Matt Yglesias says it’s ridiculous that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez can’t run for president in 2020 because of a requirement in the constitution that someone needs to be at least 35-years-old (at the time they take office) in order to run. One of his co-workers described the piece as “Yglesias at his best.”
This is Matt Yglesias at his best. https://t.co/vIyHQLKRRG
— Dara Lind (@DLind) December 12, 2018
That’s true if what Yglesias does best is write pieces intended to troll his partisan opponents for hits. I guess writing this response is proof that’s working. But mostly his piece seems like an excuse to slobber all over Ocasio-Cortez as a Latina everywoman with a Constitution-sized problem:
She’s an outside politician in the best possible sense — quietly loathed by many of her colleagues for beating a well-liked incumbent and being, frankly, more impressive than they are — but still well-liked by normal rank-and-file Democrats. Having spent more time as a bartender than a politician, she has an appealing everywoman persona, and a Latina from the Bronx is the reminder mainstream politics needs that there’s more to working-class life in America than old guys in Appalachian diners.
Yet a completely ridiculous constitutional provision makes her ineligible to run for president…
If you’re looking for an actual argument, you won’t get much of one in this piece. It basically boils down to ‘the Constitution is old and silly’:
The constitutional prohibition on people under the age of 35 serving as president is just one of these weird lacuna that was handed down to us from the 18th century but that nobody would seriously propose creating today if not for status quo bias. Realistically, most people that young would simply have a hard time winning an election. But if you can pull it off, you should be allowed. And I kind of think she should run for president.
His real interest is in offering us all the reasons AOC would be a great candidate, starting with the fact that people call her AOC (I warned you about the slobbering, right?):
One good sign that AOC should run for president is that she has a nickname — AOC.
A House Democratic staffer told me the other day that “ACO” was a good example of something, and I knew exactly who she meant despite the error because there aren’t any other members of Congress who have widely recognized nicknames that you would just drop into casual conversation.
Is having a nickname a sign that you would exercise good judgment in the Oval Office? Absolutely not. But it’s proof positive that she’s an honest-to-goodness political superstar, and it’s clear that’s what many Democrats are looking for in 2020. They are seeking an antidote to Trump’s magnetic stage presence and ability to command attention, and she has that in greater quantities than anyone else in the field — certainly more so than Beto O’Rourke, a similarly experience-light candidate whom many Democratic operatives are pushing in a quest to capture some Bright Young Thing magic.
Beyond baseline charisma, she captures what’s appealing about Bernie Sanders — independence from ossified Democratic Party leadership and a keen back-to-basics grasp of the basic people-versus-powerful stakes of political conflict — while also being dramatically more fluent in contemporary progressive discourse around race and gender in a way that makes her appealing to a much broader swath of Democrats.
Really, the best part of this non-argument is that it comes from a site that prides itself on wonkishness and data journalism. But when it comes down to who should run for president, the argument really starts with a cool nickname and “magnetic stage presence.” That’s a bit of a pattern on the left, albeit one they often seem loathe to admit is driving most of their political choices. After all, the cool factor is a quality Barack Obama had, Bill Clinton had, and even John F. Kennedy had. By contrast, no one ever thought, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, or John McCain were hip or dreamy. (To be fair, Reagan did have that kind of presence and Hillary definitely did not.)
My point is that the wonkiest wonks in the room are willing, even eager, to overlook not just AOC’s age but her complete lack of experience. That, by the way, is certainly one reason why the Constitution set an age limit for high office. It was to prevent putting someone with no experience whatsoever in a position where they could do real harm. Yglesias is willing to overlook AOC’s inexperience and frequent embarrassing gaffes so long as she’s appealing in other ways. She is the opposite of a wonk but, hey, if she’s has stage presence and can talk about intersectional politics, she’s the bee’s knees. Yglesias isn’t the only left-wing wonk feeling the need to go to bat for AOC. Yesterday Nate Silver said her Republican critics were primarily motivated by racism and misogyny:
There are lots of reasons Ocasio-Cortez drives certain Republicans crazy, foremost among them her race and gender. But it's also that she's quintessentially a New Yorker and DC political culture is formal and prudish when NYC mostly isn't those things. https://t.co/maqpsf6ryA
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) December 12, 2018
Another wonk making quick work of the opposition to the progressive it-girl. It’s not that she’s a Democratic Socialist who thinks America needs to move to the left of Scandinavia (at a minimum), it’s that she’s Latina.
I think the real question isn’t why Ocasio-Cortez has to wait for age 35 before running for President. The real question is why we have to bother with any of the rules about elections or presidents. Wouldn’t it just be best if we hold a new election right now and proclaim AOC the winner of a 10-year term as emperor? Sure, the Constitution prevents that as it stands now, but the Constitution is old and silly. The important thing is that we should all be free to act like teen fanboys at an Ariana Grande concert if we feel like it.