Hey there. Today’s video talks about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the weird way in which she’s helping put forward one of my very conservative priorities… a more powerful Congress. What the video doesn’t get into is the general “socialism” panic, and what I think of her specific policies. I’ll get into that a bit here, but the first thing to remember is that Ocasio-Cortez does not actually have much institutional power. She can put things on the agenda, she can make specific issues or problems a one-day wonder, but as a freshman congresswoman, she doesn’t actually have the ability to do much in the Congress itself.
First off there’s the topic of her socialism, which some report may already be fading out of her messaging. She’s definitely much more left-wing than the US national average, and maintains that “the workers” are her number one priority. She also focuses on a lot of identity politics issues. That makes a ton of sense for a representative of some of the most diverse and left-leaning places in the country. It’s actually kind of surprising that the Bronx and Queens weren’t already represented by a left-wing firebrand. It’s nothing to flip out about.
So keeping in mind the fact that Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t actually have much real power, let’s dive into what little we know about her legislative program. First off is the Green New Deal, an attempt to bundle together some environmental and jobs programs. I’m on record as not caring much about the environment, and being pretty confident that technology would handle the issue. But that was during the Obama years when things were actually moving in a good direction. Trump’s aggressive promotion of industrial dead ends like coal, and insane decision to let everybody else make the rules for the environment while the US sulks at home, make me a lot less calm on this issue. So I’m happy to see more rabble-rousing about it. That said, Ocasio-Cortez will have trouble getting the Green New Deal past the leadership of her own party, let alone past this president.
Second taxes. Honestly her suggestion of a 70% tax rate on those making more than 10 million dollars a year doesn’t go anywhere near far enough. I believe our national debt and annual deficit to be a near existential crisis. It threatens the world as we know it. More taxes are essential. Now, while Ocasio-Cortez might want more taxes, she does not care about the deficit. After decades of being the only ones who actually cared about the national debt, the Democrats are now beginning to take their cue from the Drunken sailor fiscal habits of the Republicans. Under the banner of “Modern Monetary Theory” they are filing in behind Dick Cheney and his famous proclamation that “Deficits Don’t Matter”. Now, I don’t claim to understand money. But I do know some history. The British didn’t think deficits mattered during the world wars either. Then they had to give up their Empire. I think this MMT thing is just an excuse to accelerate us off a cliff. That said, Ocasio-Cortez couldn’t possibly be worse for the public finances than the Republicans have been for the past 40 years.
Third, Identity Politics. Honestly I just love that. Remember, I’m quite possibly the country’s only proud conservative SJW. Her standpoint on abolishing ICE, and reforming policing fits quite well with mine. Also I kind of enjoy all this “sisters of color in power” social media stuff. I don’t find it threatening in the slightest, and those who do should probably engage in some self-reflection on why that is. This is a process as old as time. The history of New York in particular is one of ethnic group after ethnic group coming to power and building fiefs for themselves. It’s a key part to the melting pot and eventual assimilation. One of the tragedies of the 20th century is that the growing power of the federal government, and especially the white suburbs over inner cities, meant that these local positions of power still existed but had lost their significance in most places. Flint, Michigan or Newark, New Jersey can have as many black Mayors as it wants, it’s not going to bring about real changes in power or wealth. The removal of legal bars to success for people of color 50 years ago was a great victory, but the fact that real power was so much further away than it was for earlier Italian and Irish populations kept real progress from being made. This new, dramatically more diverse congress is a long delayed step forward, and it’s going to be great for all of us.
Video Transcript after the jump…
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is not Donald Trump. But in some important ways that are a little bit terrifying and a little bit exciting she is very much like Donald Trump. Let me explain.
Back in late November of 2016 I found myself sitting around a table with a bunch of traditional elite Republican types. They were generally top 10 percenters who vote based on tax cuts. Now none of these people liked Donald Trump of course. They were what we like to call Anti-anti-Trump. Appropriately disgusted by Trump, but so lost in their traditional fear of Democrats and hatred of Hillary Clinton that they were happy to see him win. Back in 2016 there was a lot of smugness around that table and some excitement about what a fully Republican controlled government could do for rich folks. I thought they were nuts. DUTCH MASTER DINNER. ME PHOTOS.
Trump is disgusting of course, but what I was more worried about was what he represented. Trump’s power, and the way he came to power was very very new. Obama had shades of it, but at the end of the day he was still a mostly traditional politician. Trump and his path to power were revolutionary and those rich folks I was having dinner with should have been terrified. Not of Trump, but of the people that come after Trump. Trump has broken something that won’t be easy to fix.
Politics is supposed to be boring. Elections and some of the issues can be exciting of course, depending on the decade, but politics have usually been fairly predictable. Standard political drone types work their way through the system according to a vague hierarchy and old fashioned pretensions of public service. Every new candidate pitches themselves as new and dynamic even though they are very much products of the system. Obama was the most recent example of this, but we see it every election. This orderly system was cozy and it ensured that the folks who end up running it don’t change much that’s important.
Trump is something completely different. Media has always been an important part of the system. Newspapers and TV could drive what people talked about to some degree, but when it came to picking and choosing our leaders, up until 2016 it was the political parties that mattered. Trump was not picked by his party.
Folks like to blame Facebook and Twitter for Trump but I don’t think that’s entirely fair. New media played a role, but the middle aged media, the cable news channels, were probably more to blame, and it’s actually a representative of at death’s door media NBC that did the most to create this nightmare.
Without the completely fictional character of a competent, intelligent Donald Trump created on NBC’s the apprentice, I really don’t think we would be here. But nonetheless, here is where we are. The Republican party is irretrievably broken, and the Democratic party isn’t in much better shape. Those smug Republicans who thought they had at least elected a businessman lost a ton of money on the stock market last year, and worse is yet to come. All those norms, and structures that used to defend the system, and the top ten percent, are in tatters, and after the abject failure of our first pop culture president from the right, the country is now likely to get its first pop culture president from the left.
That’s the thing I wanted to tell those Republicans at that dinner back in 2016. By tearing off all the guard rails for a right wing President, they were leaving themselves defenseless against a left wing president. Despite my strong dislike for Donald Trump, US Foreign Policy since the Cold War, and the US criminal justice system I still consider myself a conservative. I was not looking forward to the left wing Trump. Now strangely I am a lot less worried, because of the career of Alexandria Ocasio-cortez.
In some ways the Ocasio-Cortez phenomenon is very similar to the whole Trump thing. She came to power by knocking one of the most powerful democrats out of one of the safest Democratic seats in Congress. She is also playing the media like a fiddle, though unlike Trump she actually is a product of New media like Instagram. She is now almost certainly the best known member of Congress, and maybe even the best known member of US government at any level other than Donald Trump. At this point Ocasio-Cortez really is the Democratic response to Trump I was worried about. She is powerful, and she is using that power to advance a strongly left wing agenda.
So why am I, a conservative, not that worried about, or even a bit reassured by Ocasio-Cortez?. It’s not just that she is a pretty woman that occasionally throws out Watchmen quotes, though wow. It’s also where she is exerting her power, and the way she is going about it. Weirdly she has the potential to be one of the biggest defenders of the original interpretation of the Constitution we have seen on decades.
The old way of doing things had a long term effect. Over the course of decades, the Legislative Branch, Congress, got weaker and weaker, and the executive branch, the one the President supposedly leads got more and more powerful. According to the Constitution, Congress is supposed to be the branch that decides what we do. That hasn’t been true for at least half a century. With each passing year, TV made the President more powerful, and suicidal actions by the Congress, under people like Newt Gingrich made Congress weaker and Dumber. A lot of what is screwed up about the United States right now comes from the fact that Congress is so at the mercy of presidents, on everything from wars to the budget. Being a Senator is still kind of prestigious, but being in the House of Representatives is basically a crappy telemarketing job.
It’s very, very early, but it seems like Ocasio-Cortez might be able to change this. Already over the past couple weeks, she has been driving the national news agenda from the House of Representatives. An unlike President Cheeto she has been starting real conversations about things that matter domestically. We haven’t seen anything like this for decades. And what’s even better is the fact that she’s too young to run for President before 2024.
Ocasio-Cortez could drop off the map tomorrow, the Public is fickle, but she seems to only be gaining momentum, mostly by being willing to be more open and angry about the political process than most other legislators. If this continues, all her star power, and all her agenda setting ability, will be acting to pump up the power of the US congress. That’s extraordinary…
So it turns out that the left wing answer to Donald Trump may actually end up giving us a stronger congress, and a government that works more closely to the way the founders intended. That is not what I expected.
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