Conservative host John Cardillo and I launched into a friendly Twitter disagreement over the future of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — the milliennial socialist who ousted a 10-term New York Democrat — when he warned Republicans not to underestimate or dismiss her. “We made that mistake with Obama,” he said. I disagreed.
It’s not that I don’t think she’s a threat, given the trajectory of the Democratic Party and their talent for taking unqualified candidates and transforming them into national stars. In this sense, Cardillo is right. Republicans would be fools to ignore her and the orgasmic excitement surrounding her win.
My contention here is over the assumption that Obama rose to power and influence because Republicans underestimated him and dismissed him. I don’t think so. Obama rose to power because Republicans overestimated and legitimized him — a fatal mistake, and I don’t want to see Republicans make it again.
All it takes to gain popularity in politics these days is charisma and good looks, and that’s one step down the road to legitimacy. The smarts don’t really matter if you surround yourself with smart people. That’s what Obama did, though I would say he is light years smarter than Ocasio-Cortez. Regardless, the economics major from Boston University who worked on the Bernie Sanders campaign is already being groomed as the next king — or in this case, queen.
She has the rags-to-riches story, though the rags aren’t quite as ragged as she claims. She is attractive, young, energetic, and a minority woman — everything that typically puts Republicans on the defensive. This is a mistake; fear makes you weak, and when you’re weak, you don’t fight. If you go into the game talking about how great the other side is, you empower them and undermine yourself.
Obama gained power because Republicans were complicit in his elevation of status. He was a young, charismatic black man with an angsty backstory. They were afraid to attack him because, you know, “Racists!” Some did anyway, of course — the bold men and women in conservative talk radio — but establishment politicians, mainstream journalists, and even a lot of conservatives praised him along with the Left, ignoring his flaws and his shady history.
After Obama’s famous speech at the Democratic National Convention, Republicans lauded him, seduced by his image instead of being repelled by his philosophy and his work as a community agitator. They helped downplay the serious nature of his anti-American sentiments by refusing to be on the offensive. His opponent in 2008, John McCain, foolishly did everything he could to cater to Obama short of rolling out the red carpet.
If Republicans want to stop Ocasio-Cortez or someone else like her, they must delegitimize her without making her a martyr for the cause. The way you do this is never parrot the talking points of the Left. Never legitimize when you don’t have to. Never give the opposition ammunition with approval. You’re not winning any points by saying “She’s so smart and talented.” And always expose the truth of what she believes and how those beliefs are bad for America.
One thing we learned from Donald Trump is to stand up to your opposition, mock them, turn their propaganda back on them, even label them with delegitimizing labels. These Alinskyesque tactics are unsavory, but in politics they often work, and using propaganda of one’s own to undermine the lies of the Left can sometimes be effective. Winston Churchill certainly thought so.
Having said this, I don’t think using these tactics against a minority woman from “the Bronx” will work. The strategy of pushing back and not allowing the other side to define people, terms, or events is certainly applicable. But the propaganda, personal attacks, and reverse labeling won’t work in this case. Going after her with nicknames, disparaging comments, and labels like “cupcake commie” will only backfire. It works with loathed individuals such as Hillary Clinton. It won’t work with a pretty Latina sharing a sob story.
What will work is the very thing Republicans didn’t do with Obama — immediately attacking his lack of qualifications, deviant ideology, anti-American agenda, and personal ineptitude. Instead of giving any ground to the Democrats when it comes to Ocasio-Cortez, stick to facts. Don’t parrot that she’s smart. She doesn’t compare to the intellect we need in office. She’s not stupid, but the fact is she’s not exceptional. Don’t help the Left paint the caricature; instead, expose her flaws. Counter the lies with truth.
Her socialist ideology, her lack of experience in anything of relevance, her radical associations, her dangerous views on immigration with the removal of law enforcement mechanisms, her policy proposals that will hurt everyday Americans — all of these should be targeted continuously without any equivocation. Conversations about her should begin with zero compliments; instead, they should begin with everything wrong about her political views and anti-freedom philosophies.
If she says anything stupid, call her words stupid. If she advocates unconstitutional agendas, dismantle them with facts. If she has any skeletons in her closet that expose her as incompetent or unqualified, drag them into the daylight.
Finally, there are many minority Americans with a more difficult history than hers who oppose her socialist, anti-American agenda. Bring them to the fore, make videos and write stories about their history and love of free markets. Let the world hear their voices to counter the false messaging of an inexperienced, impressionable young woman whose radical views threaten our liberty.