There is a veritable dumpster fire of scandals currently embroiling the White House. President Trump has been accused of conspiring with a foreign government, obstructing justice, and violating campaign finance law, among other things that I cannot list in full because this piece can only run to 800 words.
Indeed, Americans are facing the most pressing threat to our democracy in modern times — but there is another, even darker scandal which seems to be vexing many of our establishment politicians and much of our media: namely, that women have some power now.
Truly, this is a crisis in its own right. It would be one thing if it were older women who had gained access to the political conversation. The world has some experience processing female figureheads like Theresa May, Angela Merkel, or Hillary Clinton. As long as they adhere to pre-approved haircuts, choice exceptions can be been made for women of a certain age to fill establishment positions.
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But, you see, the trouble here is that the most recent wave of women’s empowerment is compounded by youth. One of the most influential voices in the political conversation right now is not only a woman, she’s also 29 years old — and really good at Instagram.
Of course, I am talking about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the congresswoman from New York’s 14th district, who was such a long shot in her primary that the New York Times failed to cover her campaign. I had the chance to meet her not long before she won, defeating the Democratic incumbent with a grassroots effort that boasted an average donation of $22.
There was a time when no one, except maybe Ocasio-Cortez herself, thought she had a shot. Sitting among little more than a dozen people ahead of the election, I watched her talk to a small room about how it’s the small rooms where change begins. A little over two weeks later, she had won the primary, and been catapulted to such an extreme level of rock-star status that announcing her lipstick color on social media caused it to sell out almost immediately (Stila Stay-All-Day in Besos).
Beauty tips aren’t the only thing Ocasio-Cortez — now almost uniformly referred to as AOC — shares with her followers, but when she does share them, she does it well. She recently broke down the entirety of her skincare routine for social media fans, encouraging readers to double cleanse at the end of the day in order to be quite certain they are removing all their makeup. I mean, think of her impact in terms of pore-clearing alone! She is serving progressive values and a skincare revolution, honey!
I’m sorry. I’ll collect myself. You really have to understand how exciting this all is, though. Young women don’t have many political role models. History must make certain of this claim, but I think AOC may be the first elected official to routinely elicit the word, “Yaaas.”
That fun-loving transparency isn’t just one aspect of AOC’s messaging: it’s essential to her model of communicating with constituents. You’ll often find her appearing on Instagram Live to discuss in-depth policy ideas and proceedings while preparing dinner in her Instant Pot. She effortlessly dispels smear campaigns from her political opponents with the deployment of a GIF, and has allegedly left the more moderate members of her party in fear she will torch their careers with a sick burn. Talking about the “new political order” seems grandiose, until you spend 30 seconds on this woman’s Twitter feed.
Before, there was this particular model of “the way things are”. Despite the fact that Americans are extremely proud of having government by and for the people, it seemed as if our political system was defined by the same mysterious authority that empowered the Wizard of Oz.
Even if you have a sense of political agency and knowledge of the inner workings of federal government, you still feel alienated by the fact that everything is compulsorily boring. For years, our gatekeepers have cordoned off access to the political conversation, conducting themselves as if civic participation must be as painful as a trip to the dentist. AOC has managed to introduce joy into a space that once seemed clinically disinviting, and the people who used to be in charge are absolutely losing their goddamn minds.
Now, in the effort of disclosing bias, I must tell you that I am a progressive feminist who finds AOC downright delightful, and so perhaps it is only fair that you, dear reader, are given the opportunity to peruse and process her myriad scandals and controversies for yourself.
Did you know, for example, that there is a video of AOC dancing to Fatboy Slim’s Weapon of Choice while she was in college? In the footage, she appears cute and fun, and, certain members of the far-right are still attempting to reconcile how this is even possible in conjunction with her widespread political influence.
That shocking clip, released in January, was only the beginning. One of AOC’s major policy initiatives since she was seated has been climate change solution, especially in the form of a resolution known as the Green New Deal, which aims to reduce carbon emissions along with environment-friendly job creation. That sounds utopian, until you read the recent New York Post article alerting the American public to the fact that AOC apparently had the audacity to ride in her aunt’s 17-mpg minivan after the St Patrick’s Day parade in Queens. Can you imagine? Investing in the future of the Earth with government policy proposals while continuing to use cars for transportation?
Unfortunately for the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, the moral quandaries don’t end there. Notably, despite growing up poor and working to standardize a higher minimum wage, AOC has been accused of wearing clothes that she seemed to have purchased in a store instead of simply cutting a hole in a trash bag and shoving her head through it.
Only time will tell how the efficacy of AOC’s platform will transform American politics, and in the meantime, she will have to continue to weather these striking blows to her reputation as our political gatekeepers adjust to her reign. For the sake of democracy, it is of course crucial we hold all power accountable — and it would seem that nothing is more powerful than a young woman speaking her mind.
Lauren Duca is an award-winning journalist whose writing can be found in The New York Times, The New Yorker, and New York magazine, in addition to Teen Vogue. Duca is currently a visiting scholar at New York University’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, but she’s mostly just trying to get you to follow her on Twitter: @LaurenDuca
We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
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