[If celebrity were the only criterion in politics, then Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez would already be the Vice-President of the United States.]
Didn’t we make that very commitment some time ago, that which places a premium on celebrity? The first question asked of every candidate is, “Does this person have charisma?” And if we answer in the negative, then the candidate in question, regardless of his intellectual credibility, is dismissed without pause.
[Of course, I can’t remember the last time we encountered a mainstream candidate with intellectual credibility.]
Good point. The leftists are attempting to pounce on that premise, most notably in response to the widespread belief that the Democratic Party’s candidates for 2020 lack charisma. The leftists claim that their candidates, while perhaps lacking superficial charm, are of such outstanding intelligence, it would be downright puerile of us to reject them as potential successors to Donald J. Trump.
[They are especially insistent upon this point when speaking of their female candidates. More than once, I have been told that it is sexist to question Elizabeth Warren’s “likability”. I understand why such a factor may be superficial, as you said, but I’m not sure why it is sexist to discuss it, as long as male candidates are subject to the same scrutiny.]
Which they are and always have been.
[Furthermore, even if female candidates were not held to the same charismatic standard, wouldn’t they want to be told how they may more effectively engage with the public? If I were running for office, I would want to know how I could improve my chances of election. To forbid criticism out of hand as sexist or what-have-you, even if it does betray some bigotry or bias, is to deny ourselves knowledge of what the public really thinks about us.]
And isn’t that what happened in 2016? The left-wing news conglomerates refused to pay attention to any perspective contrary to their own, and they paid for their ignorance when the polls came in and turned a stunning upset—at least, we were told it was stunning. To the millions of folks who made the upset real, it probably didn’t feel quite so preternatural.
[Nevertheless, the willful ignorance and voluntary blindness of the leftists endures, of which this refusal to consider charismatic questions is but one example. Recently, I heard a leftist—in person, not in print—say that it is racist to call Cory Booker stupid, this because he studied at Oxford. We hardly need to dive into the deeper details of why this is false, but I just can’t resist the temptation to observe that Bill Clinton, another Rhodes Scholar, has endured considerable lampooning about his intellect.]
And this is precisely why so many people—real people, not the people whom we hear yapping on TV—reject the ubiquitous counterarguments of prejudice: all too often, these counterarguments are stripped of context, and in their state of intellectual vulnerability, they can be squashed without much exertion or effort.
[Of course, the leftists can’t acknowledge just how hollow are their claims—if they did, then they would recognize that they are entering 2020 with limited firepower, and with too many weaknesses for their opponents to exploit.]
These weaknesses, in many cases, sharing the theme of inconsistency. As you mentioned a moment ago, the leftists stumble when they accuse Booker’s critics of harboring racist hatred because there are so many examples of white politicians facing the same supposedly baseless criticism. In fact, one of the reasons I’m so uncomfortable with Ocasio-Cortez is her own penchant for falsely crying foul: she loves to accuse conservative critics of sexism, even when she has no credible evidence.
[Do you have an example?]
I have two. We all remember when she refused to debate Ben Shapiro because, she alleged, it was sexist for a man who was not running for office to debate a woman who was. Her allegation struck fair-minded people, even those who noted how unusual it was for a member of the laity to debate a politician, as a bewildering non-sequitur. Alas, as time goes on, and Ocasio-Cortez weekly makes a spectacle of herself, a more unsettling possibility emerges: in all likelihood, she feared a debate with Shapiro because she knew she wouldn’t stand a chance against him. Accordingly, she decided to spare herself the embarrassment of acknowledging her own ineptitude by making a bogus claim of misogyny.
[And what was the other?]
When Rashida Tlaib declared, “We’re gonna impeach the motherfucker,” conservatives took issue with her rhetoric. Ocasio-Cortez weighed in, declaring: “GOP lost entitlement to policing women’s behavior a long time ago.” As ridiculous as her interpretation of Shapiro’s invitation was, I could imagine a gullible person following her on her tortuous path of reasoning—but to view misogyny as the true criticism of Tlaib? That was astonishingly bogus.
[Do you think she knew it was bogus at the time?]
Oh, yeah: she knew it was totally unsubstantiated, but so, too, did she know that her fans, who are no more objective than the Trumpeters they view as their mortal adversaries, would happily accept her ridiculous accusation as yet another piece of invaluable evidence of omnipresent sexism.
[I wonder if they would accuse you of misogyny for preparing this detailed dissection of her fib?]
You have to wonder? You have to speculate about something as obvious as this?
[You make a good point, and you make another when you equate her zealous cheerleaders to those of Donald T: hypocrisy is all but the official language of American politics, and it didn’t come into being only four years ago. I was actually reminded of Trump, and his awkwardly curt denial of the many transgressions of which he’s been accused, when Ocasio-Cortez responded to the allegations that she herself has violated campaign finance law.]
You’re referring to the video of her at the airport? The one that was released in the middle of last week?
[Yes. When she was asked about whether she had illegally shifted more than $850,000 in campaign funds to dodge federal scrutiny, she replied: “There is no violation, so there’s no violation.” I could make a joke about her Shakespearean eloquence, but I guess I already have.]
We haven’t really talked about Ocasio-Cortez, have we? She first came to my attention during her appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, which aired sometime last summer. For some reason, I found her to be absolutely frightening, especially when she said that Trump can’t handle a girl from the Bronx. That was her slogan, her reduction of our suffocating political climate to a straightforward matter of an insecure man sweating at the possibility of a woman doing anything. I understand that one can’t expect thoughtful analysis from Stephen Colbert’s propaganda kitchen, but surely we can do better than this?
[In other words, she was thoughtless because she is naturally so, and not because she was on any particularly thoughtless program?]
Exactly. There’s nothing remarkable about vapid sloganeering, especially in the political realm, but the presentation of Ocasio-Cortez as an authentic, unspoiled, uncorrupted do-gooder from the toughest corner of America was obviously a crock. It was a big, fat lie, “it” meaning Ocasio-Cortez as a persona, as a commodity of personality. She was selling a personality to the American people, a personality that, it was very clear to me, was bogus, just like her subsequent claims of sexism.
[You refer to her as an “uncorrupted” person. What do you mean?]
When Ocasio-Cortez came onto the scene, she was spinning a political rags-to-riches story of the struggling outsider who overcomes tremendous odds and institutional apparatuses to march to the nation’s capital and represent the working classes. In other words, she was presenting herself as “one of them”, as “one of us”. Presumably, she rose to national prominence all on her own, without any of the corporate sponsorship that has handcuffed every politician we previously encountered. Of course, I don’t know of anyone who goes on The Late Show without having someone on staff to prepare those expensive travel arrangements and everything else that goes along with it.
[So, because you knew she was a fake from the beginning, this recent controversy about misplaced funds and book-cooking hasn’t dropped your jaw to the floor.]
It never had a chance. I don’t pretend to know if Ocasio-Cortez actually did break the rules, or the law, by moving $850,000, nor am I especially interested in whether or not she did. I’m much more interested in her original possession of such a stack of cash. I understand that $850,000 is chump change for all too many politicians with a national profile, and therefore, it is a relatively meager amount, but for someone who was supposedly bussing tables and tending bar less than a year ago, that is an obscene amount of money. Do you have $850,000 to gamble on a political campaign?
[Not even close.]
Neither do I, and neither should Ocasio-Cortez, assuming, of course, that she’s the real Jenny from the block, and not just another puppet strung up by the monolithic Democratic Party. The amount of money at her disposal is all the proof that anyone should need to see through her false persona, but rather than take this as the damning evidence of her deceit, we’re distracted by the unrelated question of whether she broke the law in her dispensation of such funds.
[Does this go back to what we said recently about two-quadrant thinking?]
Yes, it does. The American people are still wrapped up in these childish fantasies predicated on a comic book approach to morality and motivation. Every politician is either Batman or the Joker, depending on your arbitrary assessment of the “red and blue” debate. We still think that a politician with $850,000 to play around with is the common man, or the common woman, as the case may be. It’s all very reminiscent of the forgotten controversy surrounding the mysterious funding for The Blair Witch Project.
[I don’t think I’ve heard about this.]
No, you wouldn’t have: it’s a pretty weird story, even by my standards. Basically, we’ve all been told for the last twenty years that The Blair Witch Project was produced for pennies by a couple of student filmmakers who worked all on their own. However, a little research reveals that the film cost anywhere from $35,000 to $750,000. For the record, neither of those figures is big at all—by the standards of a Hollywood production. To an executive of 20th Century Fox or Warner Bros., $750,000 is nothing at all. It is, however, an unimaginable amount of money to student filmmakers who, like Ocasio-Cortez, were supposedly struggling to get by.
[You’re talking about the working class, to whom even $35,000 would be an awful lot of money, especially for an uncertain project like a movie.]
Exactly. Now, there’s no shame in spending money on a movie, especially if the film is good. Isn’t that the only thing that matters—the quality of the film, and not its budgetary origins? I don’t know why our qualitative assessment of The Blair Witch Project is hitched to this kind of folk tale about rogue filmmakers defying the studio system. Why can’t we just say the film is good or bad as a film, and not as some kind of rebellion against . . . whatever? I happen to like the film a lot, but if I’m going to defend my approval, then I have to come up with a more convincing argument than, “It’s not something else!”
[Because such is ultimately extraneous to the purpose of filmmaking. However, couldn’t this same argument be made in defense of Ocasio-Cortez? Sure, the campaign finance scandal reveals that she is not the person she portrays herself to be, but it doesn’t mean she has no credibility, does it?]
I’m not suggesting that every single thing she says, or ever will say, is false, although I do believe we have identified a pattern of dishonesty on her part. However, let’s not forget that Ocasio-Cortez chose to advertise herself as the representative of the working class, and she depicted her primary campaign upset as a victory of the working class. She has attempted to make the working class as a cultural image inextricable from her own political profile; otherwise, there would have been little reason to look upon her early political successes with such fascination. Accordingly, this scandal surrounding her campaign funding is devastating to the image she created, even if we learn that no laws were broken.
[Oh, I see what you mean. The Blair Witch Project is a film, separate from the dishonest marketing campaign that invoked this imagery of rogue filmmakers, and so on. Ocasio-Cortez, however, has chosen to embody that dishonest marketing campaign. She is the marketing campaign in a way that The Blair Witch Project was not.]
Exactly. Her political philosophy is a film, and therefore, we should not dismiss progressivism as an abstract concept, simply because this progressive is a fraud. However, we must remember that this progressive is a fraud.
[That may be, but is she still likable?]