.
You need to stop coddling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The skies will not fall if you, as a supporter, point out the flaws. You know what happens when someone’s painted as a paragon of flawless perfection? They let you down. Heroes are human, and humans are fallible. Disenchant yourself from the notion that if you just find someone attractive enough, with campaign policies that perfectly align with your beliefs, the same music tastes as you, who has not yet stepped out of line of your lofty expectations of what a representative for you should be — that all of these things will protect them from fucking up.
Ocasio will fuck up. Maybe not majorly, but the more we bolster her as a flawless leader, the more the opposition foams at the mouth waiting for the slightest slip. Ready to gloat with: Oh Your Precious Commie Queen Supports Israel, Here’s A Bucket To Cry In, Snowflake or to mock with: Look At All These Interviews Spliced Together In A Way That, No Matter Who The Subject Was Or What They Were Saying, Would Be Exhausting To Watch.
The readiness to tear her apart because we’re all holding her up as the perfect image of leftism because it feels like she’s the only one we’ve got? It’s already happening. Don’t be afraid to think critically about your favorite politicians. They’re adults. They can handle critiques. Especially ones made by supporters using those flaws to attract on-the-fence friends and strangers to the message. Ocasio will fuck up and it’s okay. Don’t give her opponents the satisfaction of your ~overwhelming disappointment~ once she fucks up. She will fuck up. And that’s okay. We can use that.