No one shifts the Overton Window on any subject without strong communications skills, and Ocasio-Cortez is ninja-level in that department. She thrills supporters by going after critics hard on social media, which she uses the way an older generation used street rallies. “I’m a firm believer that organizing never stops,” she told Cooper in the 60 Minutes interview. One of her first acts after her election was to visit the office of Pelosi—not to seek her blessing but to support climate change activists who were occupying the soon-to-be speaker’s office. Now Ocasio-Cortez works two doors away from Pelosi—but not for her. She’s floated the idea of creating a progressive caucus among the Democrats, modeling it on the powerful Freedom Caucus on the right. Among her allies are new members Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the first Somali-American elected to Congress; New Mexico’s Deb Haaland, one of the first American Indian women elected to Congress; and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, the first Palestinian-American in Congress. “This is a movement; this is not me,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an Instagram video last year.
Both Ocasio-Cortez and Trump are social media virtuosos. They excel at turning back attacks on their credibility. Attempts to challenge them on facts come across to their supporters as mean-spirited and unfair—the knee-jerk reaction of an establishment trying to suppress outside voices. So it was when Ocasio-Cortez mistakenly said on social media last year that the Pentagon had lost track of $21 trillion in funds, a figure that was about 30 times the Department of Defense’s annual budget. Unlike Trump, she corrects her mistakes. “The thing that’s hard is that you’re supposed to be perfect all the time on every issue and every thing,” she said on Instagram last year.