"An Incredible Obama-Esque Factor": How A.O.C. Won Over Her New House Colleagues
After unnerving Washington with her Omaha Beach-like landing in Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has emerged as an unlikely unifying force for Democrats—and a surprisingly egoless champion of a new, progressive politics. by Abigail Tracy.
"She didn't start off the right foot," one congressional aide told me recently, referring to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the seemingly ubiquitous, electrifyingly charismatic former bartender-turned-freshman congresswoman from New York. Less than one week after her victory in the midterm elections, after all, A.O.C. had joined environmental activists in a protest in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. Later, on a call with the progressive group Justice Democrats, she encouraged activists to support an effort to primary Democratic House incumbents. Then, during the first week of the 116th Congress, Ocasio-Cortez dropkicked leadership by taking a stand against the House rules package. Many Democratic caucus-goers wondered if she was more interested in building a grassroots movement or establishing her own political brand than passing collaborative legislation. As one congressional aide to a progressive House Democrat characterized it to me, "a cloud" hovered over Ocasio-Cortez after the elections.
Months later, however, much of that skepticism has dissipated. Democratic lawmakers and congressional aides I spoke with over the past week see A.O.C. as a charismatic young lawmaker eager to learn the ropes and build relationships. The progressive aide, who has had multiple interactions with the freshman lawmaker, described her as having "an incredible Obama-esque factor" when connecting with people but surprisingly lacking an ego. The first congressional aide echoed the sentiment. "She has a willingness to work with people and develop positive relationships, and I think we should let her do her job for a little while and wait to determine if she is going to be a flamethrower or someone who will do more and do something real," this person told me. "I think there are other members that can be more of a pain than A.O.C."
Notably, some suggested, Ocasio-Cortez has accrued praise by handling herself admirably in the face of criticism, which has occasionally been laced with overt sexism—such as Washington Examiner reporter Eddie Scarry's widely criticized tweet that her wardrobe betrayed her socialist street cred. ("I think a lot of members think that she is probably being treated unfairly," another congressional aide told me.) Sources I spoke with said Democrats were also encouraged by comments from A.O.C. that suggested she was backing away from threats to primary more centrist colleagues. ("I'm focused on my job," she toldPolitico.) Moreover, others have been impressed by her swift mastery of procedure. Late last year, Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, specifically requested that A.O.C. be tapped to serve on said committee, hoping that she would ask the questions no one else was. "A lot of people said that she might not be a team player, and I have found it to be just the opposite," he told me. "She has been a breath of fresh air."
Cummings acknowledged the disruptive nature of the new Congress; the freshman class will at times be at odds with other members of the Democratic caucus. Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib of Michigan launched a 24-hour news cycle when she declared she wanted to "impeach the motherfucker," in reference to Trump. Tlaib and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota have also stoked controversy with their criticism of Israel—notably putting them at odds with some Democrats on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on which Omar sits. Just last week, Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Omar, and Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, another freshman, signed a letter calling on the bipartisan conference committee negotiating a border security deal to cut, not increase, funding for the Department of Homeland Security and, specifically, the ICE and C.P.B. agencies—a move certain to complicate the negotiation effort.
Vanity Fair, February 4, 2019.
Post Script. I know some want to jump on @AOC because she worked for Sanders, whom I too despise. Watching her, I have come to think she is more complex and is trying to do the right thing. That is just my take and @RepCummings & other Dems agree. @HillaryClinton, of course, called her when she won, and that carries weight with me.
One of my favorite AOC comments is “I want to be the left wing of the possible."
Check out this New Yorker article by David Remnick. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/07/23/alexandria-ocasio-cortezs-historic-win-and-the-future-of-the-democratic-party
Most of all, here are some interesting AOC tweets which I think round out her story:
On History and Her Colleagues in the House
On Speaker Pelosi
On Big Pharma
This is the photo from the tweet above.
On Transgender Issues
On the Holocaust
On The Wall and theSOTU
This photo goes with the Tweet above
What she stands for