Of the once cunning heroine, the whimperer, blown off course since the State of the Union, after she plundered Shapiro’s sacred facts. Speak of all the cities in which she could not afford to live, the minds she failed to grasp, the suffering deep in her heart (and brain) at sea, as she struggled to survive and bring hope to the American people, but could not save them, hard as she tried. The fools—destroyed by their own recklessness when they ate the farting oxen of McDonald the Clown, and that God snuffed out their tax returns. Of these things, speak, Immortal One, and tell the tale once more in our time.
Beginning in the mode of epic poetry is made necessary to match the epic, and tragic, self-regard of this its subject, one Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Queen of the Vandals, the on-staff Boyfriend, and the Lost Boys, Protector of the 14th district, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Growers, Lady of the Bronx, Breaker of Brains, and Mother of Dragon Spirits.
Or, at least, I assume that’s how she styles herself, but one can never be sure.
Let me say at the outset that I regret the necessity of this column. Not so long ago, in the early days of 2019, I was persuaded that we were witnessing the rise of a Donald Trump-level media manipulator in Ocasio-Cortez. Her savvy focus on the conflict between generations and classes, rather than the conflict between races, sexes, or identity groups, effectively uniting one of the largest generations in American history against another (receding) one, suggested an extraordinary, even visionary ability to sift the signal from the noise and spot the actual conflict—Boomers versus Millennials—that underlies so much of the modern “culture war.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s apparent grasp of lesser-known, even wonky doctrines like Modern Monetary Theory, spoke of a deeper, and far more comprehensive, level of policy-savvy than her consumer friendly mode of speech suggested. Not to mention, she was both dazzlingly pretty and (more importantly) sparklingly, unflappably happy in a way that few political warriors manage to be in modern times.
And, of course, it was more than a little pleasurable to watch this young woman fend off the most cringeworthy, basic, boring members of the conservative media establishment with such mocking, self-assured aplomb, while they came at her with a punditry as panting as Dom Claude Frollo, as pedantic as Sheldon Cooper, and as pathetic as Milhouse. Indeed, I would say that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez still ends up blessed in her enemies a good deal.
It was more than a little rich, for instance, to watch Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah) correctly and wittily excoriate Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal” as a purely aesthetic totem of wokeness, only then to turn around and suggest that the cure for climate change was (wait for it) babies. What was that you were saying about unserious aesthetic signaling to your political base, Mike?
Nevertheless, when it comes to AOC, the worm has turned. And just to minimize confusion, when I say “worm,” I don’t mean the Speaker of the House, though that person’s opinion of her junior colleague from New York has probably “turned” as well.
Ocasio-Cortez may once have been a rising star, and perhaps she still sees herself as a shooting star, or, failing that, a meteor destined to crash into the D.C. ecosystem and purge the dinosaurs nesting there. But even if it is the freshman Democrat’s goal to rid us of the Trumpceratopses, the Feinsteinosauri, and the Aeropla—er, Aerodactyls—the fact is, she has been reduced to nothing but a molten, seething, scarred rock and, apparently, has the IQ to match.
Whence Comes the Fall?
Where to trace this sudden fall from grace? Perhaps we could start with Ocasio-Cortez’s disastrous friendship with Representatives Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.)—two women so blatant and shameless in their support for a hostile foreign ideology that even Henry Wallace would blush to see it.
Perhaps we could point to her fatal decision to stake her political career on the so-called Green New Deal, an alleged “policy document” that would be so utterly corrosive to the American economy and body politic that it may as well be called the Gangrene New Deal.
Or, perhaps, we should start with her semi-Trumpian proclamation that moral correctness is more important than factual correctness shortly after informing the world that the U.S. Defense Department budget contained enough money to begin construction on several Imperial Star Destroyers.
But, I think, all of these criticisms miss the mark. The true moment when the game was up and Ocasio-Cortez was reduced to a footnote in history came silently. Ironically, the woman didn’t have to utter a word.
The fatal blow came during President Donald Trump’s State of the Union, a moment that has proved a make-or-break outing for many politicians. Specifically, it occurred when President Trump, in one of the more unifying rhetorical moments of the night, called for Washington to “embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.” Even Pelosi had to stand up and clap, albeit half sarcastically.
But when the cameras cut to AOC, it was like watching a sped-up timelapse of a rose withering. I do not say that AOC withered before our eyes because she failed to smile or present herself as a nice, non-threatening girl. The vapid smile of a frightened young thing trying to placate her boss would have been equally pathetic. But smiles are not always flashed to show acquiescence: sometimes they are an excuse to bare one’s teeth.
It is not just that AOC did not smile prettily. Neither did she sneer, or smirk—both of which would’ve been even more aggressive reactions. The problem was that she gave no evidence of the unruffled defiance that had characterized her persona up to that point. All the sassy, irrepressible, happy warrior routine of the previous few months had dissipated. In their place crouched the persona of a sullen, hostile, and flustered teenager—made all the more absurd by the none-too-subtle Superhero-style cape that she had worn for the occasion. Before our eyes, Supergirl transformed into a low budget Supergirl cosplayer still trying, absurdly, to glare daggers at Lex Luthor.
Still, there is power in malevolence, even impotent malevolence. Had Ocasio-Cortez stayed like that all night, she might have retained some of her iconic status as a sort of Leftist Grim Reaper mentally sharpening her scythe for the president and his entire generation of politicians, even as the room applauded around her. But she couldn’t even get this right.
Instead, when President Trump applauded the number of women who had gained seats in Congress, Ocasio-Cortez jumped to the feet with the rest of her white-clad sisters, laughing and clapping like the snarkiest trained seal. Anyone watching could have read the message implicitly: when Trump promoted something that was good for the country, but not good for AOC’s brand, she sulked in her chair. When Trump gave her attention, she applauded. There are few things a politician cannot spin effectively: one of them is the message that she thinks this is all about her. And that was exactly what Ocasio-Cortez’s behavior showed. She couldn’t have self-destructed more perfectly if Clarence Darrow had put her on the stand.
What’s more, in looking so sullen and downcast, Ocasio-Cortez took away the aura of invincibility she had shown to that point. Politicians may rage, or sulk, and stew in their own resentment in private—they are human, after all—but to do it in public is deadly. In her sour, slumped over silence, it is hard to imagine a single fair-minded viewer (which is to say, not one of AOC’s diehard fans) not wondering if Trump had gotten to her: if he had pierced that impregnable aura of Bronxian self-assurance and made her bleed.
Sealing Her Fate
Ocasio-Cortez might have recovered, had she had her office issue the usual anti-Trump talking points, and then remained silent, letting the public guess as to her innermost reactions. Instead, she chose to open her mouth and remove all doubt that Trump had rattled her.
Later that night, in her very first appearance on Rachel Maddow’s program on MSNBC, Ocasio-Cortez gave one of the more extraordinary and arguably damaging interviews of her career. In a two-minute rant, Ocasio-Cortez accused Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of human rights violations, such as keeping immigrants in ice boxes; argued that the agency should be defunded; tried to claim that President Trump was restricting all forms of legal immigration while citing only forms of legal immigration that favor liberal interests; accused Trump of being anti-American; and said that illegal immigrants were more American than Trump.
All bizarre stuff, but the really important point wasn’t what she said. It was how she said it.
She spoke so fast that her sentences tumbled from her mouth; the transition between her thoughts was halting and harassed. She was so angry she could barely get the words out properly; at times, she seemed on the verge of tears. Her fans declared it a passionate, authentic moment, and it was that. But what they failed to mention was that it also came off as helpless: like she had tried every argument she could think of to get her parents to let her stay out late, and was starting to cry from frustration and anger that nothing had worked. In one night, AOC the unflappable had become AOC the inconsolable. Anyone paying attention on the Right should’ve smelled blood.
Now She’s Just Weird
From there, the rest—her slide into the Tlaib and Omar caucus as one of the Weird Sisters of anti-Americanism, the degeneration of factual content in her communications, the troubling questions about corruption in her office, and the insane decision to stake her early career on promoting one of the most politically impossible documents ever to be written by a member of congress—were all inevitable.
And yet, despite executing a virtual bloodless coup over Democratic Party leadership and forcing them mostly to accept her sophomore year Model U.N.-level solution for climate change, Ocasio-Cortez’s every utterance stinks more and more of defensive desperation, of the refusal of self-criticism, of the unbearable insolence of proud, repeated error for the sake of protecting one’s ego.
Rather than airily and regally dismissing tired Boomer clichés about socialism and entitlement, she now finds herself dragged into squabbling over whether she wants to ban hamburgers, or airplanes, or cows that produce methane. The dignity of her office, and of her specifically, are in the toilet, along with her approval ratings.
For all of AOC’s Medea-esque descent into madness, it would be foolish to dismiss the ideology that she has, albeit shrilly and unpersuasively, attempted to introduce as the Democratic Party’s primary vision.
Which brings me to the Green New Deal, itself. Having read the document, I would say Mike Lee’s attack on it as an unserious aesthetic document doesn’t capture the problem at all. The Green New Deal resolution is not aesthetics masquerading as policy: it’s a panic attack disguised as a political program.
The messaging around the Green New Deal makes that as clear as anything. Everything that everyone who supports it says, from AOC on down, can be summarized by quoting Chicken Little. “Don’t just stand there, do something!” the armies of children reminiscent of Mao instruct us. “The sky is falling! The sea levels are rising! We’re going to live in a Mad Max hellscape if you don’t ground the planes, kill the cows, stop the boats, and rebuild all the buildings now! What price to stop the collapse of society into a Hobbesian bellum omnium contra omnes when our resources run dry?!”
On its own terms, this injunction is desperately persuasive. And what’s more, its vision of an alternative is far more interesting, and ominous, than all the sniggering about banning planes and farting cows would suggest. One of the more sinister elements of it, in fact, has nothing to do with banning anything: rather, it Ocasio-Cortez’s suggestion—shared by many others on the Left— that we cannot have a green economy without redressing various issues of racial grievance. Broadly reports:
There is no justice and there is no combating climate change without addressing what has happened to indigenous communities,” [Ocasio-Cortez] told reporters. “That means that there is no fixing our economy without addressing the racial wealth gap.
This language is echoed in the actual legislation, as well:
It is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal . . . to promote justice and equity by stopping current, preventing future, and repairing historic oppression of indigenous communities, communities of color, migrant communities, deindustrialized communities, depopulated rural communities, the poor, low income workers, women, the elderly, the unhoused, people with disabilities, and youth.
How does any of this cut down carbon emissions? If anything, according to the traditional Malthusian logic of environmentalism, poorer communities should have a lower carbon footprint, due to consuming fewer items that require carbon to produce or use. Poor people ride the bus. Rich people drive cars. Very rich people fly in private jets. Making poor communities richer would, therefore, seem to imply higher emissions—right?
But this is to miss the true vision underlying the Green New Deal, which is not a traditional document of Malthusian environmentalism, even if some of its wackier proposals owe a debt to that tradition. Rather, it is an intersectional vision, and a more authentic one than the visions of “intersectionality” held by people who claim to believe in the concept.
A New Old Religion
Everything in Ocasio-Cortez’s vision is totalizing, down to her reference to factory farming when pressed on the hamburgers point. Her understanding of a dirty economy is not merely one that produces carbon emissions: it is one that pollutes the lives of literally everyone in it. In this view, the polluters seek license not just to pollute the air and water for the sake of profit, but also to pollute the economy with artificial scarcity (one of AOC’s persistent bugaboos), to pollute the social fabric with bigotry, to be given the right to kill defenseless animals for food, to murder defenseless minorities for law and order, to kill factory workers before their time for profit, to keep children in bad schools so that they can one day fill prisons and become slave labor, to murder indigenous peoples for conquest, and so on.
A green economy, on the other hand, is one that denies scarcity, competition, conquest, church, tribe, and above all, one that rejects trade-offs.
As Whittaker Chambers once said of Communism, it is the second oldest faith in the world, first whispered to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden: “Ye shall be as Gods.” And like Gods, ye shall have the right to punish those who blaspheme against you by shaming them on Twitter. Thus, this worldview is perfect atomization, reimagined as perfect liberation. For every man, woman, genderqueer, intersex, transman, transwoman, two-spirit, and yellow-scaled dragonkin, a perfect, hermetically sealed safe space with all needs provided, and no necessity of engaging in the messy, imperfect, zero-sum world of human interaction.
C.S. Lewis may have described Hell as a Grey Town of perfectly alone, atomized human beings, yet Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has taken the same concept and renamed it the Green Economy. And what stops this infernal vision from being realized? Why, nothing less than the sum total of all economic, social, and political forces that have bent their will upon humanity throughout history, and all of which mercilessly, implacably intersect. The only way to fix the world where polluters can endlessly poison the weakest among us by forcing them to interact as flawed mortals, therefore, is to tear all of society up by the roots, so that the nonconfrontational, noncompetitive, non-scarce green utopia can come into being.
This poisonous utopian dream, which is a form of the greatest species of social pollution ever conceived, will find more adherents. It will be expressed by voices more successful because more careful and skillful than AOC’s. It will come from people much harder to confound and goad into incoherence. In this respect, Ocasio-Cortez is no visionary: she is merely the designated captain of a plague ship sent into the harbor of America by decades of subversive activism.
This captainess will go down with her ship, but the disease is on our shores one way or another. Curing it will take a lot more than just spanking a few children: it will take a serious, and no less comprehensive offer to multiple adrift younger generations that fits their needs more ably and more sensibly than this Green Fever Dream ever could. The task of constructing that alternative will take far abler minds than the Right presently has on offer, and the task of selling it will take far more than f—king up the career of a single woman, however f—kable she is.
Photo Credit: Senate Democrats