Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and the three chambers of government

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and the three chambers of government
Facing down the deathly hallows. Facebook video

It sounds like a Harry Potter title.  I have a feeling the sound of government is going to be more and more Harry Potter-like in the coming days, as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez breaks over America like a glorious sun.

The discourse won’t make sense, really, but there will be a sporting assumption that we all know what she meant.  Or what she thinks she meant.  Or maybe what we think she thinks she meant.  Whatever.  How much does it really matter, in a – er – chamber with 434 other representatives in it, whether one of them makes sense or not?

In a videoconference call posted at Facebook on Saturday, Ocasio-Cortez pumped up Progressives to “take back all three chambers of Congress.” She quickly corrected herself: “All three chambers of government.”  She then clarified that to be the “presidency, the Senate, and the House.”

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Kyle Olson at The American Mirror was ready to pounce, with the old prissy party-pooper point that what she really meant was “three branches of government,” one of which, the judicial branch, she left out.  Technically, the Senate and the House are the same branch of government (the legislative, for the pedantic buzzkills out there).

There’s really nowhere else to go with that theme, other than pointing out that it’s pretty weird to think of a U.S. representative (a 29-year-old, for that matter) who can’t correctly articulate the structure of the U.S. federal government.

Boring.  Fortunately, The Atlantic has a puff-piece profile of Ocasio-Cortez up this week, which is full of fun, quotable, non-sense-making stuff.  Ocasio-Cortez expresses herself mainly by stringing together progressive bumper-sticker phrases, grand malapropisms, and filler-words.  There are also plenty of off-target irrelevancies, of the kind that would get a Republican dismissed as an insensitive, overprivileged imbecile if she uttered them.  Mental editors will at least have some variety on their hands.

A lot of people have heard her, of course, on the topic of the cost of living in Washington, D.C. and the daunting challenge of finding a place to live in the period before she starts getting paid.

When we discussed the situation in October, Ocasio-Cortez told me her campaign had been investigating options for how she could bridge the postelection period. “We’re trying to figure out what’s even legal,” she said. “There are so many ways in which our electoral system is biased against working class people running. There are so many ways, but this is one of the most glaring ways.”

Right.  It’s our “electoral system” that’s biased, and not the conditions of modern government, overleveraged in the legalized bribery that comes with a permanent regulatory state so that money cycles through our nation’s capital like there’s no tomorrow.  And the measuring stick is what D.C.-area rents look like to a freshman congresswoman.

But what kind of old fuddy-duddy focuses on that?  The real point is the impact on Ocasio-Cortez’s perky priorities and issues.

One lawyer even told her it would be legal for her to have a donor prepay for a two-month stay at a resort. That option she quickly discarded, too. “I’m not going to Sandals for two months!” she nearly shouted at me, with a laugh.

And what a relief that is.  I wouldn’t take the two-month donor-paid stay at a resort myself, but that’s me.  Maybe if a donor offered Ocasio-Cortez two months in a sustainable yurt commune resort in Central Asia, she’d consider it.

She’s nothing if not a master of hyperbole:

She’s also adopted a more measured approach on the question of Pelosi’s bid to become speaker for a second time. … But she added: “I do think that the lack of generational diversity in Congress is a huge and existential problem.”

I’m not going to bother checking the age distribution of Congress, or discussing the many practical reasons why it skews upward. Still less should we bother pondering how the “age diversity” problem would be an existential one.  (Even if we trace “old” through to its logical conclusion — “soon dead” — there’s also the logical point that we, you know, elect new members of Congress all the time.)  Suffice it that “existential” is a cool word.

Ocasio-Cortez has a funny effect on other people’s rhetorical judgment, as witness Atlantic author Russell Berman, who offers this gem:

The popular narrative surrounding Ocasio-Cortez, blue-collar bartender turned congresswoman, tends to omit the many years she spent working in and around politics after she graduated in 2011 from Boston University with a degree in economics and international relations. Among other work, she had interned for the late Senator Edward Kennedy.

Indeed.  Berman actually retails the “popular narrative” with every sign of compliance – e.g., “Here was a working-class, Latina Millennial from the Bronx who was jolted by Donald Trump’s election to give up her bartending job and run for Congress against a 20-year incumbent who’d rarely drifted far from the comfortable middle of the Democratic Party. And she won” – until he gets around to the brief, subversive wink at it.

Berman quotes an early Ocasio-Cortez supporter:

“She shot a bolt of electricity through New York State and through this country, and our whole horizon of possibility has opened up,” gushed Zephyr Teachout, the progressive law professor, when Ocasio-Cortez endorsed her candidacy for New York attorney general in mid-July.

MAGA-heads say that about President Trump, you know.  Just putting that out there.

But Ocasio-Cortez herself outdoes every AOC-watcher and enthusiast.

“[C]hoosing not to speak is taken and read just as deliberately as choosing to speak. It doesn’t mean that there’s some probationary period. I have to be making decisions from day one.

“But, I don’t want to be obnoxious either,” Ocasio-Cortez insisted. “Let’s just get things done. I’ll be really quiet if we get things done. If we pass Medicare for all, I’m going to be silent as a lamb.”

As Jim Hanson said in a tweet on Sunday, she’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Cade Pelerine

Cade Pelerine

Cade Pelerine is a freelance blogger living in the Great West who loves freedom, apple pie, and America.