– Multiple Crises
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‘Ravenous hysteria’: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says attacks from Republican extremists have reached a ‘ludicrous level’ in New Yorker interview – Alternet.org
If a smartphone video of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez jaywalking in Midtown Manhattan were to surface, someone on the far right would inevitably be tweeting about how “scandalous” it was. Hysterical, incredibly silly attacks on the 29-year-old Democratic congresswoman have become a regular occurrence among Republicans, and the New Yorker’s David Remnick explores the ridiculous nature of the attacks in a new interview with her.
Remnick notes that Republicans have been resorting to “phony memes” about everything from “her clothes, her makeup, her intellect, her boyfriend, her apartment building” to “her dance routine from her days at Boston University.”
And Ocasio-Cortez asserts that the “ravenous hysteria” she is experiencing from the far right is “really getting to a level that is kind of out of control.”
The article’s headline, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Coming for Your Hamburgers!,” is clearly mocking the over-the-top criticism of her coming from Republicans—which Ocasio-Cortez finds both frustrating and amusing. Discussing Republicans’ reactions to her Green New Deal proposals on climate change, Ocasio-Cortez tells Remnick, “Apparently, I am a cow dictator. What’s humorous to me is that we’re finally proposing a clear, ambitious, but necessary and grounded policy on the scale of the problem. And so, it’s hard for the Republicans to refute the actual policy on its substance. They resort to mythologizing it on a ludicrous level. Ted Cruz says we want to ‘kill all the cows.’ How far have we slid in our discourse? But that’s what half our political representation is up to.”
Remnick asserts that the GOP’s demonization of Ocasio-Cortez is meant to discredit Democrats in general as President Donald Trump fights to win a second term in 2020. Trump, Remnick writes, “made clear in his State of the Union Address” that he “will try to hang ‘socialism’ around the neck of the Democratic Party” and “describe the Democratic candidate as the second coming of (North Korean dictator) Kim Jong Un…. That will surely be the move, and Ocasio-Cortez, who is six years short of eligibility for the presidency, will surely be a focal point of Trump’s tantrums.”
Remnick concludes the piece by noting that Ocasio-Cortez cannot be the only one to address issues like climate change, universal health care and raising the United States’ national minimum wage.
A historian explains why right-wing criticism of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s clothing mirrors the response to early female labor activists | Alternet
It seems that some critics just can’t accept the fact that an unapologetic Democratic socialist like Ocasio-Cortez – who calls for a more equal distribution of wealth and fair shake to workers – can also wear designer clothes.
To a historian like me who writes about fashion and politics, the attention to Ocasio-Cortez’s clothing as a way to criticize her politics is an all-too-familiar line of attack.
Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the first woman or even the first outsider to receive such treatment.
In particular, I’m reminded of Clara Lemlich, a young radical socialist who used fashion as a form of empowerment while she fought for workers’ rights.
Lemlich – like Ocasio-Cortez – wasn’t afraid to take on big business while wearing fancy clothes.
‘We like new hats’
In 1909, when she was only 23 years old, Lemlich defied the male union leadership whom she saw as too hesitant and out of touch.
In what would come to be known as the “Uprising of the 20,000,” Lemlich led thousands of garment workers – the majority of them young women – to walk out from their workplace and go on a strike.
As historian Nan Enstad has shown, insisting on their right to maintain a fashionable appearance was not a frivolous pursuit of poor women living beyond their means. It was an important political strategy in strikers’ struggle to gain rights and respect as women, workers and Americans.
Two women strikers on picket line during the ‘Uprising of the 20,000’ in New York City. Library of Congress
When they picketed the streets wearing their best clothes, strikers challenged the image of the “deserving poor” that depicted female workers as helpless victims deserving of mercy.
Wearing a fancy dress or a hat signaled their economic independence and their respectability as ladies. But it also spoke to their right to be taken seriously and to have their voices heard.
Despite the criticism, Lemlich and her fellow strikers were able to win concessions from factory owners for most of their demands. They also turned Local 25 of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union into one of the most influential labor unions in the country, changing for the better the lives of millions of workers like themselves.
But more importantly, Lemlich and her colleagues changed the perception of what politically radical women should look like. They demonstrated that socialism and labor struggles were not in opposition to fashionable appearances.
Today, their legacy is embodied in Ocasio-Cortez’s message. In fact, if Clara Lemlich were alive today, she would probably smile at Ocasio-Cortez’s response to her critics.
The reason some journalists “can’t help but obsess about my clothes [and] rent,” she tweeted, is because “women like me aren’t supposed to run for office – or win.”
Ocasio-Cortez has already begun to fashion an image for women who, as her worn-out campaign shoes can attest, not only know how to “talk the talk,” but can also “walk the walk.”
Opinion | The New Socialists - The New York Times
Throughout most of American history, the idea of socialism has been a hopeless, often vaguely defined dream. So distant were its prospects at midcentury that the best definition Irving Howe and Lewis Coser, editors of the socialist periodical Dissent, could come up with in 1954 was this: “Socialism is the name of our desire.”
That may be changing. Public support for socialism is growing. Self-identified socialists like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib are making inroads into the Democratic Party, which the political analyst Kevin Phillips once called the “second-most enthusiastic capitalist party” in the world. Membership in the Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist organization in the country, is skyrocketing, especially among young people.
What explains this irruption? And what do we mean, in 2018, when we talk about “socialism”?
Another part of the story is less accidental. Since the 1970s, American liberals have taken a right turn on the economy. They used to champion workers and unions, high taxes, redistribution, regulation and public services. Now they lionize billionaires like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, deregulate wherever possible, steer clear of unions except at election time and at least until recently, fight over how much to cut most people’s taxes.
Liberals, of course, argue that they are merely using market-friendly tools like tax cuts and deregulation to achieve things like equitable growth, expanded health care and social justice — the same ends they always have pursued. For decades, left-leaning voters have gone along with that answer, even if they didn’t like the results, for lack of an alternative.
It took Mr. Sanders to convince them that if tax credits and insurance exchanges are the best liberals have to offer to men and women struggling to make stagnating wages pay for bills that skyrocket and debt that never dissipates, maybe socialism is worth a try.
Like the great transformative presidents, today’s socialist candidates reach beyond the parties to target a malignant social form: for Abraham Lincoln, it was the slavocracy; for Franklin Roosevelt, it was the economic royalists. The great realigners understood that any transformation of society requires a confrontation not just with the opposition but also with the political economy that underpins both parties. That’s why realigners so often opt for a language that neither party speaks. For Lincoln in the 1850s, confronting the Whigs and the Democrats, that language was free labor. For leftists in the 2010s, confronting the Republicans and the Democrats, it’s socialism.
To critics in the mainstream and further to the left, that language can seem slippery. With their talk of Medicare for All or increasing the minimum wage, these socialist candidates sound like New Deal or Great Society liberals. There’s not much discussion, yet, of classic socialist tenets like worker control or collective ownership of the means of production.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Historic Win and the Future of the Democratic Party | The New Yorker
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is twenty-eight. She was born in the Parkchester neighborhood of the Bronx and lives there now, in a modest one-bedroom apartment. Parkchester was originally a planned community conceived by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company and was for decades segregated, predominantly Irish and Italian. Today, it’s largely African-American, Hispanic, and South Asian. Ocasio-Cortez comes from a Puerto Rican family in which the parents’ self-sacrifice has been rewarded by their daughter’s earnest striving, and, now, a historic achievement. Come November, Ocasio-Cortez is almost certain to become the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. As recently as ten months ago, she was waiting tables at a taco place near Union Square called Flats Fix. On June 26th, she pulled off a political upset in the Democratic primary for the Fourteenth Congressional District, soundly defeating the incumbent, Joseph Crowley, the most powerful politician in Queens County and the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.
We sat down at a table near the window. She allowed that she was getting worn down. “You’re speaking to me when I am still emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and logistically processing all of this,” she said. “The whole thing’s got me knocked a little flat.”
With good reason. Not long ago, Ocasio-Cortez was mixing margaritas. Today, she is the embodiment of anti-corporate politics and a surge of female candidates in the midterm elections. “It’s a lot to carry,” she said. As a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, she was on the receiving end of Murdoch-media hysteria. The Post greeted her win with the headline “RED ALERT.” Sean Hannity pronounced her “downright scary.” And Ben Shapiro called her a member of the “howling at the moon” segment of the Democratic Party. On the anti-Trump right, Bret Stephens wrote in the Times that “Hugo Chávez was also a democratic socialist,” and warned that, in a national election, the likes of Ocasio-Cortez will be “political hemlock for the Democratic Party.” None of it seemed exactly real. When I asked her where she was going to live in D.C., her eyes widened in surprise, as if it had not occurred to her that she would no longer be spending most of her time in the Bronx. “Not a clue,” she said.
One of her most effective strokes was a two-minute-long video, the creation of Naomi Burton and Nick Hayes, D.S.A. activists from Detroit, who started Means of Production, a media-production company, and set out looking for working-class-oriented campaigns. They learned about Ocasio-Cortez on Facebook and sent her a direct message on Twitter. For less than ten thousand dollars, they produced a soulful social-media-ready film that showed the candidate in her apartment, on a subway platform, in a bodega, talking with a pregnant woman, to kids selling cupcakes. All the while, in voice-over, she speaks directly to the viewer:
Women like me aren’t supposed to run for office. I wasn’t born to a wealthy or powerful family. . . . This race is about people versus money. We’ve got people, they’ve got money. It’s time we acknowledged that not all Democrats are the same. That a Democrat who takes corporate money, profits off foreclosure, doesn’t live here, doesn’t send his kids to our schools, doesn’t drink our water or breathe our air cannot possibly represent us. What the Bronx and Queens needs is Medicare for all, tuition-free public college, a federal jobs guarantee, and criminal-justice reform.
The video went viral. Something was afoot.
On Election Day, in a car on the way to the billiards hall where Ocasio-Cortez was going to watch the returns, some of her advisers were getting encouraging reports from polling places. Shut it down, she said. No more looking at phones, no more guessing: “Let’s see the vote.” That night, cameras captured her expression of shock as she watched the news: a thirteen-point landslide. She had no words. It was a moment of pure joy playing out live on television. Crowley gamely accepted the results and, with a pickup band behind him, took out his guitar and dedicated “Born to Run” to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. For a man in six kinds of pain, he sang a creditable version.
If the Murdoch press was predictably outraged, some establishment Democrats were wary, too. Nancy Pelosi dismissed the win as a local phenomenon. And, while her tone was curt and superior, her larger point was clear: in November, Democratic candidates, no matter what shade of blue, had to beat Republicans. Districts had to flip. At dinner, Ocasio-Cortez bristled at the establishment dismissals. She did not doubt that there were many factors in her win—her identity as a young woman, as a Latina, as a daughter of a working-class family—but she had also out-organized a party boss, hammered away at immigration and health-care issues, and brought out new voters. It was infuriating for her to listen to the condescension.
“I’m twenty-eight years old, and I was elected on this super-idealistic platform,” she said. “Folks may want to take that away from me, but I won. When you hear ‘She won just for demographic reasons,’ or low turnout, or that I won because of all the white ‘Bernie bros’ in Astoria—maybe that all helped. But I smoked this race. I didn’t edge anybody out. I dominated. And I am going to own that.” The more complicated question was how she was going to own her identity as a democratic socialist.
When Ocasio-Cortez is interviewed now, particularly by the establishment outlets, she is invariably asked about “the S-word,” socialism; sometimes the question is asked with a shiver of anxiety, as if she were suggesting that schoolchildren begin the day by singing the “Internationale” under a portrait of Enver Hoxha. When I asked her about her political heroes, though, there was no mention of anyone in the Marxist pantheon. She named Robert F. Kennedy. In college, reading his speeches—“that was my jam,” she said. R.F.K., at least in the last chapter of his life, his 1968 Presidential campaign, tried to forge a party coalition of workers, minorities, and the middle class.
D.S.A., which was founded in 1982, is not a party but a dues-paying organization, and it has seen a bump in membership recently, from five thousand in 2016 to more than forty thousand today. The first co-chairs were Harrington and the author Barbara Ehrenreich. David Dinkins, the former mayor of New York, was a member of D.S.A. There’s no question that some members are Marxists in the traditional sense; some want to see the destruction of capitalism and the state ownership of factories, banks, and utilities. Jabari Brisport, a D.S.A. member from Brooklyn who recently ran, unsuccessfully, for City Council, told me that the group is “a big umbrella organization for left and leftish types, from Bernie-crats to hard-core Trotskyists.” Julia Salazar, a D.S.A. member in her mid-twenties who is running for the New York State Senate with the ardent support of Ocasio-Cortez, told Jacobin, a leftist quarterly, that a democratic socialist “recognizes the capitalist system as being inherently oppressive, and is actively working to dismantle it and to empower the working class and the marginalized in our society.”
Ocasio-Cortez and, for the most part, the people around her speak largely in the language of Sanders. Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist, and yet in the most extensive speech he ever gave on the theme—at Georgetown University, in November, 2015—he did not mention Debs. Rather, he focussed almost entirely on Franklin Roosevelt and the legacy of the New Deal. He said that he shared the vision that F.D.R. set out in his 1944 State of the Union speech, what Roosevelt called the Second Bill of Rights. Sanders pointed out that universal health care was “not a radical idea” and existed in countries such as Denmark, France, Germany, and Taiwan. “I don’t believe government should own the means of production,” he said, “but I do believe that the middle class and the working families who produce the wealth of America deserve a fair deal.”
Ocasio-Cortez and her circle focus less on the malefactions of the current Administration than on the endemic corruption of the American system, particularly the role of “dark money” in American politics and the lack of basic welfare provisions for the working classes and the poor. When they hear conservatives describe as a “socialist” Barack Obama—a man who, in their view, had failed to help the real victims of the financial crisis, while bailing out the banks—they tend to laugh ruefully. “I think the right did us a service calling Obama a socialist for eight years,” Saikat Chakrabarti, one of Ocasio-Cortez’s closest associates, said. “It inoculated us. But people focus on the labels when they are not sure what they mean. What people call socialism these days is Eisenhower Republicanism!”