Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the progressive Trump

Just like Trump’s, AOC’s appeal is a matter of rhetoric and personality, not of policy acumen or relevant experience. She struggles every bit as much as the president does with facts. Basic norms about American civic life appear to have eluded her. She struggled — twice — to name the three branches of government in a recent conversation. She is, to put it kindly, not good with numbers. She believes it is possible for the Pentagon to have lost track of $21 trillion in the past seven years, a figure that is both larger than the gross domestic product of the United States and far in excess of the entire combined budget of our military from 1789 to the present. (After this was pointed out to her, she responded by doubling down and making fun of her interlocutor’s family.) She has also insisted that the Pentagon received an additional $700 billion from Congress this year, which would have been a roughly 100 percent increase in its budget: “They were like, we don’t want another fighter jet! Don’t give us another nuclear bomb. They didn’t even ask for it. And we gave it to them.” But actually, like, they didn’t because the actual increase from 2017 to 2018 was $61 billion…

Like Trump, Ocasio-Cortez is the opposite of a policy wonk. What she offers her sizable online base is something more important — the chance to watch a cool young superhero defeat an axis of Boomer male archvillains single-handedly. She speaks to an entire generation of young Americans whose legitimate political grievances — the sham post-2010 economic recovery, the college debt epidemic, the sneering cluelessness of those who squandered our patrimony — are as numerous as their personal shortcomings — laziness, inability to think critically, lack of empathy or curiosity about people who are less woke than them, a tendency to confuse performative outrage with moral clarity. Her conception of democratic socialism is more appealing to them than that of Bernie Sanders because it is not about making sure that the wealthy pay a bit more so that no one gets left behind, but a childish vision of easy, limitless prosperity. Bernie says we don’t need 23 different kinds of deodorant; AOC asks why all 23 kinds aren’t free.