As I’ve watched the debut of the 116th Congress unfold, I’m having strange thoughts about what I’m actually watching. And why.
For example, every day I see lots of video clips and featured stories about Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) – more than 445 articles on FoxNews.com alone since Jan. 3. More recently, I’ve been reading and listening to stories
about Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and her “anti-Israel” comments that some say border on expressions of anti-Semitism.
Both are very interesting personalities. AOC is the darling of the progressive movement within the Democratic party and much of the mainstream media. She’s an admitted socialist and was most recently featured in Rolling Stone magazine, along with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Omar and Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.). AOC and Hayes are co-sponsors of the “Green New Deal” that’s been one of the new Republican targets. (Speaker Pelosi seems to have dropped off of that list, by the way.)
AOC shocked the political establishment last June. A virtual unknown, she entered the national political arena by knocking off the chairman of the Democratic Caucus, Joe Crowley, 57-42 percent. She was outspent 18-1 by Rep. Crowley, who had served for 20 years before his June surprise that not many “political types” (like me) saw coming.
In upsetting the more moderate congressman from the Bronx, who was endorsed by all the “politically powerful” Democrats in the state, the 29-year-old youngster became the youngest woman ever to serve in the U.S. Congress.
AOC graduated cum laude from Boston University with a major in international relations and economics. No small feat to be sure. She’s a proud member of the Democratic Socialists of America, one of two members who belong to the largest democratic socialist group in the United States. She was an organizer for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Democratic campaign for president.
No matter your politics, you have to be impressed by her remarkable accomplishments. To say she’s taken Washington, D.C., (and a lot of the country) by storm is a bit of an understatement. If she were at least 35-years old, I’d bet would she’d be one of the leading Democratic candidates for president.
She even has a website for “gifts and merchandise” which is worth a look:
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and some of her colleagues have a bit of a different political philosophy from mine, and they make no secret about it. Among her key issues:
The “Green New Deal” — (According to CNN) “taking a stronger position on everything from cutting carbon emissions to giving every American a job to working with family farmers to retrofitting every building in the country.”
Abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bureau.
Medicare for all.
A federal “jobs guarantee” for all Americans.
Eliminating the current energy industry (getting rid of coal, oil and natural gas).
Free public, college and trade school tuition.
A 70-percent marginal tax rate for incomes above $10 million.
As I mentioned at the outset, some of this has caused me to think about what I’m actually watching. Or reading. And why.
When I first started working in the political arena on the Hill many years ago, it was a much more congenial environment. My experience took place where it was less complicated to actually get something done.
Over the years since then, I’ve watched that “congenial” environment go away, bit by bit. I’ve watched its decline as “political correctness” became the standard by which all of us are judged. I’ve listened as the art of debate is no longer valued: Shout down anyone who does not share your point of view, call them names – “racist” being the most popular – or use other derogatory words instead of taking genuine debate on the issue being discussed.
Most importantly, advance the goal of keeping your job, or acquiring/keeping political power as opposed to finding a basis on which compromise can be built. Playing to your “base” in lieu of addressing the more obvious problems we face together – like our collective $22 trillion debt – rather than worrying about “cow farts.” That kind of thinking, I readily admit, is well-above and beyond my ability to comprehend.
AOC is clearly a very bright and talented youngster. She has quickly become a major force in American politics today. She has seized the microphone and is not afraid to use it. But before we throw our capitalistic system out the window because we want “free stuff,” I’d sure like to have a conversation with her about some basics. Like how in the world are we going to pay for all of that?
Those who speak on the extreme edge – those on either the left or right – are missing the most important thing, at least in my view: survival of the country in which I grew up. A recent Rasmussen poll is frightening: Fifty-one percent – (51 percent!) of likely U.S. voters agree “we have people in Congress, right now, who hate our country.”
Working together is more important now than ever, but I’m not sure it’s not possible. What I’d like to try is to stop yelling at each other and stop the name-calling. It just can’t be that hard.
Or is it? You tell me. I’d love to hear what you think.