There are two striking things about freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her rise to stardom.
The first is the way her youthfulness completely catches friend and foe alike off-guard. That a video of her dancing in college became a thing we talked about for more than two minutes would have been absurd in a prior political era. But, her attitude toward her party and her political opponents, and her so-called “clapbacks” on social media are captivating for people who haven’t really seen anything like her before.
The problem with being a millennial politician, with all the demands for attention that comes with the all-too-familiar attitude, is that the spotlight is bigger. And, when you screw up, it tends to get noticed a lot more.
So, when this rising star of the American socialist movement is sitting across from Anderson Cooper in a pretty major – if not somewhat softball – interview, there are many, many eyes on her, wanting to see how she handles herself. Will she hold up under any scrutiny whatsoever? Will she crumble? Or will she say something absurd?
Guess which one she opted to go with?
In her 60 Minutes interview with Anderson Cooper, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) responded to criticisms of her “fuzzy” math by saying people are people “more concerned” with being accurate on facts than being morally right.
“One of the criticisms of you is that your math is fuzzy. The Washington Post recently awarded with you four Pinocchios for misstating some statistics about Pentagon spending.” Cooper explained to Ocasio-Cortez.
“If people really want to blow up one figure here or one word there, I would argue they are missing the forest for the tree,” she replied. “I think there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”
We currently live in a world where you can make a pretty good case that Donald Trump is prone to “misstating” facts (or, hell, straight-up lying) to suit his purposes. It is completely understandable that the Democrats would try to build a case against Trump by pointing this out.
When you have an up-and-coming star like AOC saying that being “morally right” supersedes “being precisely, factually, and semantically correct,” then the primary argument Democrats would like to make against Trump is wholly undermined.
Of course, it’s not as though I expect factual correctness to become a thing in politics. As we’ve said here time and again, Trump (and, by extension, AOC) is a symptom of the disease. Years and years of wanting to appear “morally right” has destroyed any semblance of factual correctness in our political process. There is no “truth” when the political atmosphere depends on sound bites and “Gotcha!” moments.
Factual correctness matters, however. Claiming morality in determining economic and fiscal policy is a practice that actively invites dishonesty. Inherent in the idea of moral policy is that you are doing something that does good, so it must therefore also be right.
But when you give people the power to determine what is right or fair, then you are giving people the power to determine what is wrong and unfair – it is a power that has been abused time and again throughout history. It is abused quite a bit in American politics. I have no faith that a conservative AOC would be any better at it than the socialist one is.
Coming to the table with facts, however, rather than a list of moral imperatives, means that there is real, substantive discussion to be had that can move policy in a direction that is beneficial to the greatest number of citizens.
That is what the aim should be. It is not, nor do I have any realistic hope that it ever truly will be. But, hey, someone could surprise me.