The Genius of AOC

illustrations by candice ∞

Did you know who Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was a year ago? I didn’t, and unless you’re a Bronx native or spend a lot of time drinking at restaurants in Union Square, you probably had no idea either.

When she won the Democratic primary and then went on to oust a 10-term incumbent, media focused in on AOC and how she managed to upend politics as usual. Her grassroots campaign focusing on economic justice and progressive values was part of the larger wave of leftward motion this election cycle. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in particular earns the most ire from Right Wingnuts on Twitter and its fascinating to watch them try attacking her, again and again, to no avail. Each time a troll posts about AOC, she gets stronger.

I believe it’s because Alexandria Oasio-Cortez is the Ideal Millennial, and everyone railing against her (from Right Wingnuts to Centrist establishment Dems) are terrified.

AOC is great at social media. She is a natural, the Instagram stories that she posts generate that sense of inclusion among followers. The fact that she is adept and willing to explaining government basics makes her feel like your nerdy Econ major sister hanging out with you in the kitchen while you shoot the shit after work. It’s hard not to feel moved by a woman who is so dedicated that she’ll forgo actual utensils to eat while answering questions from her Instagram followers.

Her Twitter is on point in a different way because this is where she can respond to critics and extremely dumb people in a text-based medium. She maintains the same focus on her core points, and this is why she hits back at twitter trolls so well: AOC doesn’t waste time. She can lean into memes and get right to the heart of the matter in a snarky way that almost always goes more viral than the original trolling.

Now that we’ve entered 2019, there are several Democratic potential nominees who are taking a page from AOC’s playbook. Its such a transparent move because for Ocasio-Cortez, it is clearly authentic. You would expect her to be using the rice-cooker and talking about income inequality even if she had no audience. This is a woman who, like the rest of us Millennials, went to college with AOL Instant Messenger and flip phones. We honed our public personas via status updates in between classes. Coming of age around this technology means sharing the ins and outs of our days is second nature.

Offering up a view into a world we rarely see is part of the appeal. AOC’s instagram stories aren’t just her eating and answering questions. We get to see the daily process of becoming a freshman Congress member. Watching her discover the tunnels under Capitol Hill, witnessing the office lotteries and orientation, walking down the hall with fellow freshmen Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Ilhan Omar, marvelling at the architecture; she’s making our government more accessible and relatable in a way that is entirely new. It’s like if a good friend from college, who you now mostly follow from Instagram stories and Twitter status updates, suddenly got elected into office. That sort of relatable enthusiasm is infectious.

The “Industry-Killer” Stereotype. By now, the millions of articles about Millennials killing Applebee’s and breakfast cereal have been discussed to death. Have any thinkpieces been written on all the industries AOC and her fellow progressives might kill off in the near future? Consider that now, we have Congressmembers pushing for a Green New Deal, which is going to destroy the oil-heavy status quo. Medicare for All won’t happen without healthcare industry implosion either. Too many members of Congress are beholden financially or mentally to the very dark money corrupt way of legislating that has been the norm for our entire lives. AOC coming from a true grassroots campaign has no ties to shady oil lobbyists or healthcare companies. She can fight for the good of the people, unafraid to break paradigms and smash overton windows.

No one can ignore the fact that every issue she champions for brings discussion to the table. Many to the right of AOC were appalled when she proposed a 70% marginal tax rate on incomes over $10 million in order to pay for the Green New Deal. This is depite the fact that the country previously operated under a similar tax rate in the 60s and 70s. The fact that I have a whole paragraph dedicated to marginal tax rates is proof that AOC can use this power to get her policies to become part of the media narrative.

Smashing the Patriarchy. I can only speak from my experience as a queer white woman, but I don’t think I’m alone in feeling inspired by AOC. Hearing her talk about issues strengthens my resolve. She speaks the way I feel, in my heart, I’d speak if I had the platform on Rachel Maddow to respond to the President’s self-made humanitarian crisis at the border:

Being a woman of color challenging the status quo is a hard pill to swallow for many. In what has historically been a place for old white men, we are now seeing an influx of young, progressive women of color. Unspoken norms are being shattered. AOC led a group protesting outside Pelosi’s office. Rep. Rashida Tlaib got an incredible amount of blowback* for calling to “impeach the motherfucker”. Why are women, especially women of color, scrutinized so heavily for using literally the same language as everyone else? It’s just locker room talk when President Grandpa brags about “grabbing them by the pussy” but it’s “unbecoming” when Rashida Tlaib reveals the tiniest bit of emotion. Steve King gets to praise white supremacist terrorism no problem, but Tlaib is the one who should be censured?

*Precisely 5x the blowback Steve King got for his recent public racist comments.

The Olds are shocked at the sight of anyone but them in positions of power, because for so long they have constructed a system meant to benefit only themselves. Their outrage is transparent and bigotry is right behind, shining right through. The game is rigged for us, they think. You don’t deserve to be here. They’ll find whatever they can to discredit a woman like AOC, then point and go “See? They don’t belong.” White establishment loves doing this to people of color, but I’m not sure this racist gatekeeping will work much longer. America is becoming less white all the time. This lashing out is the last gasp.

Part of embodying the Ideal Millennial is sucessfully harnessing the anger of a generation stunted by the Great Recession and rampant inequality. AOC taps into working class frustration like a Millennial D. Boon. She understands the spotlight is on her now, and the with the power of the working-class behind her, AOC doesn’t waste her time in the spotlight. When an interview comes, her anger is focused, to the point.

I’ve been trying to understand the white-hot intensity of the Right’s obsession with AOC. There are other women of color just as undeserving of their ire. Are they jealous of her dance skills? Her relatable upbringing? The fact that trolls haven’t been able to dig up anything more embarrassing than her nickname? Mostly it comes down to to fear. The Right Wingnuts and the Olds see their time coming to an end. They know that AOC has the skills to inspire and lead. Diversity and new perspectives are coming to government, and this is the last desperate attempt to set everything ablaze, before their time is up. AOC is a threat to the status quo.

I hope the eulogies for said status quo are already written because they’ll need to be polished off and published soon, if AOC and other rising progressive stars have their way. None of them have to be perfect, they just need to keep being their authentic selves and listening to constituents.

Follow Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on instagram and live the magic. ✨