Fresh off off her stunning Democratic congressional primary victory over entrenched incumbent Joe Crowley (NY-14), Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez appeared on Univision's Sunday public affairs show, Al Punto- an interview as predictable for its fawning as for the candidate's struggle to articulate preferred policy outcomes.
Here's how Ocasio-Cortez (also known as AOC) fielded an easy toss from host Jorge Ramos, intended to give her an opportunity to contrast Sandernista "democratic socialism" from the murderous Castro regime:
JORGE RAMOS: Alexandria, what is a socialist like in 2018? And let me put that in context. There are many people here in the United States that -when they think about socialism- they compare it to the communism of the former Soviet Union. Why is your socialism so different from those history lessons?
ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Well, this is a...what we’re talking about is...democratic socialism. And that is something very different because what we are talking about is only a guarantee for..um...so families can have stable housing, educational stability and opportunity for their children, as well as for healthcare insurance in the United States. Those, for me, are basic rights in the 2018 economy. That’s...that’s it and it’s not much more, and not much less.
Ramos' servile performance is a matter of record here. The interview begins and ends with gushing over her victory and how it is exemplary "for many of us". Ramos also plays a bit of historic sleight of hand. Notice how he evokes comparisons of the murderous Castro regime when bring up AOC's detractors. Unmentioned go other, more recent examples of murderous socialist regimes that are very much in the news today and present in the minds of Univision's viewers, such as Nicaragua and Venezuela. Ramos should've had the courage and presence of mind shown by his colleague León Krauze, who did confront Bernie Sanders with that recent history:
LEÓN KRAUZE, UNIVISION: I am sure that you know about this topic: various leftist governments, especially the populists, are in serious trouble in Latin America. The socialist model in Venezuela has the country near collapse. Argentina, also Brazil, how do you explain that failure?
BERNIE SANDERS, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: You are asking me questions…
LEÓN KRAUZE, UNIVISION: I am sure you’re interested in that.
BERNIE SANDERS, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: I am very interested, but right now I’m running for President of the United States.
LEÓN KRAUZE, UNIVISION: So you don’t have an opinion about the crisis in Venezuela?
BERNIE SANDERS, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE: Of course I have an opinion, but as I said, I’m focused on my campaign.
AOC's missteps in this interview are not limited to the inability to clearly define what should be a core political belief (to wit, "democratic socialism") beyond gauzy euphemisms for universal healthcare, subsidized housing and free college for all. When asked about her support for a permanent resolution for Puerto Rico's ongoing territorial status, AOC reverted from prior support of a more equal status (statehood?) to expressing a need to go back and talk to community organizers before formulating support- not unlike her recent contretemps on Israel after appearing on PBS' Firing Line.
The eagerness to crown Ocasio-Cortez is eerily reminiscent of Univision's (and, by extension, the media's) efforts to make former San Antonio mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro into a thing, because identity politics cannot thrive without its icons.
The nostalgic rush to make AOC into the poitical face of Obama's "Coalition of the Ascendant" is threatening to undermine the hard work she put into getting where she is today (as a former candidate, I am uniquely qualified to understand and "respect the hustle"). Those wanting to make her into the Next Big Thing are better served by helping her win her race and facilitating her "issue conversations", which quite frankly should've happened long ago.