A vacuum being filled by the inexperienced

A vacuum being filled by the inexperienced
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On Jan. 20, 1961, the first president born in the 20th century made the case at his inauguration that he was prepared, ready and able to assume the awesome responsibilities of the Office of the President of the United States.

John F. Kennedy spoke powerfully: “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage. … Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

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Would these words resonate with today’s new generation of Democrats who are seemingly untempered, undisciplined, resentful of our heritage and skeptical of individual liberty?  

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezNew York man pleads guilty to threatening to kill Omar Funding stopgap would give Congress more time to debate expiring surveillance provisions 'Saturday Night Live' presents Trump impeachment hearings with 'pizzazz' of soap opera MORE (D-N.Y.) has become the face of the millennial generation in Congress. Her rise to national prominence was meteoric — from bartender to Congress in less than a year. Google the first five letters of her first name and you will find she is ranked higher than Amazon’s “Alexa” device and Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. This is quite an accomplishment for a 29-year-old social activist who burst onto the political scene with a stunning primary election victory over 10-term incumbent Democratic Rep. Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyThe Democrats' generational battle Ocasio-Cortez apologizes for blocking ex-politician on Twitter, settles lawsuit Ocasio-Cortez on public life: 'Sometimes I just want to be a human being' MORE.

She has even achieved the status of pop culture luminaries such as Cher, Madonna, Beyoncé, Bono and Gaga with the moniker “AOC” in place of her name.  

She is part of a generation who came of age with smartphones and social media that provided them with platforms to broadcast their opinions using technologies that can blur the line between fact and opinion, creating an exaggerated sense of self-importance and gravitas.

This played out in a July interview on PBS’s “Firing Line” in which she presented this factually inaccurate hypothesis about the workforce: “Unemployment is low because everyone has two jobs. Unemployment is low because people are working 60, 70, 80 hours a week and can barely feed their family.”

Her heightened sense of importance was on display on Nov. 13, one week after she was elected, when she joined a climate change protest in the office of Rep. Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiFeehery: Pivoting to infrastructure could help heal post-impeachment wounds Key GOP senator: 'We need a breakthrough' on spending talks Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Stopgap spending bill includes military pay raise | Schumer presses Pentagon to protect impeachment witnesses | US ends civil-nuclear waiver in Iran MORE (D-Calif.) and boasted: “Should Leader Pelosi become the next speaker of the House, we need to tell her that we’ve got her back in showing and pursuing the most progressive energy agenda that this country has ever seen.”

Ocasio-Cortez is well aware that she possesses political assets of equal or greater value than money: celebrity and social media influence. President TrumpDonald John TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE leveraged these to win the White House in 2016. Ocasio-Cortez is leveraging these to gain influence to shape policy and plot the direction of the Democratic Party leading up to 2020. As Newsweek reported, “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has as many Twitter followers as (60) incoming Democratic freshman House members combined.” This is what raw political power looks like in 2019.

This may help explain why Pelosi blinked in the wake of the invasion of her office and tweeted that House Democrats should reinstate the Select Committee to address the climate crisis — to which Ocasio-Cortez responded, “Thank you, @NancyPelosi. We have 10 years left to plan and implement a Green New Deal before cataclysmic climate disaster. Reinstating the Select Committee is exactly what we need to do.” One week after her election, she was setting the agenda.

Only a week after being sworn-in, Ocasio-Cortez scored an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” with Anderson Cooper where she stated her view on being fact-checked: “If people want to really blow up one figure here or one word there, I would argue that they’re missing the forest for the trees. I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”   

Being morally right is captured in the “Green New Deal.” The program not only calls for the elimination of fossil fuels within 12 years but also supports universal health care and guaranteed jobs and income for workers. It is rapidly becoming the democratic socialist playbook for 2020 and a tenet of progressive presidential campaigns.   

The problem is that after two years focused only on resistance, the Democratic Party finds itself largely issueless, leaderless, directionless and vulnerable to extreme ideology. The vacuum created is being filled by social media celebrities with no appreciation of our past or coherent vision for our future.

In 1961, our new president had served at war, understood the price of peace, and was proud to be an American. His party today is rapidly becoming a captive of socialists whose stated goal is to fundamentally transform the United States socially, politically and economically.  

Perhaps we should lament, “Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch is being passed to a new generation of Americans who appear, at least at this point, to be quite inexperienced in life and incapable of compromise.”

Dennis M. Powell is founder and president of Massey Powell, a national public affairs consultancy headquartered in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. He has been involved in more than 300 Republican political campaigns doing strategy, messaging, polling and fundraising, including the Senate campaigns of Arlen Specter and Dick Thornburgh, other Northeast congressional campaigns, and the presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush. He has worked on public policy issues for Comcast, the Trump Organization and other national businesses.