A political neophyte from New York has an enormous Twitter following, punches back hard at the press, takes on critics within the party and has completely upended the Washington establishment.
No, it's not Donald Trump. It's Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDon't let partisan politics impede Texas' economic recovery Ocasio-Cortez explains 'present' vote on Iron Dome Dingell fundraises off Greene altercation on Capitol steps MORE, the self-described democratic socialist whose sharp tongue, take-no-prisoners approach and 24/7 presence on social media and TV has Republicans on and off Capitol Hill comparing the 29-year-old freshman phenom to the 72-year-old president of the United States.
Talk-show host Meghan McCain called Trump and Ocasio-Cortez “two sides of the same coin” and said the liberal, Latina bomb thrower from the Bronx was “just like Trump on Twitter.”
Rep. Adam KinzingerAdam Daniel KinzingerThe Memo: Trump's Arizona embarrassment sharpens questions for GOP The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats argue price before policy amid scramble Fifth House Republican comes out in support of bipartisan infrastructure bill MORE (R-Ill.) said he, too, sees obvious parallels between DJT and AOC.
“Whether it’s President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE or AOC, it’s all based on ginning up anger and fear and it's unfortunate,” Kinzinger, a frequent cable news presence who has a relatively paltry 46,500 Twitter followers compared to Ocasio-Cortez’s 2.6 million, told The Hill.
“And I think it's that kind of stuff that's killing our ability to get done things like solve the government shutdown. … If you look at Twitter, not everyone is on Twitter, but all the loudest voices are,” he said.
A senior GOP source observing Ocasio-Cortez on Capitol Hill put it more bluntly: “They are the same f---ing person. Think about it.”
“She’s about the extremes of her party: free college, free health care, jobs for all. Trump is about being tough on borders and pro-life policies,” the source said. “They are the bases of their parties and the loudest voices of their parties.”
In a brief interview this week, Ocasio-Cortez scoffed at the suggestion that she’s anything like Trump, a political outsider who muscled his way to the top of his party in 2016 with a slash-and-burn approach and harsh, anti-immigrant message that have fractured Republicans in Washington.
“I think it’s an unoriginal comparison. While we’re both popular on Twitter … and we’re plain spoken, that’s it,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Hill. “Aside from that, I think it’s an irresponsible comparison given the fact that he’s actively trying to assert mythology and hurt immigrants, and we’re trying to advance a progressive agenda, single-payer health care and a living wage.”
Many fellow Democrats praised Ocasio-Cortez for injecting youth into a party dominated by septuagenarian legislators, mastering social media to engage a new set of voters and shifting the national debate on a Green New Deal on climate change, universal health care, higher wages and a 70 percent tax rate on those making at least $10 million. Last week, Ocasio-Cortez — recently spotted dancing on Twitter and cooking on Instagram Live — earned kudos from colleagues for leading a workshop on how lawmakers can be more effective on social media platforms.
“Absurd” is how Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalSunday shows preview: Pelosi announces date for infrastructure vote; administration defends immigration policies On The Money — House pushes toward infrastructure vote Biden's baffling decisions leave allies wondering where they stand MORE (D-Wash.), a key progressive leader in Congress, described the Trump–Ocasio-Cortez comparisons. “She’s an extremely smart member of Congress who represents her district and has been putting forth ideas that will move the country forward.”
“I think she’s bright, articulate, energetic and passionate,” added centrist Rep. Ann KirkpatrickAnn Kirkpatrick Ariz. state senator who saved Gabby Giffords's life ends congressional bid due to COVID-19 surge Democrats fret over Trump-district retirements ahead of midterms Democratic Rep. Ron Kind won't seek reelection in Wisconsin MORE (D-Ariz.), who represents a swing district on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyHow lawmakers aided the Afghan evacuation Overnight Defense & National Security — Congress begins Afghanistan grilling Connolly rips Wilson over 'you lie' during Blinken hearing MORE (D-Va.) called Ocasio-Cortez one of a kind: “She's sui generis. She's uniquely her own. She's resembles no one else.”
But Ocasio-Cortez, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, has also rubbed many of her senior Democratic colleagues the wrong way.
Some are still smarting from her shocking victory over Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-N.Y.), the Queens power broker and House Democratic Caucus chairman, in a primary race last summer. Others have taken issue with her association with Justice Democrats, a liberal outside group that helped her knock off Crowley and has vowed to target other entrenched Democrats, including Rep. Henry Cuellar (R-Texas) and others the group does not deem progressive enough.
Her chief of staff and communications director, Saikat Chakrabarti and Corbin Trent, respectively, both helped found Justice Democrats.
“Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyProgressives eye shift in strategy after high-profile losses Ocasio-Cortez doesn't rule out challenging Schumer Cynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney MORE was one of the most loyal Democrats I’ve ever met here. He was a hard worker. He was a bridge builder, and we should all try to be bridge builders,” Rep. Bill PascrellWilliam (Bill) James PascrellProgressive poll finds support for solar energy tax credit legislation Democrats brace for toughest stretch yet with Biden agenda LIVE COVERAGE: Tax hikes take center stage in Ways and Means markup MORE (D-N.J.), a close Crowley friend, told The Hill. “To me, this is a time to unite to get something positive done for the country. In the midst of the [government shutdown] chaos, you’re talking about moving against one of your own? To me that doesn’t make much sense."
“She’s not Donald Trump; she’s not a divider,” Pascrell said. “But I don’t agree with what she’s doing.”
Added Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), who’s also been critical of Ocasio-Cortez in the past: “I don’t think we should target each other. I don’t like that part.”
Other Democratic critics privately say they’re just sick of being asked about her and talking about her, just as much as they’re sick of Trump. They see her as a media celebrity like Trump, who won his first political office with no experience in policymaking or governing.
“It’s a very fair comparison,” said one Democratic lawmaker, who is no fan of either Trump or Ocasio-Cortez. “Some in [the media] are doing a disservice because you’ve lifted her to such heighty lofts. Here’s someone who’s never been in a legislative position or an executive position — that’s going to cause her to fall. She’s 29 years old and has no concept of what being an effective legislator is all about."
“Let’s see who she gravitates to for president. Hopefully, she’ll want to run herself and get her ass out of here,” the lawmaker said just off the House floor.
Ocasio-Cortez generally has been friendly to the Capitol Hill press corps, granting brief hallway interviews and speaking to reporters at recent receptions around town.
But she never hesitates to unleash her 2.6 million Twitter followers on specific reporters or news outlets when she feels she’s been wronged — another similarity to Trump.
Last week, Ocasio-Cortez engaged in a Twitter fight with National Journal politics editor Josh Kraushaar after she criticized CBS News for the diversity of its 2020 campaign team. Kraushaar replied: “Another thing AOC has in common with Trump: media scold.”
Ocasio-Cortez quickly hit back: “Or: maybe having powerful editorial positions awash in people from one race, class, or gender isn’t a good idea; since we get 1000% more takes on ‘brown lady says a curse word’ than an actual white supremacist in Congress.
“If you won’t look the mirror, people will do it for you.”
Earlier this week, Ocasio-Cortez hit back at The Hill for publishing the headline: “Ocasio-Cortez: I give ‘zero’ f---s about pushback from other Democrats.” The congresswoman had been asked by late-night comedian Stephen Colbert “how many f---s” she gave when criticized by members of her party. She put her hands in the shape of a “O” and said “zero.”
“I actually didn’t say this, so while I know ‘brown women cursing’ drives clicks, maybe you accurately quote the whole exchange instead of manipulating people into thinking I said this sentence instead of just the word ‘zero,’” she replied in a tweet.
It was retweeted 32,000 times.
This story was updated at 12:14 p.m.