Now here’s an odd couple: President Trump and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Two New York politicians who couldn’t be more different but share an unparalleled understanding of social media. The pair could even co-write “Social Media for Dummies” for their colleagues.
DJT and AOC are social media celebrities by sheer force of will. From mid-December to mid-January, they both had more Twitter interactions than anyone else in the media and political establishment, according to Axios. More than Barack Obama. More than Nancy Pelosi. More than CNN.
He gained followers by embodying a bombastic version of himself on the small screen and at campaign rallies. She gained followers by being herself on an even smaller screen — your smartphone — and leveraging that relatability into national attention. The 72-year-old man and the 29-year-old woman are harnessing the energy of their personas (authentic or contrived) to shore up their policies. Neither is preoccupied with experience, maintaining the status quo or kowtowing to critics.
She called out CBS News for not assigning “a *single* black journalist to cover the 2020 election.” He retweeted his son, Donald Trump Jr., calling out CNN and MSNBC for not booking “a single Angel Mom — mothers of children brutally murdered by illegal aliens — as guests.” She tweeted, “I’m not running ‘from the left’ ... I’m running in fierce advocacy of working class Americans.” He tweeted, “I am doing exactly what I pledged to do ... I am fighting for YOU!”
Despite their eye-popping similarities, Trump and Ocasio-Cortez are more than just two sides of the same coin. They’re more like the opposite ends of a Swiss Army knife. The president’s urgent missives are relayed through a megaphone while the congresswoman’s approach pulls back the curtain. “She uses social media the way that Gen Z and millennials use social media — to tell her story every day,” says Brad Jenkins, a Democratic strategist and former Obama staffer. “She’s building a community. It’s why people on the right are so threatened by her. They’re seeing how effective she’s been.”
Not so fast, says GOP strategist Doug Heye. Ocasio-Cortez may have Republicans all atwitter, but not necessarily for the reasons you might think. “Let’s face it, there are a lot of people on the right who like being trolled,” he says. And what about that video of her dancing that was meant to shame her or something? “I saw a ton of stories about how Republicans were up in arms about the dancing video,” Heye says. “I didn’t see anyone actually upset about it. We all got trolled.”
Jenkins notes that Ocasio-Cortez’s generation doesn’t take the wait-and-see approach. They jump in tweet first, and mistakes can happen. That’s also part of the appeal. “People want to see mistakes,” says Jenkins. “It shows that you’re human and ... adds to the narrative.”
Because that’s what all this is really: a story, one that engages voters. Trump and Ocasio-Cortez are especially good at telling their individual stories. She gets her audience to tune in to “The Real World: Congress.” He is the star, director and executive producer of “The Trump Show.”
Jenkins and Heye agree that it remains to be seen if Ocasio-Cortez’s social media prowess will translate to legislation. And yet Trump’s experience suggests that social media skill can, in fact, lead to policy results.
The president was flippant when asked about Ocasio-Cortez by a White House reporter last month. “Who cares?” he said. AOC had a response for DJT, whose Twitter throne she has in her sights: “I understand guys like this like the back of my hand. We got under his skin.”
Helena Andrews-Dyer is co-author of The Post’s Reliable Source column.