If there is one thing unifying the Democratic and Republican parties, it’s the fear of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Across party lines, it seems every day someone is trying to put the newly elected member of the House of Representatives in her place.
This week alone, she’s been accused of hating the facts, dividing her party, taking a nude selfie, and disrespecting those who came before her. She’s been compared to Sarah Palin and Donald Trump. Talk about a false equivalence.
Y’all need to quit.
Let’s start with accuracy. She’s made a few mistakes as humans do. And she admits it.
The soundbite critics ran with from the “60 Minutes” interview AOC did with Anderson Cooper on Sunday is incomplete. When he asked the New York Democrat about her fuzzy math, she responded:
“If people want to really blow up one figure here or one word there, I would argue that they’re missing the forest for the trees. I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”
It’s as if people overlooked context, clutched their pearls, and missed the very next second when Cooper interjected, “But being factually correct is important.”
Plot twist. AOC agreed: “It’s absolutely important. And whenever I make a mistake. I say, ‘OK, this was clumsy,’ and then I restate what my point was. But it’s — it’s not the same thing as — as the president lying about immigrants. It’s not the same thing, at all.”
And it isn’t. AOC got the numbers wrong when she tweeted last month that $21 trillion of Pentagon accounting errors could fund a piece of Medicare-for-all. She didn’t make the number up, there was a report on the accounting gaps. She definitely confused the math. The Washington Post gave her four Pinocchios, the harshest rating possible.
Does she need to be fact-checked as any politician pushing big changes should be? Yes. Has she made mistakes before? Yes. Like most of us, she’ll make some more.
Fact-checking is critically important. It?s not always fun. But that?s okay! It pushes me to be better.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 7, 2019
It?s important that if fact-checkers are referees, everyone know the rules - and those rules be as clear + fair as possible for all to play.
Thank you for the work you do. https://t.co/LGfd6pOReX
Is the lens through which she’s being checked bitter, sexist, and classist? Also yes. There are far more lies and misleading statements about AOC than facts she has flubbed.
Let’s start with making her and Sarah Palin an apples-to-apples comparison.
Reminder: Sarah Palin was a mayor, the governor of Alaska, and a vice-presidential candidate. You can’t put her political experience on par with that of a rookie. Also, Palin lied about her lies. This is not a woman who humbled herself when confronted with facts. This is a woman who lied about everything from taking a voluntary paycut when she was mayor, to whether polar bears in her state were endangered, to her stance on the LGBTQ community.
And then, there are the wild accusations of AOC approaching facts and social media the way Trump does. We’re comparing the way a congresswoman uses Twitter to respond to trite criticism and connect with the people, to a president who uses Twitter as a weapon? OK.
I just want to be clear. We’re holding up a young politician who has made a few mistakes and is open to correcting them to a president who never takes responsibility for his lies and digs in deeper to divide and wield power? How is any error that Ocasio-Cortez made thus far on par with what he did Tuesday when he misled the American people from the Oval Office about his wall? Not a single AOC tweet is similar to Trump declaring the media the enemy of the people and putting them in danger.
The odds were always against Ocasio-Cortez. She’s a she. She’s a Puerto Rican from the Bronx. She’s 29. She has the kind of range that allows her to clap back at conservatives on Twitter, dance her way into work on those haters, check her party when she disagrees, talk about fighting climate change, and back a plan to tax the rich that some top economists, including Nobel Prize-winner Peter Diamond, support.
Earlier this week, conservatives tried to silence her with a fake nude. Trying to publicly shame a woman with her body is one of the oldest tricks in the patriarchy. And it smacked of the sexist, classist Eddie Scarry tweet with a picture of AOC, talking about “that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.” Or back in July, when Ron DeSantis referred to her as “this girl Ocasio-Cortez or whatever she is.”
On Monday, the ladies of “The View” didn’t mince words over AOC. Whoopi Goldberg sent a message to her: “You just got in there, and I know you’ve got lots of good ideas, but I would encourage you to sit still for a minute and learn the job.”
Goldberg seemed to insinuate that Ocasio-Cortez didn’t respect the work done before she was elected.
How is it offensive to say the Democrats “as a party have compromised too much,” and things aren’t working? That is what AOC said in the “60 Minutes” interview. Goldberg pointed to Dems like civil rights icon John Lewis, who supports AOC’s Green New Deal, as someone who came before the rookie and put in work. He did. It’s undeniable. Nothing AOC said undermines him.
It’s a fact. A lot of things aren’t working in the political arena. And a party member shouldn’t be expected to agree with every single thing the party does. So what, she was against the pay as you go policy negotiated by Nancy Pelosi. Is this a gang now?
A Politico story was posted Friday with the headline, “Exasperated Democrats try to rein in Ocasio-Cortez.” Rein her in? Healthy disagreement makes every team stronger — when the stank of bitter insecurity isn’t keeping folks from making progress.
“She needs to decide: Does she want to be an effective legislator or just continue being a Twitter star?” one anonymous House Democrat told Politico. “There’s a difference between being an activist and a lawmaker in Congress.”
Claire McCaskill tried to belittle AOC, too.
“I don’t know her,” McCaskill, who recently lost her Senate reelection bid in Missouri, recently told CNN. “I’m a little confused why she’s the thing. But it’s a good example of what I’m talking about, a bright shiny new object, came out of nowhere and surprised people when she beat a very experienced congressman.”
Everyone is big mad at “Alex from the Bronx.” Why? Because Ocasio-Cortez is, well, a woman of muchness. You have to be, to earn an acronym as your new name.
She’s confident. She speaks her mind, even if it goes against the people she sits with. She won’t be told how to act. She won’t always be right. And she isn’t going to sit down or slow her roll.
Representing the people is a job that should be constantly evolving, so one is always learning on the go. She’s doing exactly that, in her coat and jacket, while dancing and tweeting and pushing policy and change.
I hope she never loses her muchness. America needs a lot of politicians to be a little extra if we’re going to win the war on humanity.Jeneé Osterheldt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @sincerelyjenee.