Twitter erupted last week following the emergence of a video of freshman congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) from her college days. In the video, Cortez is seen dancing and laughing with friends.
Assumed reactions have flown in the face of the real reactions. While Newsweek proclaimed in a headline that “Conservatives Mock[ed] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” and Ocasio-Cortez herself posted a second dancing video, right-wingers and Republicans have been otherwise unbothered.
Conservatives don’t care about a congresswoman’s college dance moves. People who claim that they do are fanning the flames of partisanship and ignoring actual concerns that conservatives have with Ocasio-Cortez — namely her Democratic-Socialist policy agenda.
The video of the former Bernie Sanders organizer was posted to Twitter by an account managed by conspiracy-theory group QAnon. In mainstream circles, it is hardly ever acknowledged as more than a pro-Trump crowd of tin-foil hat users. To pretend that their post criticizing Ocasio-Cortez was more than that — a post from a conspiracy theorist — is to give QAnon more credence than they deserve.
In contrast, the overwhelming response of conservatives, from NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch to freshman congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), has been to denounce any perceived backlash to the dancing video and to focus on Ocasio-Cortez’s ideas, including her proposed Green New Deal, her support for Medicare for all and her suggested 70 percent marginal income tax rate.
Ocasio-Cortez’s one-eyed House colleague, Crenshaw, complimented her dancing by tweeting, “No one thinks this [dancing video] is scandalous,” Crenshaw tweeted. “Dance away (was actually pretty good). What is scandalous is increasing income taxes to 70%. It’s wholly unethical for anyone to work a majority of the year just to give their money to the government.”
Spotlighting her dancing video, while ignoring more radical ideas, makes our political conversation more partisan and less substantive.
It creates a patently false image of a Republican party whose knee-jerk reaction is to criticize everything and anything the charismatic Democratic congresswoman does.
This image produces an environment where legitimate criticisms of Ocasio-Cortez and her ideas are dismissed as purely political as opposed to ideological.
As a last note, Ocasio-Cortez is undoubtedly one of the most charismatic and radical new-elects to Congress. It is poor strategy and bad politics to attack her for having fun. Republicans who attempt to attack her persona will almost always fail. But in attacking and engaging her ideas, Republicans stand a fighting chance at pushing back against bad policy.
Aida Vazquez-Soto is a senior majoring in political science and economics.