AOC’s Legacy

It’s difficult to navigate the intersection of celebrity and politics. Hyping up politicians gives them a larger than life presence, empowering them to wield power inside and outside of their home districts. During the 2020 presidential campaign, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (AOC) support became one of the most sought after endorsements for Democratic candidates. Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez went so far as to call AOC “the future of [the] party.” With almost nine million followers on Instagram, over 12 million Twitter followers, and her own Netflix documentary, AOC’s public presence is a force to be reckoned with. 

If Perez was correct that Ocasio-Cortez is the future of the Democratic Party, I’m not hopeful. AOC has made a career out of working under a system she continues to disassociate with. On Sept. 24, she wept on the floor of the House as she changed her vote from “no” to “present,” on the Israel Iron Dome funding bill, a policy she has taken a firm public stance against. Rather than providing any justification for her change of heart, she blamed the upset on House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who had refused to delay the vote. 

AOC created another stir when she attended the Met Gala in a loaned dress with the words “tax the rich” written across the back of the gown. Her taste seemed in poor choice, loaned dress or not, while attending an event with a $35,000 ticket price. For a representative running entirely on grassroots donations, the event didn’t seem the most mindful appeal to other democratic socialists within her party. Wearing a dress reading “Tax the Rich” while schmoozing with the rich reduces the slogan to a publicity stunt.

Perhaps this all just shows why we shouldn’t make politicians celebrities. Politicians should be in office because the people of their district voted for them, not because of their general celebrity. When Election Day rolls around, only the people in their district have the power of re-electing them. Politicians should be held accountable  by their specific districts and voters, not the entire Democratic or Republican parties. This means that if they are truly representing their districts, individual politicians would have different opinions on policies from their party lines or national moods. 

Politicians are not perfect. They are contradictory, controversial, and often unable to fulfill the very campaign promises that got them elected. While AOC has been one of the most effective politicians the Democratic Party has seen within recent years, she has also been one of the most divisive. She consistently gets into Twitter feuds with both Republican and Democratic legislators. I can’t help but think AOC would be more effective if she decided to compromise and work with her party, or even step across the aisle. At the moment, further polarization of the U.S. political climate created by any politician results in catastrophic consequences for the country. 

Ultimately, AOC is simply another politician with sharp wits, controversial statements, and an inability to fulfill what she’s promised — just like other politicians. The U.S. political system stands to benefit from her ability to mobilize votes and reach across generations and marginalized populations. But putting her AOC, or any politician, on a political pedestal makes it harder for us all to hold elected officials accountable. 

spens1@stolaf.edu

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