Everyone else seems to be writing about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Why not me?
So many sober and boring paragraphs are emanating from the commentariat, from older and (they think) wiser Democrats, about how she should slow down, shut up, and passively join the seniority system's endless wait-your-turn queue. They say she should stop tweeting and get down to serious business. But I hope she keeps rattling cages, especially Republican ones.
Her arrival reminds me of a scene from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Maybe you remember it: Lou Grant, the grumpy editor at a Minneapolis TV station, meets Mary Richards, his bright and irrepressible new assistant, and he says: “You’ve got spunk.” She smiles and begins to say something to acknowledge this unexpected praise. But before she can really respond, he adds, grumpily: “I HATE spunk!” Here's that moment.
AOC is light-years more outgoing and unafraid than the timid Mary of the early episodes. But Lou Grant's I-hate-spunk reaction to Mary, nearly a half-century ago, is a pretty accurate precursor of AOC-phobia, which causes experienced legislators to react in horror to a young woman already more famous than any of them. She makes them crazy because she is smart, fierce, and unafraid, because she likes to dance, and because she has, you know, spunk.
The old, stuffy, grumpy, pinstriped Republicans also hate spunk. Like Mary Richards, AOC has lots of it. Like Mary, she will ultimately prevail. It was, after all, the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Lou Grant had to settle for a spinoff series of his own, which wasn't nearly as good.
The AOC haters boo when she does nothing more subversive than cast a vote for Nancy Pelosi for speaker.
They have no idea what to do about her, except to roll out the old, tired expletives that they always use: radical and socialist.
They rant when she proposes a sensible, already-tried-in-the-Eisenhower-years policy, a top tax rate of more than 70 percent on the wealthiest Americans. In the New York Times, Paul Krugman showed the error of their ways and the correctness of hers.
They recoil from her lightning-fast tweets—far more witty and literate than the ones emanating from the stubby fingers of the current "president."
Among all the words written about her, an interview in The New Yorker with historian Rick Perlstein sums her up best. Here's a small sample:
"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?"
For Perlstein, AOC is just what the doctor ordered to shake Democrats loose from their post-Reagan trauma. That makes sense to me. Sure, she'll make some rookie mistakes, but she'll admit them, and she'll learn from them. For Perlstein, and for me, she's a source of hope.
For more than four decades, covering politics for Newsday, I felt I had to remain a registered "blank." The vast majority of the time, I voted for Democrats, but I could always find a Republican local official worth voting for. Now, in retirement, I could register as a Democrat, but I haven't really felt it. The Democrats too often act afraid. "Oh, please don't call me soft on crime. Oh, please don't call me soft on national defense." And those fears allow Republicans to set the agenda.
Now, if AOC and other young Democrats manage to drag the party, kicking and screaming, into a more boldly progressive approach to governance, I might even join.
First in my class in Officer Candidate School. Late to the conclusion that our attitude toward the military is idolatrous.