Friday, February 08, 2019


Headline of an opinion piece by Kimberley Strassel of The Wall Street Journal:

AOC is a "secret Republican weapon for 2020"? Go on.
The Republican Party has a secret weapon for 2020. It’s especially effective because it’s stealthy: The Democrats seem oblivious to its power. And the GOP needn’t lift a finger for it to work. All Republicans have to do is sit back and watch 29-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez ... exist.

AOC, as she’s better known, today exists largely in front of the cameras. In a few months she’s gone from an unknown New York bartender to the democratic socialist darling of the left and its media hordes. Her megaphone is so loud that she rivals Speaker Nancy Pelosi as the face of the Democratic Party. Republicans don’t know whether to applaud or laugh. Most do both.
We're told that she's "set off a fratricidal war on the left." (Did you hear shots fired? Me either.) We're expected to react in horror because she's "called the American system of wealth creation 'immoral.'" (That opinion seems to be shared by much of America, including a surprising number of Republicans.) And much scorn is heaped on her Green New Deal proposal. ("It’s a GOP dream.... The Green New Deal encapsulates everything Americans fear from government, all in one bonkers resolution.")

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is a freight train gaining speed by the day—and helping Republicans with every passing minute.
This is a common perception on the right:

Ocasio-Cortez is just doing what many Republicans in Congress have done for decades, but in mirror image: She's staking out positions that more moderate members of her party won't, something she can do because her voters are fine with it. When they were in office, Jesse Helms was to the right of his fellow Republicans on race, as was James Inhofe on climate. They were proudly contemptuous of both liberalism and moderation -- but Americans voted for Republican presidents, and for somewhat more reasonable Republican members of Congress in other states, because they were on the local ballots, not Helms or Inhofe. Ocasio-Cortez hopes to ultimately pull her party to the left the way Helms and Inhofe wanted to pull theirs further right. (Helms and Inhofe got their wish.)

Meanwhile, Strassel and Shapiro treat Ocasio-Cortez as if she's polarizing and widely hated. Morning Consult found recently that that's not true at all: Her approval/disapproval numbers are 24%/28%. She's underwater, but far less than, say, the president of the United States.

What Strassel and Shapiro can't imagine is that a lot of people like Ocasio-Cortez, and a lot of people are receptive to her ideas. I'm reminded of the standard critique of the mainstream press in the wake of the 2016 election: Coastal elitist reporters missed the Trump phenomenon because they know nothing about millions of their fellow citizens, for whom Trump was a welcome messenger. I think that may have been true before November 2016, but it's certainly not true now -- now we all know what every blue-collar retiree sitting in a Pennsylvania diner thinks. But people like Strassel and Shapiro don't know what non-conservatives think. They're oblivious to the existence of people who might respond to Ocasio-Cortez, or at least to Kamala Harris or Elizabeth Warren.

Conservatives are the blinkered provincials now. They're certain that AOC alienates everyone within earshot. Maybe they need to make some pilgrimages to Democratic and progressive strongholds and do a little anthropology.

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