After card-carrying Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez triumphed over ten-term incumbent Joe Crowley in a New York City Democratic congressional primary, the right didn't seem to know what to make of her victory. For years, the ghouls of Fox News had been warning their viewers about how Barack Obama's alleged secret socialist ideals would threaten our great nation, even as actual Democrats advanced fairly middle-of-the-road policies. So when an actual socialist prepared to come to Congress (Ocasio-Cortez is expected to easily win the general election in November), it didn't rattle conservative commentators as much as you might think.
"I have heard some Republicans deride Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and I think that’s a mistake," disgraced former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly wrote on Twitter. "She won by outworking long time Democratic Congressman Joseph Crowley and seems to care more about people than power. A good thing for any politician." For good measure, he added, "Socialism never works. Ask Venezuela." (Conservatives love bringing up Venezuela as an example of socialism rather than, say, Northern Europe.)
Glenn Beck, another former Fox News host and founder of the right-wing website the Blaze, agreed. "@Ocasio2018 seems genuine and honestly trying to do what she believes is right," he tweeted. "I completely disagree with her solutions, but she is listening to her community. I would rather debate an open socialist than those who hide what they believe."
As Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez called Ocasio-Cortez "the future of our party," Trump-loving political cartoonist Ben Garrison did his best to make her seem as grotesque as possible. Placing the 28-year-old's head on the body of a donkey with Karl Marx himself pulling on its tail, the cartoon outlines her apparently horrifying platform: "Guaranteed High Wages Jobs!! Open Borders! Free Healthcare! Free College! Free Housing!" Oh, the horror!
This underscores the problem with attacks on Ocasio-Cortez. If you do what Garrison and Fox News host Sean Hannity did and just point to her leftist platform in fear, you're basically giving her free advertising. For all the conservative griping about the failures of the Affordable Care Act, "Medicare for all" and "support[ing] seniors" seem like common-sense ideas.
Even conservative firebrand and former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh—who once tweeted, “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you”—had kind words for Ocasio-Cortez.
"I'm a tea party guy, but I applaud @Ocasio2018. She beat an arrogant career politician. She ran with energy & ideas," Walsh wrote on Twitter. "She & I probably disagree on every single policy issue. But I respect the hell out of her. Those attacking her personally are making a mistake. Debate her ideas."
That attitude might have something to do with how self-evidently ridiculous some of those personal attacks have been. The New York Post managed to find a former coworker who badmouthed her, but even that article noted that "most of the staff" at the bar where she worked said they liked her. Then there was the conservative who accused Ocasio-Cortez of growing up in a house on Twitter, only to be greeted by widespread derision. A recent Daily Caller article accusing her of hypocrisy on taxes was a bit more sophisticated, but just gave her the opportunity to describe herself as being pro–small business:
All this is being celebrated by lefties who spent years fuming at Obama's impotent attempts at compromise with a Republican Party that wouldn't give him anything. The Affordable Care Act—which, famously, bore striking similarities to the right-wing Heritage Foundation's 90's-era healthcare legislation as well as "Romneycare" in Massachusetts—somewhat improved the nation's healthcare system for some without addressing the structural issues that make medical treatment for many Americans so expensive. The ACA is a complicated piece of legislation to describe, let alone defend, and the right has subsequently dishonestly blamed rising premiums on the ACA.
Ocasio-Cortez's platform, which is a long ways from being put into practice, will prove harder to attack, because the message is simple: The government should provide a basic level of material security for people. And Ocasio-Cortez's rising stardom in conservative media is good for that platform. Attacks will only amplify it beyond the bounds of the already progressive district she hopes to represent.
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