Back when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez scored her upset win over House Democratic Caucus chair Joe Crowley in the NY-14 Democratic primary, conservative media had to scramble to find ways to attack her. Ocasio-Cortez came rocketing from relative obscurity to national prominence in the space of a few hours, leaving her newfound enemies at Fox News and elsewhere with little to go on. So, they made do with what they had: her policy platform.
Sean Hannity memorably put Ocasio-Cortez’s entire platform up on screen and broadcast to the world the fact that she ran on universal health care and a federal jobs guarantee, and also endorses “solidarity with Puerto Rico,” “support[s] seniors,” and backs “women’s rights.” Hannity’s intention was ostensibly to allow what he considered to be the manifest extremism of her platform to speak for itself. He achieved the complete opposite: He made Ocasio-Cortez’s platform look great, and the candidate herself endorsed his failed attack.
You could perhaps chalk up Hannity’s faceplant to the fact that Ocasio-Cortez was not a known quantity at the time and the angry right just didn’t know what else to do with her. But it keeps happening. Fox News and conservative media seem to have convinced themselves that the way to attack Ocasio-Cortez is to just quote her and point at her policy platform on the assumption that everyone will recoil in horror at the awful socialism.
Just yesterday, Fox Business threw up a video of Ocasio-Cortez speaking at a rally in Kansas, followed by sneering mimicry from host Stuart Varney.
Once again, a conservative media figure saw something self-evidently shocking and disqualifying in a Democratic candidate arguing for “a living wage to lead a dignified life.” And, once again, Ocasio-Cortez seized on the earned media to restate her policy.
The Daily Caller got into the game by sending one of its conservative writers to a Missouri rally where Ocasio-Cortez spoke in support of Democratic congressional candidate Cori Bush. The ensuing write-up read like a parody of cloistered conservatism:
But then Ocasio-Cortez spoke, followed by Bush, and I saw something truly terrifying. I saw just how easy it would be, were I less involved and less certain of our nation’s founding and its history, to fall for the populist lines they were shouting from that stage.
- I saw how easy it would be, as a parent, to accept the idea that my children deserve healthcare and education.
- I saw how easy it would be, as someone who has struggled to make ends meet, to accept the idea that a “living wage” was a human right.
- Above all, I saw how easy it would be to accept the notion that it was the government's job to make sure that those things were provided.
The abject terror of … health care and education for children. The Daily Caller writer appeared on Fox & Friends this morning, where she talked about the supposed insidiousness of Ocasio-Cortez talking “about things that everybody wants, especially, like, if you're a parent.”
It’s a bizarre dynamic because the people attacking Ocasio-Cortez recognize that her platform does have political appeal (the supposedly “radical” planks, like Medicare-for-all and a federal jobs guarantee, actually poll decently well). But they keep on posting clips of her saying popular things, and then they just call her a “socialist” or grimly wonder who will pay for these plans to educate children and keep them healthy.
This is a product of the suffocating ideological bubble conservative media exist in and help to maintain. People like Stuart Varney and the editorial staff at the Daily Caller are communicating with an audience that, they assume, will understand implicitly that a video clip of Ocasio-Cortez preaching for a living wage and the dignity of everyday life is a damaging, scandalous indictment of her politics. It’s “socialism,” that catch-all epithet that conservative media have spent decades applying to everyone to the left of Mitt Romney, and it merits only mockery and casual dismissal. Sure, they say, what she’s arguing for sounds nice, but it’s ridiculous and disqualifying because … uh … roll that tape again.