About AOC

Published at 09:15 on 16 July 2019

She actually is a serious politician.
She’s not the caricature the right (even the anti-Trump right) attempts to paint her as. If you read her Twitter feed, it’s full of realizations that she is just one member among many and thus has to make allies and work across the aisle. Her recent testimony about Trump’s concentration camps was brilliant in how it employed appeals to patriotism in the service of abhorring the conditions there. That’s the sort of stuff that’s needed to appeal to the so-called center (which as I’ve written really isn’t a committed center at all).
She’s not perfect, but then again, nobody is.
Sure, she stupidly let herself get sucked into a nasty public feud with other Democrats. Insisting on single-payer as the only way to make health care more equitable is needlessly (and foolishly) statist. She sometimes gets so preoccupied with doubling down on identity politics that class politics gets temporarily neglected. News flash: she’s human, and all humans have their faults.
Voices like hers have been sorely missing from Congress for almost my entire adult life.
About the only comparable one is Bernie Sanders. He’s been saying the right sort of things for decades but until he ran for president he was this obscure senator from a tiny New England state that nobody paid much attention to. AOC managed by some miracle to walk in to the Capitol building with a big bully pulpit. Voices for actual (albeit still moderate) leftist ideas have until recently been almost totally excluded from the Establishment discourse: the acceptable spectrum ran from unashamedly conservative to milquetoast center-left. AOC has helped change that.
It’s not just that she’s a leftist, it that until very recently, she was working-class.
This one is huge. Sanders, despite being an overall positive influence, has been a public servant (with a cushy salary and benefits) for decades. AOC, until recently, was living many of the struggles the majority of everyday people must cope with. Those memories are still fresh in her mind, and inform what she says. This has caused a much-needed leak to develop in the reality-distortion bubble on Capitol Hill.
Other Democrats will have to be primaried.
Sorry, centrists, this is just the way it is. The Democrats are a big tent party. Given the significant ideological diversity within it, voters deserve the right to a choice within those ideologies. Being primaried isn’t an “attack;” it’s an aspect of living in an open society. Rejecting competitive primaries (as the Democratic party leadership is attempting to do) is a pro-authoritarian attitude that must itself be rejected. Of course, fair’s fair: the centrists will respond by primarying the likes of AOC. Expect it.
She is a brilliant propagandist.
Take her recent use of the term “concentration camps” as an example. It promoted howls of outrage from the right (and even many in the center). But while the outrage was being howled, even the howlers were repeating the term “concentration camps.” She had suckered them into repeating her talking point, and they weren’t even aware of it!
Yes, she is youthful and inexperienced.
And most of her colleagues are, to be blunt, aged, jaded, sell-outs. She’s a sorely needed counterpoint to them.

An entire Federal government full of AOC’s would be a disaster. That’s irrelevant, because such a thing will never exist. A government with a few dozen more AOC’s in it (given present circumstances, about as many as could plausibly be wished for) would be vastly less reality-distorted than the government we have now.

In fact, even the four “Squad” members we currently have, have already helped shift the public debate in useful ways: even centrist Democrats who reject her health care and global warming policy ideas are admitting we need to do far better on both than we currently are.

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