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Forget Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Bernie Sanders or any of the other recent stars of the political Left – the new superstar in town is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, known simply as AOC. In recent months, she has seemed to be everywhere – there’s hardly an article about politics that gets written these days that does not find some way to mention her name. Overnight, she seems to have hijacked the Democratic establishment, coming up with bold new ideas that are both applauded and derided at the same time. And she has been unafraid to mock her rivals mercilessly on Twitter. Sound familiar?
A page out of the Trump playbook
In many ways, AOC is taking a page (or, rather, several pages) out of Donald Trump’s social media playbook. The same tactics that AOC is using to disrupt the Democratic establishment are the same tactics that Trump used to disrupt the Republican establishment back in 2016. And, quite frankly, older members of the Democratic Party don’t know what to do about her. The contrast between the near-octogenarian Nancy Pelosi and the twenty-something AOC couldn’t be more striking. Ever since AOC showed up for her first days as a newly elected member of the House in 2019, she has breathed new life into her party with her boundless energy.
Love him or hate him, you have to admit that Trump is the master of using social media to rally the base and mock political opponents. And that’s exactly what AOC is doing with her own Twitter presence. When asked about negative comments from Joe Lieberman, AOC pointedly asked, “New party, who dis?” And she’s been unafraid to use her New York City roots as a way of talking tough and creating a colorful persona (“can’t mess with Bronx women”). In the same way, Trump has famously talked about all the tough tactics he used to survive in the New York real estate world before going to Washington.
A new social media era for politics
The big question, of course, is whether Americans should be electing candidates for political office based on how skilled and adept they are at using Twitter as a blunt weapon of political intimidation. If Twitter is used to widen the base, and to build popular approval for a certain policy, then it is certainly a good thing. However, if Twitter is simply used for all of its dark purposes – such as cyberbullying and trolling – then it is not a good thing.
For now, Twitter is the platform of choice for both Democrats and Republicans, primarily because it is so real-time and so accessible. (If you fly into a political rage, there’s nothing easier than pulling out your phone and sending a hate-tweet) So it will be interesting to see how political operatives on both sides of the political aisle find new and creative ways to use social media to rally their political base in the months leading up to the 2020 presidential election.