At the Vacuum, we haven’t dwelt on the daily outrage machine’s flutterings whenever Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez opens her phone and starts thumbing. Joey and I are suspicious of personalities. We have causes, ideals even, and we support the flawed, at times hobbled candidate who can best get most of our causes through a legislator, or, if this candidate runs for an executive position, how he or she can capture the imagination sufficiently to move a legislature such that he or she can sign bills advancing our causes.
When an Ocasio-Cortez wins elected office as unafflicted with the historic Democratic willies as a shark is of plankton, we should embrace her. She will make mistakes. She will piss off craven colleagues who know nothing except the shock of January 1981, the defeat of Mondale and Dukakis, and the Democratic Leadership Council-drenched leadership of William Jefferson Clinton during a decade when everyone except the poorest fattened their stock portfolios. She called Donald J. Trump a racist on 60 Minutes. She understands Twitter as well as a former Gawker writer. She uses Twitter to test policy positions. Only Democrats who oppose those positions or remain shellshocked by a generation of ignominy can resist, which explains an uproarious POLITICO story to which I won’t even link, a return to the magazine’s roots as, to quote Charles Pierce, Tiger Beat By the Potomac.
Rick Perlstein, author of the definitive biographical trilogy on the birth of post-WWII conservatism, swats aside these cavils, and this New Yorker interview ran before the POLITICO story. Perlstein:
When I watch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez operate with such aplomb and skill and obvious erudition, she reminds me of when people like you and me stood around at a cocktail party or a dinner party and inevitably the conversation turned to, Why are the Democrats where they are? Why don’t they take the fights to the enemy? Why don’t they pivot off troll-y comments from the Republicans, instead of playing the game on their terms? Why aren’t they offering clear, bold, long-term, super-jumbo policy solutions that people can remember instead of triangulating everything the Republicans suggest?
And, suddenly, someone emerges who seems to be listening to all this, who is probably part of those conversations. And, suddenly, she has the power to actually act in a way that the Party hasn’t—a party that, almost forty years later, is still traumatized by the success of Ronald Reagan. It’s a profoundly generational phenomenon, and, clearly, it’s scary.
Her policy positions, despite protestations from conservatives terrified that Silicon Valley and venture capital dough will leave the United States in search of better fiduciary conditions they won’t find anywhere else in the world, make sense to anyone with a sense of history, and I vouch for her tax raising proposal not so much as a way to fund the welfare system as a way to ensure that plutocrats pay their share. But Ocasio-Cortez won’t convert them — her job is to keep the rest of us excited.