Ever since Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won the Democrat primary for New York’s 14th congressional district, her supporters have declared her the future of the Democrat Party. However, she has been making unforced errors since her June victory — and the latest misstep shows it’s not just her policies that are misguided.
Last Wednesday, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro invited Ocasio-Cortez to a live debate, offering a $1o,000 donation as an incentive.
Hey, @Ocasio2018, what do you say? pic.twitter.com/lKDtmMc8Us
— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) August 8, 2018
Ocasio-Cortez did not respond to the challenge until the next day, when she compared the invitation to catcalling because they’re both “unsolicited requests from men with bad intentions.”
Just like catcalling, I don’t owe a response to unsolicited requests from men with bad intentions.
And also like catcalling, for some reason they feel entitled to one. pic.twitter.com/rsD17Oq9qe
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) August 10, 2018
There are plenty of mature or productive ways to respond to such a challenge, yet Ocasio-Cortez chose the most ridiculous and damaging one.
Ocasio-Cortez is certainly not obligated to debate Shapiro, who is not her opponent or even a politician. She wasn’t even obligated to respond to him; a candidate for Congress is not required to respond to every single debate request he or she receives, regardless of how many Twitter followers or podcast subscribers the challenger has.
And, though I’m conflicted about Ocasio-Cortez’ description of “bad intentions,” of course Shapiro was hoping the debate would make her look bad and result in ammo with which to portray her negatively. Republicans and future opposition campaigns would be thrilled at the gift of incoherent answers or unflattering video footage.
There was therefore little benefit and much risk for her, particularly as a candidate who has an economics degree but is unfamiliar with how the unemployment rate works; as a candidate who is running on the Democrat ticket but is unable to answer a question about the current Democrat leader; and as a candidate who criticizes other politicians but consistently receives false ratings and Pinocchios herself.
So she certainly didn’t owe him a response, and it’s understandable she didn’t accept the debate challenge.
Ignoring him was most likely the best choice. The next best choice would have been pointing out that Shapiro is a journalist and political commentator, not a political opponent, and debating him is not necessary.
However, as is so common in our political discourse these days, Ocasio-Cortez chose instead to issue a “zinger” that would get approvingly retweeted by her adoring fans. And in doing so, she said something that not only doesn’t make sense but can also be used against women.
I am a feminist who has written about unique issues facing women and about gendered insults and harassment. But comparing unsolicited debate challenges to catcalling — and therefore a form of sexual harassment — is ridiculous. Her tweet was an obvious attempt to score political points and to dunk on an ideological opponent, but instead it made her look weak.
Ocasio-Cortez is running for a seat in Congress. People from both sides of the aisle are going to challenge her to debates and to defend her ideas — and many of the times, these challenges will be unsolicited. Is she going to imply it’s sexist every time?
As a candidate for Congress, she should be able, and willing, to articulate why her ideas would be both successful and beneficial.
But it now looks like Ocasio-Cortez is unwilling to defend her ideas — and she will disingenuously use accusations of sexism and hide behind feminism to do so.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is just one person, but actions such as these don’t advance the goals of feminism — they set them back.
And that’s not all that sets women back.
In their efforts to defend Ocasio-Cortez from all criticism, many of Ocasio-Cortez’ defenders lower the standards instead. They praise her boldness as a way to excuse her ignorance. They blame criticism of her on her sex, not on her own lack of knowledge. And excuses from her defenders include rebuttals along the lines of she’s no more ignorant than other members of Congress and Steve King has said worse.
This is the bar they want to set? These Democrats are okay with Ocasio-Cortez’ inarticulate rambling because Steve King is worse?
It’s shocking her supporters are willing to accept this from their side. Would they not rather demand knowledgeable representatives who can effectively explain their ideas? Ultimately, neither side will improve when they continue to excuse ineptitude because they argue the other side is worse.
As a conservative who believes in limited government and the free market, I was concerned when Ocasio-Cortez won because of the damage she could do by popularizing socialism — even if her seat is only one seat, in a very blue district. Bernie Sanders — a 76-vear-old white man — had inspired millions of young voters to support socialism and powerful government; it seemed more than likely that voters would find socialism even more appealing when promoted by a young woman of color.
Fortunately, Ocasio-Cortez stumbles nearly every time she takes the stage or microphone, and she will almost certainly continue to hurt herself and her movement: Most of the candidates she endorsed ended up losing, and in interview after interview — even on the friendliest of turf! — her answers are incoherent and illogical.
So why are Dems willing to accept this from Ocasio-Cortez? Because she’s a woman who fights?
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ decision to run for office and her victory were both certainly impressive. Unfortunately, her policies are bad for the country. Now, her — and her defenders’ — use of feminism as a shield is bad for women.
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.