Sometime over the past few days, the overreaction to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez moved from somewhat strange to downright bizarre — and, at times, more than a little scary.
On Greg Gutfeld’s show on Fox News, commentator Katherine Timpf lit into the 29-year-old congresswoman from New York over her championing of the Green New Deal, quipping that the climate-change initiative might even lead to cannibalism.
“I don’t want to eat people, Greg, and I don’t want people to eat me,” Timpf said. “AOC, do you want people to eat you?”
At last week’s CPAC conference, Sebastian Gorka took his shot, inspired by Ocasio-Cortez’s recent suggestions that the environment would benefit from restrictions on factory farming and suggestions that Americans consider eating less red meat.
“They want to rebuild your home, they want to take away your hamburgers,” said Gorka, the former Breitbart editor and former Trump administration official known for his Islamophobic ideas.
“This is what Stalin dreamed about but never achieved.”
And the heightened interest in AOC is not limited to right-wing tirades.
CNN found it newsworthy that she will be the subject of a new comic book coming out this spring: “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force: New Party Who Dis?”
New York magazine’s new cover story explores what the democratic socialist has wrought in its cover story headlined “Pinkos Have More Fun.”
“The word socialism has become a kind of blank canvas on which young leftists project their political desires,” Simon van Zuylen-Wood wrote.
And “Saturday Night Live,” in its sendup of Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony, featured Kenan Thompson as House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.): “Let’s take a break, and then Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will probably do a dance, is that right?”
“No. I was going to ask, like, carefully researched questions,” replies Melissa Villaseñor, playing a winking and waving Ocasio-Cortez.
Given that she’s been in office less than three months and that the obsession shows no signs of slowing — quite the contrary — an observer has to wonder where we’ll be by the time 2020 dawns.
Will an image of AOC in a white pantsuit be cast in neoclassical copper and moved to New York Harbor to replace the Statue of Liberty? Will there be a full prime-time segment on Fox News devoted fully to vilifying her — “The AOC Hate Hour With Ann Coulter”? Could the Salem witch trials possibly be revived and moved to Queens?
Ocasio-Cortez herself gets the problem.
“It feels like an extra job,” she told New Yorker editor David Remnick in a new interview. “I’ve got a full-time job in Congress and then I moonlight as America’s greatest villain or as the new hope.”
And “this ravenous hysteria,” she said, “is really getting to a level that is kind of out of control. It’s dangerous and even scary. I have days when it seems some people want to stoke just enough of it to have just enough plausible deniability if something happens to me.”
Her critics, of course, would charge that she brings it on herself, stoking her millions of followers on Instagram and Twitter with provocative views on income inequality, health care, climate change and more — and with even stronger pushbacks against the trolls.
But, as she showed at the Cohen hearing, Ocasio-Cortez can be more capable than most at actually doing her job: being well-prepared, not grandstanding and asking pointed questions that actually elicited information.
Yes, she’s charismatic, outspoken and willing to endorse ideas outside the mainstream. That America can’t somehow take this in stride, and keep it in proportion, makes me think of former Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein’s apt expression to describe our coarsened society: “the idiot culture.”
The AOC furor we’re seeing has plenty to do with her being a young Latina. Plenty to do with her willingness to challenge the status quo. (And yes, as a rookie, she has made her share of mistakes.)
And it has everything to do with America’s divisiveness, misogyny and celebrity obsession.
The cascading insanity over Ocasio-Cortez says far more about the audience — what used to be known as American citizens and public servants — than it does about her.
For more by Margaret Sullivan visit wapo.st/sullivan