Conservatives Risk Underestimating Ocasio-Cortez And Elizabeth Warren

Yeah, OK, conservatives. Guffaw all you want at 29-year-old political rock star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The young lady is a gaffe machine.




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“Three chambers of government.” “Unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs.” Getting tangled up in the facts in asserting that Pentagon savings could finance “Medicare for All.” And yes — she did use the word “tippy-top” to describe upper-income taxpayers on “60 Minutes” in defending her recent proposal to skyrocket top rates to 70%.

Meanwhile, how about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s laughably transparent appeal to millennials with an Instagram beer slurp? Not to mention her cringeworthy effort to spin a 1/1024th ancestry as backing claims of Native American heritage — a challenge that had her back on her heels in her visit to Iowa over the weekend.

Ocasio-Cortez: No Laughing Matter

But listen up: For all this duo’s missteps, it would be far bigger one for merrymaking conservatives to sell these two formidable female political forces short.

Take Ocasio-Cortez (if you think you can). Ere she had completed 29 trips around the sun, the underfinanced upstart leveraged her mobilization skills to upend a Democratic House leader. And established herself as both the “future of our (Democratic) Party” and the face of a diverse, different-thinking millennial generation.

Instantly famous after her primary win, she stumped for other leftish candidates, with mixed success but in a way that further raised her national profile, including appearing with fellow Democratic Socialist icon Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Plus before she even took her oath, AOC was taking ownership of entire news cycles. First, with her bold shot across Nancy Pelosi’s bow — high-fiving protesters who had occupied the speaker-to-be’s office.

And thereafter, leading a coalition launching a “Green New Deal,” a pie-in-the-sky climate-change package that the young legislator nevertheless confidently hyped as “the New Deal, the Great Society, the moon shot, the civil rights movement of our generation.”

Warren Is Formidable

Then there’s the Bay State’s junior senator, a frequently electrifying speaker, as at the 2012 Democratic Convention. Barack Obama’s “you didn’t build that” disaster was a lame attempt to channel Sen. Warren’s own lyrical riff on how business success is dependent on all of society.

Her recent presidential announcement video recalls those orations’ themes, warning that “America’s middle class is under attack” thanks to “billionaires and big corporations” who “decided they wanted more of the pie” and “enlisted politicians to cut them a fatter slice.”

This is not Obama condescending to working-class clingers to guns and religion, nor Hillary Clinton decrying “deplorables.” It’s a skilled rhetorician speaking to Donald Trump’s “forgotten Americans” — even as she cleverly walls in potential billionaire opponents like Michael Bloomberg.

Moreover, Warren has demonstrated sufficient political skills and policy chops that, two short years ago, she was being referred to as the “North Star of her party” and the most powerful liberal in the Senate — respected by colleagues, feared by Wall Street bankers subjected to grillings disguised as questioning, and viewed as a certain power broker in the presumed Clinton II administration.

Above all, it was Warren who, by force of will, truly drove her party to the left: She was Bernie before Bernie (or Rep. Ocasio-Cortez).

Ocasio-Cortez Amusement Syndrome

Yet even as liberals have come down with “Trump Derangement Syndrome” that clouds their common sense on the president’s agenda, conservatives are succumbing to “AOC Amusement Syndrome” and badly underestimating Ms. Lizzie.

Beyond hyperfocusing on the congresswoman’s gaffes, bloggers, tweeters and meme manufacturers have taken aim at her all-designer outfit in a photo shoot, her laments about pre-congressional living arrangements, and even her dance moves as a seemingly carefree student.

But over-the-top derision has only underscored her attractiveness and charisma and cemented her generational appeal: After all, how many millennials in transition today are sleeping on friends’ couches or harbor goofy Facebook videos?

Similarly, Sen. Warren once ju-jitsued an effort to embarrass her — by cutting off her Senate floor speech — into an entire viral social media and fundraising campaign built around Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s complaint: “Nevertheless, she persisted.” (Expect a comeback for that phrase as she regains her footing.)

These outcomes highlight the Trump comparison: As with the president, ridiculing the two plays to their strengths in setting the terms of the conversation, while deepening their identification with their base — which in their cases, includes the media.

All which wouldn’t be an issue if elevating this dynamic duo of feminist progressivism weren’t so hazardous to the nation’s health. The rising siren songs of “Medicare for All,” multiculturalism, climate-change activism and income redistributionism echo all the more seductively from their lips to a leftward-drifting party and millennial cohort.

And if you don’t think such far-out notions, forwarded by two compelling, media-savvy, Teflon-skinned spokeswomen, are remotely in the realm of possibility in today’s topsy-turvy political world, let me share four words: Donald Trump, November 2016.

Conservatives, don’t make the same mistake as anti-Trumpers. Take these two seriously. Engage them not with mockery, but respectfully, on the battlefield of ideas, where it matters.

Or someone else will have the last laugh.

  • Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at [email protected]

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