The question above is often asked rhetorically in response to Twitter posts by the embattled freshman congressman, who has become something of an ideological lightning rod since her emergence on the political scene. On one side of the debate, you have liberal apologists like Vox’s
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has become a breakout star in the Democratic Party. …
And, not coincidentally, she has also become the white-hot epicenter of not just derision, but blistering, nonstop criticism from conservatives and Republicans.
Ocasio-Cortez is a part of the new left flank of the Democratic Party that is fighting both Republicans and establishment Democrats (and, occasionally, the media). …
… She’s become a welcome surrogate on the trail for progressive primary candidates. …
And on the other side, you have RedState’s Brandon Morse, who observes, a little more forthrightly:
We’re not allowed to make fun of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, says the left, even in her most inane moments.
Getting up in arms over people on the right making fun of Ocasio-Cortez is fast becoming the latest talking point, and attacking the Democrat’s newest sweetheart from New York is just bad form.
The problem is that the right makes fun of the “
democraticsocialist” because she cannot get in front of a camera or sit down at a keyboard without rattling off something either patently ridiculous or straight up stupid. It’s gotten so bad that she’s become a meme.
To Morse’s point, derision aside, no serious commentator can dismiss Ocasio-Cortez’s daily inanities (such as her reference to the three chambers of Congress or her equating the migrant caravan to Jews fleeing Germany during the Holocaust) without himself seeming clueless.
So how did this utterly unspectacular creature, who previously worked as a bartender and a waitress in a taqueria, win a seat in Congress at the tender age of 28? A lot can be construed from census data on New York’s 14th congressional district, which she clutched away from a veteran Democratic congressman.
- Nearly half the people living in the district are Hispanic. The next nearest demographic is whites, who comprise 24% of the population.
- Forty-seven percent of the residents are foreign-born, with 56% — including Ocasio-Cortez’s mother — having emigrated from Latin America.
- Sixty-seven percent speak a language other than English at home with 46% speaking Spanish.
- When it comes to education, 53% have either a high school diploma or no “degree” at all. Only 17% have a bachelor’s degree from college.
- At $58,331, the median household income falls just shy of the median for the United States, which is $60,336.
Finally, according to Ballotpedia, the district leans heavily Democratic. In the 2016 election, 82.9% of voters voted for the Democratic incumbent, Joe Crowley, whereas 17.1% voted for his Republican challenger, Frank Spotorno.
What this all boils down to is a perfect storm of support for a young Democrat who identifies with the community ethnically, linguistically, culturally, and ideologically. It is almost surprising that Ocasio-Cortez, who defeated Crowley with 57.5% of the vote to his 42.5% didn’t beat him by a wider margin.
The voters in New York’s 14th did what voters everywhere do, including Democrats, though they are loath to admit it: They voted their self-interest. Time will tell whether the confidence Queens voters placed in a politician with no experience and not much on the ball will come back to haunt them.