Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) has been a member of Congress for less than two weeks, and already she has become a favorite target for the right.
Republicans Ed Rollins and Rush Limbaugh recently dismissed her as a “little girl” and “some young uppity.” And on Tuesday, former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker (R) mocked her for her proposal to raise taxes on the super-rich, suggesting that a juvenile had a better understanding of tax policy than she did. “Even 5th graders get it,” he tweeted.
The Washington Post interviewed Ocasio-Cortez recently on Capitol Hill. Some of her answers are below. The transcript has been lightly edited and condensed.
The Post: Some of your critics have said that you attract negative attention because of your approach to social media, that you invite it in a certain way.
Ocasio-Cortez: Of course the right would say I’m asking for it, right? That doesn’t surprise me that that’s the tack that they’re going with. It’s pretty transparent and very much shows the constructs of where they come from.
The Republican Party is now the party of Trump. That is who they are. No one rebukes him. Mitch McConnell is at his beck and call. Republicans talk a nice talk, but at the end of the day they are in lockstep with Trump’s agenda. They are the party of Trump, and the party of Trump and Trumpism is really rooted in supremacy of all kinds. It has a patriarchal flavor to it. Trump himself is clearly racist and classist. They take working people for granted.
The Post: Some people would say there is a flavor of misogyny to how you’ve been treated on the right. Do you agree?
Ocasio-Cortez: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think it’s interesting because what I consider to be my greatest strength, which is the intersectionality of our message, is I think the thing that triggers them the most.
The Post: I was talking with Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and he said that he feels like conservative media is setting you up to be another boogeyman on the left.
Ocasio-Cortez: Absolutely. They need a foil because they have nothing that they advance on their own. When you actually think about what the Republican agenda is, they have no vision for America. The Republican vision for America is dystopic. The Republican vision for our future is negative. It’s saying, ‘All of the people who are not like you are a danger and we need to protect ourselves from the danger. We need to build walls, we need to lock ’em up, we need to lock everything down.’ But there’s nothing about the Republican ideology that is about wealth-building or prosperity for the working class.
I really don’t believe that they think America can be better. I think that they’re protecting themselves from this kind of like fall. They see that the country is changing and they interpret change to be negative, whereas we interpret change to be positive. And so I think that there’s something about my candidacy but not just my candidacy but the entire freshman class, which — the whole freshman class is younger, the whole freshman class is more diverse, the whole freshman class is more female, and it represents a fundamental shift in American society that Republicans in their zero-sum way of thinking interpret as a loss. And so they pass on and they project that belief onto their news networks and their radio networks.
This is one of the first times in American history where almost anybody can see themselves in a current, sitting member of Congress, and I think that is a fundamental threat to the GOP.
The Post: Why would they see you personally as a threat?
Ocasio-Cortez: Because I fight back. I don’t know what they say, but I think they are attracted to conflict. They need a foil. I don’t think they see that they’re losing the war. They’re making all these battles, but they’re losing the war. Because they’re playing old-school politics, like, “Oh, I’m sorry, you think that faking a nude photo is going to take a woman down in 2019? Think again, brother.”
The Post: How did you feel when that hit yesterday?
Ocasio-Cortez: I was surprised and I was annoyed because it was a new tack. They’ve been for a very long time focusing on taking quotes out of context or manipulating them or making it seem as though I said things that I didn’t say. This was different in that it was an outright fraudulent thing. You can tell that they’re getting into hysterics because now you’re getting into my actual body, which is definitely crossing a level, definitely crossing a line.
I also think it’s encouraging because this is my sixth day in Congress and they’re out of all their artillery. The nude is supposed to be like the bazooka. You know, like, “We’re going to take her down.” Dude, you’re all out of bullets, you’re all out of bombs, you’re all out of all this stuff. What have you got left? I’m six days into the term, and you already used all your ammo. So enjoy being exhausted for the next two years while we run train on the progressive agenda.
The Post: Can you describe how this has affected you personally?
Ocasio-Cortez: It’s physically exhausting. The actual transition process is exhausting, but then the attention is enormous too. It impacts my work because in some ways it can be a little helpful but in other ways — it’s not like that doesn’t impact the dynamics in the chamber, either. Sometimes it impacts relationships positively because there are some older women that reach out and offer their mentorship and guidance. But it can be isolating in the chamber because when so many people are talking about you in the outside world, it’s hard to not project those narratives into them thinking that is who you are. It’s an extra hurdle, but I’ve been going out of my way to have personal interactions with the members so they get an idea of who I actually am as opposed to who I am through the lens of someone else.