Ever since proud democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez buried 10-term incumbent Rep. Joseph Crowley in NY-14’s Democratic primary last week, observers have wondered whether her progressive platform — including Medicare for all, abolishing ICE and extensive criminal justice reform — could play on the national stage. Unsurprisingly, her insurgent campaign is also cause for concern among the old Democratic establishment, where she may signal an “earthquake.” The result is that both feckless centrist liberals and triggered conservatives are looking for ways to disparage Ocasio-Cortez’s accomplishments and downplay the threat she poses to them.
But in their frantic digging for dirt, these clowns have come up pathetically short. The attempts to stoke fear and outrage over a young leftist’s rise to political prominence are almost as embarrassing as the widespread failure in punditworld to take Ocasio-Cortez seriously at all.
First, Sean Hannity’s hysterical “takedown” of her agenda turned into an effective ad for it:
Then, in one of the weakest columns to ever run on the New York Post’s Page Six (a gossip section incidentally used by Donald Trump to pump up his own reputation for decades), an anonymous waitress offered a single complaint about working alongside Ocasio-Cortez in a Mexican restaurant: that she’d hadn’t been generous enough sharing her tips from bartending for a “very busy Cinco de Mayo celebration.” This potshot was somewhat undercut by the article’s admission that pretty much every other co-worker liked Ocasio-Cortez just fine, as well as the aggrieved party’s rather unusual idea of how tips tend to be split in the service industry. (In general, there is no accepted standard for making our extremely dumb tipping culture fair.)
Think it couldn’t get any dumber than that? Please.
The latest line of attack targets Ocasio-Cortez’s backstory. Inasmuch as she likes to describe herself as “a girl from the Bronx,” ex–NYPD cop and committed online racist John Cardillo thought he’d score points against her by posting a photo of the house she grew up in and criticizing her for… going to college?
A few problems here: Ocasio-Cortez is still from the Bronx; she never said she lived in the “hood”; and, well, her family held onto this modest home only through tenacious hard work.
Oh, she also went to Boston University, not Brown. But something tells me that pants-pissing conservatives would have a problem with any higher education or simple GED equivalency on her résumé. By the way, do they ever take issue with a white man who talks a big game about bootstrap ideology even though he was born into privilege (ahem, Rand Paul), or one who attacks a rival’s local authenticity when the other guy has a stronger claim to the region? (Ted Cruz, hello.) I think they’re picking on her for a reason!
Other free-floating reactionary turds ran with Cardillo’s weird conceit. Arthur Schwartz — a rando perhaps best known for self-owning last summer by accusing Reince Priebus of adultery — made the ludicrous accusation of “cultural appropriation.” Cardillo, meanwhile, posted photos of other Yorktown Heights houses. Neither jab landed as intended.
Of course, when all else fails and your opponent is a woman, you have to resort to unflattering photos. Throughout the presidential election and afterward, Trump voters delighted in making Hillary Clinton memes where the Democratic nominee had a goofy or weird expression on her face — almost as if to detract from their candidate’s puckered ham of a mug.
Could the same tactic erode support for Ocasio-Cortez, an attractive 28-year-old woman of color in a sea of decrepit, elderly white dudes who resemble the nude Satanists from Rosemary’s Baby? Probably not, though that won’t stop alt-right chuds from using what they think is an unflattering photo of Ocasio-Cortez on the internet—she looks eager and wide-eyed, like the Overly Attached Girlfriend meme—to paint her as crazy.
The fearful opposition is already so enamored of this picture that a reverse-image search kicks back results for “socialism” itself. They really want to drive that association into our heads.
Yet many of Ocasio-Cortez’s critics concede (and I’m sorry to be so heterosexual about this) that she is, in fact, hot — a quality they can still use to disparage her. Surely we can expect more sexist comparisons like this one:
Get it? She’s only fake-beautiful! The rosy case for democratic socialism is just like women who “lie” and “cheat” by wearing makeup! That analogy no doubt strikes a chord for a handful of incels, 4chan trolls and the neckless divorced dads who jerk off to Tomi Lahren, but the good news is that Ocasio-Cortez has a much stronger sense of social media messaging than any of the bros coming after her. In fact, she wisely elevates the proof of her grit over her appearance.
All of which is to say: The haters are sounding pretty desperate, and their charges don’t seem to be sticking.
Not only is Ocasio-Cortez a fierce newcomer able to energize a progressive base, but everyone seeking to take her down with memes has gone soft after years of aiming their firepower at already unpopular women in the Democratic leadership like Hillary or Nancy Pelosi. This isn’t someone heading into the midterms with baggage weighing her down, and thus far, nobody has managed to saddle her with any. If the Republican party can’t produce a more substantive line than “the middle class isn’t allowed to be socialist” and “here’s an awkward screengrab from an interview she gave,” Ocasio-Cortez may haunt them for years to come.