How conservative press coverage feeds Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Here’s something to ponder. If you’re browsing through your favorite blogs (particularly this one) and you come across a headline dealing with congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, you might have one of two reactions. “Oh, good! Another AOC story!” Or, perhaps, “Oh God… not another AOC story.” For better or worse, she certainly seems to make her way into the news quite a bit for someone who has yet to cast a single vote or pen the first line of a new piece of legislation.

That’s one of the subjects that Jim Geraghty digs into in today’s edition of the Morning Jolt. He discusses AOC’s “Symbiotic Relationship with Critical Media Coverage” and how we wind up giving her exactly what she wants.

Publicly discussing incoming congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is something like the assessment of nuclear war in WarGames: The only way to win is to not play.

If you point out that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about in off-the-cuff remarks, you’ll be accused of being some sort of elitist snob who thinks members of Congress should know that the unemployment rate is not low because of people working second jobs, how many chambers of Congress there are, or have a rough approximation of the size of the defense budget, and not miss by $20 trillion or so.

To the best of my recollection, I’ve written about her twice since her primary win in June and spoken about her a few times on the Three Martini Lunch or other venues. That doesn’t matter; I will inevitably be accused of being “obsessed” with her just for writing this item in today’s newsletter.

Jim goes on to point out that regardless of how the audience may feel about AOC stories, she’s clearly learned how to play off of and benefit from the press coverage, particularly when it’s negative. By fighting with her detractors, she roils the liberal base which brings the MSM running like flies to a dead squirrel. And with the press paying that much attention, the Democratic leadership in the House has no choice but to pander to her a bit so as to avoid her wrath and that of her supporters. As Geraghty points out, if the press simply treated her like any other inexperienced freshman member showing up for their first day of work, AOC’s path would be much more difficult.

How much coverage of AOC is “too much” and how much of it is justified? Like Jim, I took a quick look through our own archives and discovered that we have 58 posts tagged for her, of which I wrote eleven. (All of us here have featured her fairly regularly, I suppose.) But are we, as Jim suggests, inadvertently helping her?

She certainly says and does plenty of things that are cringeworthy and provides more than her share of fodder. And if New Yorkers chose to elect someone with those habits, what’s not to love? She’s sort of a Bizzaro World version of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But I can also see Jim’s point. The more everyone keeps talking about her, the larger her presence grows on the national stage. And it’s not as if any amount of criticism is going to knock her from her perch in the House. Given the makeup of her district, she will probably be able to stay there for as long as she likes.

So does that mean we should just ignore her various foibles and move her to the back burner until she does something actually newsworthy? The fact that I’m about to hit the publish button on this column will likely give you a hint as to my answer.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023