Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez made headlines over the weekend, and that’s not exactly surprising. After all, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez makes headlines every, single day.
But on Saturday, the firebrand 29-year-old freshman congresswoman raised even more eyebrows than usual with comments delivered at South by Southwest in Austin, where she drew a larger crowd than presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Howard Schultz.
In characteristically unapologetic fashion, Ocasio-Cortez declared capitalism “irredeemable”, a contention that caused conservative pundits, old white men and moderate Democrats alike to simultaneously blow a gasket.
“Capitalism is an ideology of capital – the most important thing is the concentration of capital and to seek and maximize profit”, she said, adding that because this endless quest to improve the bottom line often comes at the expense of people and the environment “capitalism is irredeemable”.
For moderate Democrats, this comes at an inopportune time. Rather than embrace the superstar status of Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, moderate Democrats have instead adopted what amounts to a containment strategy. The response to Omar’s contention that the pro-Israel lobby is buying influence on Capitol Hill is indicative of that strategy. Long story short, it won’t work. The effort to silence Omar reeks of desperation and is an absurdly transparent gambit to suppress debate about a sensitive issue. Importantly, it also amounts to party leaders hitting the mute button on a Muslim woman of faith, something Democrats should avoid doing because i) it’s racist, which doesn’t exactly line up well with the party’s values, and ii) it plays right into the hands of Donald Trump, who has spent the last four years whipping the American public into an Islamophobic frenzy.
That’s relevant here because it’s the same strategy Democratic party leaders have adopted when it comes to Ocasio-Cortez’s views on the economy and the environment.
Critically, if you’re a Democrat, you don’t have to agree with Ocasio-Cortez, Omar and Tlaib to know that trying to silence superstars will invariably backfire. Just ask Republicans. During the GOP primary, GOP’ers (including, by the way, Lindsey Graham) bent over backwards to try and distance themselves from Trump’s radical campaign bombast and look how that turned out for the party. Spoiler alert: Trump became president and folks like Graham (who once said, on national television, that the “best way to make America great again is to tell Donald Trump to go to hell”) have become shameless sycophants.
In any event, to say Ocasio-Cortez remains undeterred in her quest to change the way America thinks about wealth distribution and to usher in a veritable climate revolution would be an understatement.
During her comments at South by Southwest, she lambasted centrist politics in devastatingly pointed terms. Have a listen:
Here it is again:
Moderate is not a stance. It’s just an attitude towards life of, like, ‘meh,’. We’ve become so cynical, that we view ‘meh,’ or ‘eh’ — we view cynicism as an intellectually superior attitude, and we view ambition as youthful naivete when … the greatest things we have ever accomplished as a society have been ambitious acts of visions.
The ‘meh’ is worshipped now. For what?
Sorry, centrists/moderates, but the chances of drowning out that kind of energy – that kind of charisma and unabashed authenticity – with appeals to tradition and decorum are zero.
What’s more, Ocasio-Cortez is unequivocally correct about capitalism. The irony (and egregious hypocrisy) inherent in simultaneously bemoaning wealth inequality and defending the system that nurtures and facilitates it, is almost unfathomable. But you’ll see that from pundits and commentators of all stripes. In fact, I’d wager you’ve read something, somewhere over the past 24 hours that embodies that hypocrisy.
Trump ran on a platform that promised to resurrect the American middle class, and yet his signature policy achievement is passing a tax cut for the wealthy and corporations, the benefits of which unequivocally accrued not to the middle class, not to working families, not to those who need it, but to the rich. That should come as no surprise. After all, Trump is rich and his cabinet is chock-full of millionaires and, in some cases, billionaires.
The bottom line is that Trump voters are voting against their own self-interest. We’ve been over this in these pages a hundred times if we’ve been over it once.
Inequality in pictures and more on how the wealthy have benefited under Trump
And yet when you look out across Twitter this weekend and if you can stomach Fox News for a few minutes, what you’ll find are references to Trump’s State of the Union address, where he decried socialism and championed capitalism.
That, despite the fact that wealth inequality continues to grow thanks in part to his policies and despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of those who came out to vote for Trump in droves in 2016 are most assuredly “labor”, not “capital”. Recall the following excerpts from “It Is The Eleventh Hour For White American Males“, via Notes From Disgraceland (here on Twitter):
It is the eleventh hour for white American males. A collateral damage of capitalism’s global triumph, beaten in just about any game that matters, even the ones they invented, they are joining the ranks of excess population facing a threat of irreversible social displacement and marginalization. Tired of self-abuse, anesthetized by drugs and alcohol, angry and armed with guns, but otherwise powerless, American white men reside in the center of the disillusioned perspective, in desperate search for conversion, looking for a savior who will restore their lost dignity and self-respect, and reclaim, on their behalf, what had always been considered rightfully theirs, the basic white male privilege.
In that quest they have fallen victims to predatory seduction of anarcho-capitalists and global kleptocrats. These merchants of regressive nostalgia and self-proclaimed guardians of traditional values, who celebrate the idea of privatized utopias of gated communities, do not really need white male precariat as such, but are ready to offer them whatever leftovers they don’t need, in exchange for an exclusive right to manage their rage capital and for their voice in the ballot box. And white American males will take it and will fall under the spell of magical thinking of the Third-World-esque political pornographers just because, stripped of all other alternatives, male precariat has found itself lost in the blind alley of the disillusioned perspective.
Those excerpts, published here months ago, serve as the perfect setup for Ocasio-Cortez’s grand finale at South by Southwest, which came in response to a surprise celebrity question from Bill Nye, who essentially asked how we can deal with older white men who may feel threatened by a potential sea change in American society. Here is her answer:
And with that, we’ll leave you with one more excerpt from a recent piece that appeared first on Notes From Disgraceland and later here. To wit, from “We Need To Learn To Speak Again“:
To begin to learn how to speak again, and to grasp the inadequacy of the existing language (the only one we know at the moment), one has to start speaking about the unspeakable, about the topics where the commodified language of capitalism is mute. We need to escape into the blind alleys of capitalism, the breaking points of the system the five systemic disorders, the five horsemen of apocalypse, reside : Stagnation, Redistribution, Plundering of the public domain, Technology and commodification of labor, and Corruption.
These are the topics that define the discourse of change. They address the central points of self-intoxication, the Achilles heels of capitalism. The five systemic disorders expose the inner contradictions, the paradoxicality of the system; they are the portals of change. Any political figure whose platform is defined by these topics deserves our attention. All others are impostors.