Just after she was officially sworn in as a freshman representative to America’s 116th Congress on Thursday, a video emerged online in efforts to smear Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever to be elected to the US House of Representatives.
Posted to Twitter by an account named AnonymousQ – a reference to an ongoing bizarre and dangerous far-right conspiracy theory known as “QAnon” – the video was accompanied by a scathing message: “Here is America’s favorite commie know-it-all acting like the clueless nitwit she is… …High School video of “Sandy” Ocasio-Cortez”.
The tone of the tweet, which has since been deleted, implied that this video would be embarrassing to Ocasio-Cortez, who has rocketed to stratospheric fame both for her unflinching dedication to progressive causes, her stunning upset victory in last year’s Democratic primary, and her frankly brilliant social media presence. But the post drastically backfired.
A quick view of the video, which was filmed as part of a promotional ad for her university, makes it clear why:
It’s just… incredibly cool, right?
Leaving aside for a second the biting irony of Trump supporters accusing anyone of childishness, the attempt to smear Ocasio-Cortez backfired so dramatically because it ended up playing to her greatest strengths. She has rocketed to the forefront of the public consciousness – become the closest thing Congress has to a bona fide rock star – not despite her youthful naivete, but because of it.
That video of her dancing – the sheer joy of it – encapsulates this relatability. She is perhaps the first American politician to truly be of the social media generation; not just using it, but a native of its constant connectivity and intimacy. She is at home there, and her audience is at home there too.
Her social media presence has been so enjoyable to watch because she is arriving starry-eyed at the hallowed institution of American legislative power and is bringing us, her audience, along with her for the ride. She is real. She is a human, one of us. She uses her Instagram especially to bring her increasingly vast and rapt audience along with her; one of her first stories when she arrived in Washington captured the grand staircase of the US capitol building, to which she added the words: “welcome to Hogwarts”.
It is so refreshing, so almost shocking to watch, because Congress is instinctively linked in the public consciousness with the kind of stuffy intransigence of its overwhelmingly old, white, and male constituent body, that the idea that someone in Congress can dance, show joy, show abandon, show youth and humanity and everything that Congress is not, is unbelievably life-affirming.
All that has been proved by this video and its subsequent response is quite how much of a paradigm-shifting figure she has become, and will continue to be.