In defense of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t need my advice, or my help. She’s been in Congress for about five minutes and she’s already secured a seat on the House Oversight Committee and a seat on the House Financial Services Committee, so she must be doing something right. She’s said and done a lot of things I agree with, and a few things I disagree with, so I’ve been taking something of a wait and see approach; she’s a rookie, after all. But one thing is not up for debate.

Simply put, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has quickly become the most lied-about person in Congress. Each day I read new and ridiculous false accusations about her, always coming from the Republicans, because they need a designated bogey man. These lies are often parroted by the major media outlets, who naturally don’t bother to point out that these lies are lies, because the controversy is good for ratings.

AOC has generally done very well whenever she’s pushed back against this crap, which is impressive when you consider that she’s a rookie, and many of her Republican attackers have ten or twenty years of political experience. It’ll take time for us to see just how smart and savvy she ends up being, but it’s already clear that she’s smarter and savvier than her GOP attackers will ever be. The thing is, it’s not enough that she’s winning these fights whenever the GOP goes after her. Regardless of how these fights actually play out, too many in the media are naming the “winner” in these fights based on whatever they think gives them the biggest ratings boost on any given day.

This phenomenon is already wildly out of control. Yesterday AOC posted this tweet: “It’s pretty wild that the GOP can’t decide whether they’re going to run with the conspiracy theory that I’m secretly rich, or the exaggeration & mockery of my family’s struggle after my dad died during the financial crisis. Instead, they decide to defy logic and run with both.”

She’s absolutely right; the Republicans are pegging her as being simultaneously rich and poor, so they can attack her for both things. And yet when the GOP pegs her as secretly rich one day, and then pegs her as being irresponsibly flat broke the next day, too few TV pundits (on any channel) are willing to point out that at least one of these GOP assertions has to be a lie.

For that reason alone, we all have a responsibility to defend Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez against these outright lies about her, whether we’re fans of hers or not, because the Republicans can’t be allowed to make lies like this stick against anyone in the party. We’ve seen how horribly that can go wrong. During the 2016 election, the GOP floated nonstop lies about Hillary Clinton (email, Benghazi, health, imaginary indictments, etc), and the media played up those lies for ratings on a daily basis. Plenty of liberals knew that these lies were lies, but didn’t feel inclined to defend Hillary against these lies, because she wasn’t their favorite Democrat. It’s part of why Trump is in power.

We’re seeing the same thing start to happen already with leading 2020 candidates like Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. The GOP floats lies about them, and then counts on the media to play up those phony controversies for ratings, while counting on liberals to insufficiently push back against those lies. Enough is enough. This kind of thing is just so dangerous, and we simply must to fight back against it.

We can debate whether Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should be as front-and-center as she is, considering that she’s just one of a large number of potential-laden rookie House Democrats. But the reality is that she is front and center. The Republicans are going to find a way to keep her there, because they think that spreading lies about an outspoken liberal Hispanic woman like her is their best bet for taking down the entire Democratic Party.

You don’t have to agree with AOC’s policies, positions, or approach to liberal politics. She might be your favorite Democrat, or your least favorite Democrat. But if we want the Democrats and the liberals to succeed in the coming months and in the next election, we must push back against the lies being floated about her. It’s not about protecting or defending her; she’s doing fine in that regard. It’s about preventing the GOP from using those lies about her to gain an unfair advantage over the entire liberal movement.