The Democratic party certainly needs this sort of thing right now as it struggles to break free from the funk of defeat and the grey, hopeless compromises of Clintonism. So of course they were eager to idolize a slender, attractive young champion, with her flowing dark hair, improbably big eyes, and wide, toothy smile—many of the qualities, come to think of it, that qualified Julia Roberts for this role on the big screen. People of all persuasions love to see the tired old clichés of their political dogmas issue freshly forth from the mouths of attractive young people. It gives them the sense, at least for a moment, that they just might own the future. (This, by the way, is why candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Hillary Clinton tend to underperform, even if they have the preferred ideas or a big campaign organization: they seem too much like the wave of the past.)
That’s the “pixie” part, but what is more important is the mania. Ocasio-Cortez’s exaggerated mannerisms are by now well-known. She projects a kind of boundless nervous energy, an unbridled enthusiasm for even the most worn-out idea, an unshakable conviction that policies that have been tried (and failed) repeatedly would work if we just went a little bigger and believed a little harder. In this respect, her political model is not Trump—whose style is less “youthful enthusiasm” than “grandpa ranting on the Internet”—but Barack Obama. The whole appeal of Obama, the reason why he came out of nowhere to derail Hillary Clinton in 2008, was that he was able to convincingly act as if 20th-Century Big Government welfare-statism was an exciting new idea that had never been tried. He didn’t seem resigned to its failures, or at least to its unpopularity, in the way that the Clintons were.