Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has the childhood story that many politicians dream of. She grew up in a middle-class neighborhood with Puerto Rican parents. She lived in the Bronx, a poor borough, and worked hard growing up. She won second place at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in high school and got an asteroid named after her for her accomplishment. She was quite the overachiever, and became involved in the National Hispanic Institute’s Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session. She ended up serving as the Lorenzo de Zavala Secretary of State in college, became a John F. Lopez intern and interned for Sen. Ted Kennedy before graduating Cum Laude from Boston University.
On top of that, her father died when she was 17. While the scope of financial disarray is unclear, her family struggled financially. After college, she took a few low-wage jobs bartending and waitressing to help her family through the struggle but remained active trying to serve her community. She helped establish a publishing firm that aimed to paint the Bronx in a positive light. After that, she helped organize aspects of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign. She saw injustice at Standing Rock, and her stand with indigenous communities inspired her to attain a type of position of authority. She ran in her district against an incumbent who hadn’t been primaried since 2004, and was heavily outspent, but won, eventually becoming the youngest person ever elected to Congress. There’s no doubt in my mind that she is a bright and eloquent lady.
But Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represents a duality of both our bright minds and our arrogance — our lack of contextual knowledge and our unwillingness to accept harsh criticism. Living in New York City and being insulated from foreign affairs leaves her woefully underprepared to engage with critical listeners. She stated that Israel is occupying Palestine, and that massacres are happening there, yet when pressed about it admits she’s not an expert. She does not differentiate between Gaza and the Palestinian Authority, showing ignorance about the complexity of the geopolitical situation. Instead, the issue is simplified to massacres, power and oppression. Her rhetoric is especially harmful to Jewish Americans when ICE facilities are compared to concentration camps. I do not believe Alexandra is anti-Semitic, but her ignorance about Jewish issues and the importance of Never Again is deeply troubling.
While ignorance can be challenged by facts and a willingness to learn, Ocasio-Cortez seems unwilling to do so. Lacy Clay, a Democratic representative said:, “You’re [Ocasio-Cortez] getting push back so you resort to using the race card? Unbelievable,” in response to accusations of racism when Nancy Pelosi challenged the “squad” because of their lack of cooperation. Another issue Ocasio-Cortez seems not to have a sophisticated view on is rent control, considering that she wants to expand a failed policy nation-wide. This is especially disturbing considering she majored in economics but disagrees with the economic consensus. Her lack of economic knowledge is more pronounced when one understands her affinity for Modern Monetary Theory, a belief that the Federal government cannot go broke because it prints its own money, a policy that plays fast and loose with facts, and is shunned by nearly all academic economists.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a symbol of both ire and inspiration because we can see ourselves as her. We try to overachieve, life is hard, and working unpleasant jobs sucks. The job market is not ideal after college, and life seems unfair. However, Alexandria leads us down a path of fanciful ignorance where what we want can be accomplished if we elect someone who understands us — where stories are simple with one group oppressed, where signing a bill can solve a social problem.
When one wakes up from la-la land and sees the human cost of poorly thought-out economic policy, the wax around socialism will have melted and we’ll have sunk to the bottom of the sea.
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Isadore Johnson is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.