The Corner

Politics & Policy

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Defined

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.) in Queens, N.Y., February 22, 2020 (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Since last week, when we first learned of election results that were surprisingly close at the presidential level and unexpectedly bad for Democrats at the congressional level (and elsewhere), there has been a low-level civil war brewing within the Democratic Party. More moderate members, such as Richmond, Va.,-area representative Abigail Spanberger, have urged the party to abandon its fondness for such progressive items as socialism and defunding the police. Former Missouri senator Claire McCaskill suggested that Democrats back off from focusing on “transsexuals,” (a call from which she herself backed off under pressure). West Virginia senator Joe Manchin has colorfully joined their ranks, responding to the defund proposal with “defund, my butt,” and promising not to abolish the Senate filibuster or pack the Supreme Court.

Naturally, New York City–area representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, first elected in 2018, has aggressively rejected such overtures, claiming they lack evidence, and that attacks against Democrats on this basis are rooted in “racial resentment” and thus, apparently, without substance or merit. But Manchin’s apparent insistence on staking out his moderate place in the Democratic Party has elicited a response from Ocasio-Cortez that perfectly encapsulates her Millennial, clap-back brand. Behold its eloquence:

https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1326969135826427906

You have heard that a picture says a thousand words. What does this one say, exactly? The intended message is likely aggrandizement for her, to emphasize the apparent biting power of her death stare, to reinforce the supposed power of her brand, and to send a signal to another member of Congress that he ought to watch his back. But what I see is a perfect example of her brand of Millennial posturing: imagining that to send out a wordless tweet is somehow to “own” a member of the Senate with an entirely different constituency and a somewhat different set of priorities from hers. It is probably impossible to convince Representative Ocasio-Cortez that her approach might be in error, that what works in Queens might not work in West Virginia (or elsewhere). It is her right to continue in persistence of this belief — just as it is Manchin’s right to continue in persistence of his. But it must be nice for her to be able to believe such things from a safe Democratic seat.

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