In theory, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi should be the leaders of the Democratic Party. Yet, it’s become clear since the inauguration of the 116th Congress that everything runs through the popular new faces of the Party.
The social media savvy of these new members has led to massive followings. Ocasio-Cortez currently has more followers on Twitter than the 21 Democratic Committee Chair’s in the House combined. The media covers these popular new members because they have a big following, and they have a big following, at least in part, because the media covers them.
Reps. Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez are the bright, shiny new faces within the Democratic Party. Like with any new thing, they are commanding more attention than any of the established, senior members. As their media clout grows, so too does their role as influential voices inside the Party giving these young new members a newfound power.
The problem with these new youthful Democrats having such great influence and power is that since assuming office they have been exposed as unknowledgeable on key issues. What’s worse, they have seemingly no desire to put in the work necessary to become knowledgeable and informed decisionmakers.
To date, these freshmen congresswomen have demonstrated a lack of effort in digging deep into the intricacies required of almost any issue facing Congress. Rather, they are stuck articulating broad, vague, policies and omitting any detail or elaboration.
Ocasio-Cortez and Omar have made a routine out of pontificating their superior morals to the rest of us. They have no qualms about criticizing America, yet their content has been lacking on substantive, practical policy ideas.
By now, everyone knows about the anti-Semitic statements made by Omar. But look at her recent treatment of Elliott Abrams, the newly appointed special envoy to Venezuela.
In her opening remarks, Omar couldn’t even be bothered to get Elliott Abrams’ name correct when initially addressing him, calling him “Mr. Adams.” At best, it shows a complete lack of preparedness. At worst, it was her intentionally treating a man with a lifetime of public service with sheer disrespect in the hopes of scoring political points and another viral moment she could use for self-promotion and fundraising.
Omar attempted to land a haymaker about Abrams’ prior misdemeanor guilty plea for concealing evidence from Congress during testimony on the Iran-contra affair. But from the get-go, Omar struggled through reading questions, begging the question if she was even familiar with the affair or if the questions were just prepared for her by a staffer.
Omar’s attitude toward Abrams was so disrespectful and condescending, it forced both Max Boot and The Daily Beast to write pieces critical of her demeanor.
Ocasio-Cortez has made an early habit out of similar gaffs. Her Green New Deal rollout, which she attempted to walk back, was met with both laughs and public pushback. President Donald Trump labeled it best when he said the positions inside the Green New Deal sounded like a “high school term paper.”
The plan contained outrageous and impractical positions ranging from rebuilding every single building in the United States to complete eradication of all fossil fuel usage within 10 years, which would effectively lead to the elimination of air travel. Even Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, a lifelong Democrat who is now considering a presidential run as an independent, called the Green New Deal “not realistic” and “immoral.”
Ocasio-Cortez was also a frequent and rampant critic of the deal bringing Amazon’s HQ2 to Long Island City, Queens due to the tax incentives the company was receiving. Other politicians like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo joined in on the criticism, but Ocasio-Cortez was one of the most frequent and loudest critics.
In Amazon’s statement on its decision, the company pointed directly to lack of support from local politicians as a primary reason for backing out of the deal. Naturally, Ocasio-Cortez viewed Amazon’s decision as a momentous victory and took to Twitter to celebrate.
Rarely, if ever, has a politician been as happy as Ocasio-Cortez was to see 25,000 jobs leave her area. These weren’t just 25,000 jobs, these were high-paying jobs with an average salary estimated to be over $100,000. Not to mention the estimated 67,000 additional jobs that would have been added by Amazon coming into the area.
While Ocasio-Cortez celebrates these jobs leaving, public polling shows the public was massively in favor of Amazon being in the area. In a Sienna poll, 56 percent of New Yorkers supported the deal with Amazon, including 70 percent of African-Americans and 81 percent of Latinos. Despite being elected to defend the interests of her constituents, it appears Ocasio-Cortez is taking pleasure in rejecting a large amount of great employment opportunities for those constituents.
Both Omar and Ocasio-Cortez have been lightning rods for attention, though rarely for anything constructive involving policy or public discourse. They are champions of viral cropped Twitter clips, leaving out the full context that exposes the true colors of their ineptness — nothing more.
Young people with fresh ideas and a fresh approach are badly needed in politics. But those young people should be capable and deserving of the responsibility to speak and make decisions for the people they represent. We can only hope this movement won’t become the future of the Democratic Party. America deserves politicians who are more concerned with the interests of the American people they represent, than they are with Twitter followers and gaining influence by simply being the loudest voices in the room.
Evan Berryhill (@EvBerryhill) is a former communications staffer for Rep. David B. McKinley. Currently, Evan is a law student at West Virginia University and works as an opinion writer and political commentator.
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