Juan Williams: AOC fever shows appetite for new politics

Juan Williams: AOC fever shows appetite for new politics
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Last week the satirical website The Onion suggested that Fox News, the number one cable channel in America — where I do political analysis on television — was offering a new “premium channel for 24-hour coverage of Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezVA 'ain't broke' — but it can certainly be improved The Memo: GOP banks on Biden falling in primary Dems seek to rein in calls for impeachment MORE.”

“For an extra $8.99 per month,” the mock sales pitch says, “you’ll have an all-access pass to the AOC Zone, which features wall-to-wall coverage of every word Ocasio-Cortez utters… her wardrobe and any videos we are able to dig up from her college days.”

That’s pretty silly.

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But it was no joke when the top-rated news show on television, CBS’s “60 Minutes,” did a real interview with the 29-year-old congresswoman just days after she was sworn in.

And no one laughed when she gave a four-minute speech on the House floor last week that became the most-viewed video of a House speech ever on C-SPAN.

Remember, this is a first-term congresswoman. She is no committee chairwoman. She is not in the leadership. And she has been known to mangle facts.

The puzzling level of fascination with her led The Washington Post to explain that Rep. Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is at the “center of the political zeitgeist” of American politics today.

In other words, she rivals the leading character, President TrumpDonald John TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers MORE.

How?

Well, among politicians, Ocasio-Cortez’s Twitter reach (@AOC) is second only to that of President @realDonaldTrump.

“A freshman congresswoman who has held office for less than two weeks is dominating the Democratic conversation on Twitter, generating more interactions — retweets plus likes — than the five most prolific news organizations combined over the last 30 days,” according to Axios.

While Trump loves to tweet directly to his older, white, male base, Ocasio-Cortez tweets and uses Instagram to reach directly to the growing number of young voters, especially energized anti-Trump Democrats, who are describing themselves in record numbers as liberals.

This is especially true for Latina, black, Asian and young white women. That audience sees themselves in Ocasio-Cortez.

And right-wingers follow her, too, because they love to hate on her.

They envy her ability to talk to young people who are not available to Trump and the Republicans. And her ideas on raising taxes, universal healthcare and reducing the cost of college tuition invite conservative rage because she gives energy to left-wing ideas that are already popular and now going mainstream.

And she is having fun skewering the old guard on Capitol Hill.

Just last week she made an adventure out of looking for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics Overnight Defense: Trump ends sanctions waivers for buying Iranian oil | At least four Americans killed in Sri Lanka attacks | Sanders pushes for Yemen veto override vote McConnell: 'Time to move on' from Trump impeachment talk MORE (R-Ky.) — while on Instagram Live — to call him out for not allowing a vote on bills passed in the House to end the government shutdown.

McConnell was nowhere to be found.

But it was interesting to watch Ocasio-Cortez and her gang of three other happy congresswomen hell bent on breaking rules and confronting the powerful Senate Majority Leader.

Even when she is on a traditional political platform — television — Ocasio-Cortez succeeds by being unpredictable, again in Trump-like fashion.

Her “60 Minutes” interview made news for days after she proposed taxing people making more than $10 million a year at a 70 percent rate. Immediately, right-wing talk shows sliced into her as a socialist trying to turn America into a Venezuela-type economic pit with a toilet paper shortage.

But 59 percent of registered voters agreed with her call for a high marginal tax rate, according to a poll released last week by The Hill and HarrisX.

In fact, 45 percent of Republicans said they support her idea as well as 60 percent of independents and 71 percent of Democrats.

“Oh? What’s that?” the congresswoman tweeted. “The majority of Americans respect when you break down reasonable policy proposals that are designed to combat runaway income inequality and help fund priorities they value most.”

But here is an important point: Ocasio-Cortez is compelling because Republicans — even more than Democrats — know the power of political disruption from their recent experience with a social media savvy, brash outsider with no political experience.

The link between Ocasio-Cortez and Trump made news last week when a Rasmussen poll put her head-to-head with the president in a fantasy 2020 race for the White House.

The poll found Ocasio-Cortez on even footing with Trump in a poll of likely voters. He got 43 percent and she got 40 percent with “a sizeable 17 percent undecided.”

Oh, there’s more.

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The Daily Caller, a conservative publication, had to retract what it headlined as a “photo some people described as a nude selfie of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.” It turned out the photo was a fake.

“It’s encouraging because this is my sixth day in Congress and they’re out of all their artillery,” Ocasio-Cortez was quoted as saying in The Washington Post. “The nude is supposed to be like the bazooka…dude, you’re all out of bullets, you’re all out of bombs…what have you got left?”

That led to even more coverage of Ocasio-Cortez.

Laura Bassett wrote in Huffington Post that “some experts say conservative men are obsessed with Ocasio-Cortez because they are threatened by her.” Bassett said conservatives are sexualizing the young woman to “undercut her influence.”

But her influence is still growing due to the Democrats’ presidential primaries. She is too young to run for the White House but an endorsement from Ocasio-Cortez will be very real news.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.