There’s that old saying that politics is showbiz for ugly people. If that’s true, I think it is fair to say that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has “gone Hollywood.”
I’ve mused on the concept of “going Hollywood” in a previous article. Many people move to Los Angeles to make it big. Every day, starry-eyed kids from Smalltown, USA step off the bus with nothing but a suitcase and a dream. But after having been there for a while, they “go Hollywood.” Their original suburban romanticism is gone. They take on the nihilistic, hedonistic, materialistic, and status-obsessed value system of LA. “Going native” is a similar term, but “going Hollywood” is a very specific kind of “going native” universally understood as having exclusively negative connotations.
The political equivalent of “going Hollywood” would be Mr. Smith going to Washington to get slapped around and told the “You Will Atone” speech from Network about how things really work, then accepting his role as a prostitute for the donors and special interests (no disrespect to prostitutes).
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has arrived at that point. AOC, the bartender from the Bronx, outsider’s outsider, Bernie’s heir-apparent, the lady who was gonna bring Marxism to the masses, has gone full establishment shill. She has gone political Hollywood.
This of course gives her the benefit of the doubt that she ever believed anything to begin with. I’ve heard some more conspiratorial-minded Leftists accuse AOC of having been a CIA asset from the beginning, meant to become the poster child for socialism, co-opt the Bernie movement, and then redirect it into ways that favor the establishment.
I’m intrigued by this theory and I’d be interested in hearing the evidence, but I can’t give an opinion on it. Would I be surprised if she was CIA? Eh, maybe a little. But not terribly.
There has always been something about AOC that seemed just a little too perfect. She’s too perfectly sassy. Too perfectly passionate. Too perfectly pretty. Her backstory is too perfectly interesting. She’s a POC, but she’s the kind of POC that you see on TV. She nails that perfect sweet spot of ethnic-looking/white-presenting, the winning combo for an aspirational Democrat. She has working-class street cred with an expensive education and the bourgeois sensibilities you would expect from an expensively-educated person. She’s a neoliberal wet dream, the kind of person a cat lady would invent as their imaginary friend and live vicariously through.
I could easily imagine a TV writer inventing a character like AOC. AOC and her whole mythos sound like a pitch: “Okay, you’ve got this quirky yet idealistic Latina from the Bronx who works at a bar. But then she runs for Congress, and with the help of her ragtag group of commie friends, she pulls off an astonishing upset victory against a white male establishment insider. Once she gets to Washington DC, she teams up with these other brown girls, and together, they go around flustering all these stuffy old white males with their spunky brown girl magic. . . .”
Of course, there could be an innocent explanation. AOC could just be a millennial who fluked her way into a position of power and status, got the You Will Atone speech, and now goes through life acting like she is starring in a movie because she is a narcissist. Stranger things have happened.
It was clear early on that AOC would eventually sell out to the establishment. In 2018, candidate AOC made some mildly spicy statements about Israel and their treatment of the Palestinians and was able to get away with it because she was still relatively obscure. But after winning the election and exploding onto the national scene, she tried making those same kinds of statements and was met with swift and severe backlash. Almost immediately, she started walking back: “Well, uh, the situation in Israel is actually really complicated. . .”
That was the moment when it was clear to all intelligent dissidents on the Left and Right that AOC did not have the moral fortitude to challenge the establishment seriously. If you are apologizing for making true statements, that’s a pretty good sign that you don’t have what it takes. Sometimes have to pick your battles, but sometimes the battle picks you and how you respond says much about your character.
Watching AOC’s devolution into swamp creature occur in real-time is, while not surprising, still a sight to behold. It’s worse than I thought it would be. She has not merely gone from outsider to insider. She’s becoming the establishment’s attack dog against other outsiders.
On March 19, Democratic Left, a magazine put out by the Democratic Socialists of America, released a very revealing interview with AOC. The interview is a hurricane of gaslighting and establishment shilling, but what has caused a ruckus is AOC throwing the Bernie Left under the bus in the most manipulative and disingenuous of ways.
At this point, you might be saying “Aw, crap. Here we go again. Why are you always going on about the Bernie Bros? I’m sick of hearing about ‘Based Leftists.’ There are, like, 12 based Leftists in the entire world. The red-brown thing ain’t happening. They don’t like us. We don’t like them. Enough with the Bernie Bros!”
Well, the issue is important.
The fate of the Bernie Left is one of the great wild cards in the political landscape and there are a few different ways it can play out. Do they “get with the program” and fall in line behind Biden? Do they defect to the Right? I’ve even seen some Leftists who, blackpilled on Marxism, have pondered whether or not class-conscious Tucker Carlson-style populism might be the closest to socialism they can realistically hope for. Or do they not “get with the program,” not go Right, and remain internal opposition on the Left? Each scenario would have different implications.
The socialist Left isn’t big enough to get its own way, but being somewhere between one-fourth to one-third of the Democratic Party means they might be able to play kingmaker. Thus, the Bernie Bro Question is worth devoting some attention to.
I have been saying for a while that once all the Right-wingers are banned from the internet and purged from the national conversation that the “unwoke Left,” would be next. A few weeks ago, I wrote about a Daily Beast hit piece on the Dirtbag Left that tried to smear them all as crypto-Nazis and I predicted that the article was just the beginning of an establishment offensive against the Bernie Left that would culminate in mass deplatforming. That may not come for a while, but the article was laying the groundwork and establishing certain narratives about the unwoke Left that will eventually be used to justify mass censorship.
This new AOC interview looks like a continuation of this offensive. The Daily Beast article came out on March 9. This interview came on March 19.
Interestingly enough, the interview was actually conducted on January 26. The DSA has sat on it for a month and a half. That seems odd; you would think that landing an interview with AOC would be a major coup for a fringe organization like the DSA. Why wait? I can’t help but suspect that the specific timing of its release was strategic for reasons that will be clear soon.
We’ll start with the part where she throws the socialists under the bus:
DSA: Some on the Left have looked at Biden’s record and his differences with the Bernie wing of the party, and they conclude that no progress is going to come out of the Biden administration. What’s your view?
AOC: Well, I think it’s a really privileged critique.
Right off the bat, AOC is using woke language and being implicitly anti-white. I mean, we all know what kind of “privilege” she is talking about. “People think Joe Biden is a whore for the corporations.” Yeah, well, you only think that because you are white. One sentence in and you can already see where this is going.
AOC: We’re gonna have to focus on solidarity with one another, developing our senses for good-faith critique and bad faith critique. Because bad faith critique can destroy everything that we have built so swiftly. And we know this because it has in the past, and it’s taken us so many decades to get to this point. We do not have the time or the luxury to entertain bad-faith actors in our movement.
This right here. This is going to be a major line of argument the establishment uses against the socialist Left. Bernie Bros don’t engage in “hate speech,” and claiming they are crypto-Nazis or motivated by racism was always going to be kind of a stretch. Claiming that they are arguing in bad faith is perfect. Suggesting that the socialists don’t believe what they are saying gives establishment Democrats an excuse to dismiss their arguments.
Liberals love the concept of “bad faith.” In my own experiences jousting with liberals on the internet, when encountered with a perfectly logical argument that they don’t know how to deal with, they will frequently accuse me of arguing in bad faith. “That argument may sound reasonable but I know that you are not actually motivated by reason but rather by insecurity over your small penis.”
It’s like they think that logic is some kind of trick.
Now, onto the emotional blackmail:
AOC: But also we have to value our solidarity with one another. For anyone who brings that up, we really have to ask ourselves, what is the message that you are sending to your black and brown and undocumented members of your community, to your friends, when you say nothing has changed? Perhaps not enough has changed. And this is not a semantic argument. Just the other night, we in collective struggle were able to stop the deportations of critical members of our community. And that would not have happened in a Trump administration. They were just on the belt ready to go. And you just cannot say that nothing will change. We can make the argument that not enough is changing fast enough. And these really are not nitpicking questions of semantics, because this is how the language that we use communicates to individuals who is included and who do you consider a person. When you say “nothing has changed,” you are calling the people who are now protected from deportation “no one.” And we cannot allow for that in our movement. That’s not a movement that I want to be a part of. And I know that’s not the movement that we are a part of.
As a propagandist myself, I have to say that this is superb propaganda from AOC.
How do you paint people who say “race doesn’t matter” as racists? This is how. Some brown people are better off because Biden is President, so if you lament the fact that Biden is President, that’s a slap in the face to those brown people — therefore, you are racist.
Sure, it’s disingenuous nonsense, but normie liberals will eat it up.
Note the use word “solidarity,” which has special significance in socialist circles. As long as one brown person is benefiting from the current regime, you are not only racist to criticize it, but you are also a bad socialist because you’re not Doing Solidarity.
How are the Bernie Bros supposed to respond to this? Do they say “Fuck those brown people”? They could. (I would.) But they probably won’t.
Of course, this interview happened in January, before the current border crisis that forced Biden to change his tune, suspend asylum requests, and deport people. I’m sure AOC could still find ways to claim that POCs are still better off under Biden, however.
AOC: And that cynicism, that weaponization of cynicism, is what has and what continues to threaten to tear down everything that we have spent so much time building up.
Boom! Another line of attack.
You see, Bernie Bros are “cynical.” They think that politicians are a bunch of corrupt and greedy lackeys for special interests. That’s what cynical people do. They see the worst in everyone and always assume bad motives for everything.
Now, I’m not saying that AOC is a Deep State plant. But if she is some kind of Deep State plant, you would expect her to say things like this, try to steer the fringe socialist Left into more establishment-compliant directions, and inject it with all sorts of wokeness and idpol litmus tests to make it unpalatable to actual working-class people.
A lot of socialism’s appeal to young whites is that it is an alternative to the race-obsessed wokeness of neoliberalism. People become class-first socialists in part to get away from that stuff.
Let’s say, however, that AOC is not a Deep State plant and is just a commie that sold out. All that would show is that when the rubber hits the road, POC socialists can’t be trusted not to slip into identitarianism. Again and again in this interview, AOC puts the wellbeing of her fellow Hispanics ahead of big-picture class considerations. “Who cares if Biden is a puppet of the oligarchs and the military-industrial complex? The important point is that my fellow brown people are better off now!”
Take this line later in the article when she is talking about Covid stimulus. She gives away more than she probably realizes.
AOC: So when you target this for reimbursement, it’s actually quite a progressive cash transfer. Because when you are reimbursing those who have died of COVID, and COVID is disproportionately impacting the black and the brown and the working class, you are able to lift those families or at least patch them through to prevent inequity and inequality from further bottoming out the bottom.
Did you catch it? She said “The black and the brown and the working class.”
AOC does not consider black and brown people part of the “working class.” Why not just say “the working class”? Wouldn’t that encompass the whole lot of them? Why break them into three separate groups?
I have long suspected that socialists frequently use “the working class” as a euphemism for poor white people. Unwoke Leftists sometimes say things like “The working class doesn’t like all this woke political correctness and identity politics.” But who are they talking about? Are they talking about all poor people? Do all poor people have a problem with political correctness? Have you ever heard a black person complain about people saying that all their problems are someone else’s fault? Do brown people live in fear of being canceled?
No. When they say “The working class doesn’t like political correctness,” they are talking about white people.
AOC even acknowledges that the socialist movement is implicitly white. Earlier in the article, she discusses her joining the DSA.
AOC: And so it was that first meeting that I felt, “Okay, this is something that’s real.” Also, in the history of New York City and in communities of color, when you have the Young Lords and you have this organizing heritage, there has historically been tension between DSA and these organizing collectives of color, whether it was Latino and Puerto Rican collectives, Chicano collectives, black collectives. . . . It was like, “Oh, it’s these white folks.” There was this historical fissure.
She’s not wrong, but then she goes on. . .
AOC: And so when I would see DSA showing up providing real structural support at BLM rallies, or support for abolishing ICE, where we felt like there wasn’t this class essentialism, but that this really was a multiracial class struggle that didn’t de-prioritize human rights, frankly, I was really impressed. And I felt like it was something worth being part of.
My first takeaway from this is that I’m not sure AOC knows what “essentialism” means.
“Essentialism” is Leftists’ term for what we call “race realism,” the idea that there are biological reasons why Asians are better at math or that blacks are more prone to violence. Leftists consider such “essentialism” bad and false. They believe that all observable behavioral differences between groups can be explained in material terms, and anything suggesting “people in Group X do Y because it is in their nature to do so” is “essentialism.”
I’m not sure what AOC means by “class essentialism.” That poor people behave a certain way because they are poor? That rich people behave a certain way because they are rich? I thought that was what socialists were supposed to believe.
Within the context of the sentence, I think what AOC actually means is “class reductionism” — putting class first. As we saw earlier, AOC believes (or at least claims to believe) that opposing Biden for class reasons is to ignore all the brown people spared from deportation, which is super-racist.
So, class-first Leftism is racist, and real socialism, far from opposing idpol, should support and encourage non-white idpol because that’s solidarity.
AOC continues along this line.
DSA: You’re famous for skillfully clapping back at haters from time to time, but you don’t come off as mean, and you never punch down. How do you stay so positive?
AOC: Oh, thank you. Well, you know, positivity is an organizing tool. And I say that with so much earnestness. There’s a reason why Jabari [Brisport] won, there’s a reason why Zohran [Mamdani] won, there’s a reason why Marcela [Mitaynes] and Phara [Souffrant Forrest] — these wins that we had on the state level, why those candidates won. Look at them. They are relentlessly positive. They are people that you want to be around. And they are not cynical, and they do not engage in “more socialist than thou.” They are just relentlessly positive.
There’s that word again: cynical. It’s cynical for a socialist to want socialism.
Granted, there is some truth to the bit about “more socialist than thou.” I thought purity spiraling is a problem in the Dissident Right, but it is waaaaaaaaaaay worse on the socialist Left. Whatever infighting there is on the Right is over strategy, but we tend to take a “beggars can’t be choosers” attitude towards ideological shortcomings. If someone is a net gain and doing good work, Right-wingers are generally willing to overlook a little cuckiness.
But on the Left? Holy shit, they will viciously punish, deplatform, and denounce as a Nazi even small deviations from orthodoxy. One need only look at the Left’s unpersoning of people like Aimee Terese or Angela Nagle for examples of this.
Beyond that, AOC rattles off a list of DSA electoral success stories: Jabari Brisport, Zohran Mamdani, Marcela Mitaynes, and Phara Souffrant Forrest. All of these are POC.
This is interesting, and I think it demonstrates the self-contradictory nature of the socialist movement in America. The DSA is overwhelmingly white. Everyone knows that. Every MSM article about the DSA remarks on this. AOC even says it herself. Socialists claim to be opposed to identity politics, which they feel is a distraction from class. And yet all of the DSA’s big electoral successes have come from cynically exploiting non-white identitarianism. They run AOC in a Hispanic area against a white guy, and she wins because she’s Hispanic. They run blacks in black areas, and blacks vote for them because they are black. Etc, etc, etc.
Elsewhere in the interview, AOC acknowledges as much.
DSA: We’ve heard again and again from conservative Democrats, that an AOC-style agenda might fly in Queens or the Bronx, but it can’t win in more competitive districts out in Middle America. What’s your answer to that?
AOC: A lot of times, it’s the style of that advocacy, and I think that you can just see the importance of a multiracial, and multi-identity, multi-gendered, geographically diverse movement. That’s ultimately the strength and beauty of our collective work with Bernie. There are communities that I’m able to speak to and organize, there are communities that Bernie and I are able to speak to and organize, and there are communities that Bernie is able to speak to and organize. And when we come together, we’re able to build trust, and expand that collective power among all the folks that resonate with each of us individually. [Emphasis added]
Some communities will listen to a brown person, but not a white person. Some communities will listen to a white person, but not a brown person. What is AOC saying here if not “people are naturally ethnocentric”? Far from lamenting this fact, she accepts the reality of it and just runs with it. She loves berating white people for their perceived ethnocentricism, and yet she has nothing to say about non-white ethnocentricism despite being fully aware of it.
It’s just one more bad omen for the Bernie Bros.
AOC has been memed into being the avatar for socialism in America. No doubt, Bernie Bros will protest that AOC is not a “real socialist,” but that’s not the point. People think she is one. If you asked the average American to name a socialist, most would say Bernie. But if you asked them to name two socialists, they would say Bernie and AOC.
The fact that she is seen as a socialist (rightly or wrongly) is going to give her criticism of more authentic socialists more credibility. If an establishment neoliberal Democrat or a neocon Republican went out and started blasting on Bernie Bros, people would say “Well, of course you would say that. You are ideologically opposed to socialism.” But when the secondmost prominent socialist in the country goes out and says, “These socialists over there are too socialist!” that is going to carry a lot more weight. People will think “Even that commie nutjob AOC says they are too socialist! They must be really extreme!”
If I have any advice to give to the Bernie Bros, it is these three little words: Get. On. Gab.
Because it’s coming. Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow. But the check is in the mail.
* * *
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