When the media falls in love, it falls hard. Its latest crush is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Democrat congressgirl from New York. With Obama gone, she’s their new idol and how they gasp every time she flutters her Bambi eyes from behind those Deirdre Barlow-grade glasses. Brits find the deference US journalists show their president unseemly — all that standing to attention, Hail to the Chief stuff — but their slobbery swooning over every Great Progressive Hope that comes along is just creepy. There was the White House correspondent who offered to fellate Bill Clinton and the New York Times writer who blogged her shower dream about Barack Obama and claimed ‘many women’ were having sexual fantasies about him. (This is strictly a lefty behaviour. Reporters on National Review don’t get hot under the collar for Mike Pence).
It’s not hard to see why Ocasio-Cortez has captured the hearts of the media. She’s a woman, she’s a Latina, she’s an endearing geek. If she wasn’t in Congress, she’d have her own show on MSNBC. She also calls herself a ‘democratic socialist’ and advocates a 70 per cent tax rate, which is to say she’s 29 and before entering the House of Representative was a ‘community organiser’. Ocasio-Cortez describes herself as ‘working class’, as only an architect’s daughter who grew up in Yorktown Heights could. Two years into their Trump trauma, the New York Times and the rest needed a new pin-up. It was supposed to be the guy who pretends his name is ‘Beto’ but he lost to the guy who pretends his name is ‘Ted’. Ocasio-Cortez is an upgrade: she’s a real Hispanic.
So gaga have they gone for the neophyte lawmaker, the media is even hallucinating Republican attacks on her. Last week an anonymous Twitter account snarkily tweeted a video of an undergraduate Ocasio-Cortez busting moves from the Breakfast Club. Without Republicans actually saying anything about the video, the media splurged out dozens of stories about a GOP smear against Ocasio-Cortez based on a single tweet from someone calling themselves @AnonymousQ1776.
But the press is in love; and as well as imagining right-wing conspiracies against their girl, they also conveniently avoid a rather inconvenient truth: she’s not all that bright. Love means never having to say, ‘You’re an idiot’. No, I know it’s not a nice thing to say but I am simply applying the media’s template for reporting on conservative women — and, besides, lots of not-nice things are still true.
Yes, Ocasio-Cortez is young and new to politics and on The Good Side but she is responsible for a trail of gaffes that would see her daily lampooned by the media and the Twitter mob if she had an R rather than D after her name. Like the time she said the ‘three chambers of government’ were ‘the presidency, the Senate and the House’. The three branches of government are the executive, the legislative and the judicial. Or the time she was campaigning for a Democrat in Kansas City and pledged that ‘we’re gonna flip this seat red in November’.
Those are minor brain freezes but she’s not much better on big ticket items. She has claimed that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ‘is required to fill 34,000 beds with detainees every single night and that number has only been increasing since 2009’. The law requires ICE to have 34,000 beds available every night, not to round up 34,000 illegal immigrants to fill them. It’s like a hospital having to keep a set number of beds available; the doctors aren’t expected to go out ramming passing cars to fill a patient quota.
She told an interviewer: ‘Unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs. Unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week and can barely feed their family.’ First off, that’s not how unemployment figures work. Secondly, as PolitiFact noted, there are at most seven million Americans with more than one job, multiple jobs have not been at a particularly high rate for years, and ‘people who might be working 70 or 80 hours a week amount to a tiny percentage of a tiny percentage’.
Appearing on the Daily Show last August, she simpered: ‘Just last year we gave the military a $700 billion budget increase, which they didn’t even ask for.’ The defence budget rose by $61 billion, not $700 billion. $700 billion is the entire defence budget. And, while we’re at it, they did ask for it. Then she hailed the Democrats’ victory in Georgia’s 6th congressional district despite being ‘outspent 5-1’. In fact, the Democrats outspent the Republicans in that election.
Last month, she tweeted that a universal health insurance system could be two-thirds funded by ‘$21 trillion in Pentagon accounting errors’. She had confused cumulative transfers for actual expenditure which should have been obvious since, as the fact-checkers pointed out, ‘the data suggests that the Pentagon hasn’t spent $21 trillion in the entire history of the United States’. Asked about her military expenditure errors, Ocasio-Cortez said: ‘I think that there's a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.’
Why, Republicans are entitled to ask, isn’t she being ridiculed the way Sarah Palin was? Why isn’t the basic bolshevik being sent up by Saturday Night Live week after week? Republicans, because they’re Republicans, will instinctively blame liberal media bias. It’s really about culture, though. Media people know a lot more Ocasio-Cortezes than Palins; in fact, most don’t know any Palins. They don’t work with, live with, socialise with, or hook up with people who disagree with them. Ocasio-Cortez looks like someone from their circle of friends; Palin looks like something out of the Dukes of Hazzard.
More than that, they suspect Ocasio-Cortez gets up the noses of all those toothless banjo-duellers and Russia-brainwashed white supremacists who make up that bit of America between Fresno and the Upper West Side. They are on the wrong side of history and Ocasio-Cortez is post-Trump America: young, progressive, non-white and contemptuous of history and tradition. The internet abounds with articles extolling her facility for trolling conservatives. The aesthetics of antagonism — my enemy’s enemy is my ideal president — will only divide the nation more and Ocasio-Cortez’s conviction that she is right even when her facts are wrong is a sign that post-Trump America won’t be all that post-Trump.