I can hear your groans now. “What, another Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez piece?”

It’s an open question, in chicken-or-egg fashion, whether AOC’s notoriety is the result of the Left’s vocal, in-your-face adulation or of the Right’s relentless reactions, but that question is, today, secondary to the fact that she, a newly-minted freshman member of the House from an unimportant, non-swing district, who should rank very low on the totem pole, is the de facto voice of the party. She has power. Her words and her ideas are driving policy. She may be a product of her own hype, but the path she has taken is less important than the pedestal upon which she stands. She is the embodiment of Saul Alinsky’s Rule for Radicals #1.

So, yes, another AOC piece, this time about her style and tactics.

She has learned the politics/media game very well in a very short amount of time.

  • Double down, don’t back down (see: Alinsky #8).

  • Attack when challenged over an incendiary statement. Never apologize.

  • Create and topple straw men.

  • Exaggerate, grossly, to the point of outright lying, but put a tiny kernel of tangentially related fact in your back pocket, to be presented when challenged, and to give your supporters something to cling to.

  • Defend, no matter what, your people.

  • Never seek compromise. Denounce those on your side who do as consorting with the devil.

  • Vilify and ridicule your foes (see: Alinsky #5) and personalize your attacks on them (see: Alinsky #13).

  • Cast yourself as the victim whenever possible, and especially when attacked (see: Alinsky #4). Use identity politics to your advantage. Conflate disagreement with threat, portraying your foes as violent

  • Whenever possible, highlight extreme anecdotes, even if they are not remotely representative.

  • Use the immediacy and superficiality of social media to create emotional churn and suppress rationality.

  • Ascribe bad motives and bad behaviors to your opponents, knowing that your followers will believe you even if they aren’t true.

  • Shoot the moon on policy. Keep particulars as vague as possible, knowing that your followers will fill in the blanks in ways that please them.

These aren’t the tactics of a statesman, nor of a wise and benevolent person. They are those of a partisan combatant, who sees her opponents as evil to be vanquished. And, they are immoral and unjust, an obvious irony for someone whose sales pitch is morality and justice.

They’re working. She has already prompted half a dozen or more of the Presidential candidates of her party to voice support for her wild-and-crazy, fiscally ruinous ideas, and she has managed to shift or expand the Overton Window leftward. In doing the latter, she has given Nancy Pelosi the opportunity to appear as a moderate. Machiavelli would be proud, were this the work of a calculating mastermind. Hanlon’s Razor should disabuse us of that theory, although the idea that AOC is a deliberately planted stooge whose main purpose was to make the existing Dems appear reasonable by comparison is, I’m sure, quite attractive to the conspiracy-minded.

AOC’s high-visibility cohorts, specifically Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, have apparently learned the same Alinsky lessons, and their words and deeds have succeeded in cowing the balance of the Party to either tacit support via silence or to contorted defenses.

It’ll be interesting to see the Party try to resolve its internal conflict via the primary process. I’m curious to see who wins out, Cortez or Pelosi. Both are fully involved in the game, with Pelosi throwing shade at Cortez and the presumption of her influence, and with Cortez re-setting the Impeach Trump narrative back to to emoluments: “I think it’s always been emoluments… It’s always been about that for me.”

Yeah, sure. ‘Always been emoluments.’ Watch your TDS friends. Watch them parrot this as the full Mueller report gets released.

It’s fun and easy to mock AOC, but the fact is that she has parlayed a sneak-attack primary victory against a complacent and overconfident incumbent in a deep-blue, safely-Democratic House district into a national bully pulpit, a large and loyal following, and disproportionate power in dictating party policies. She’s not going away, especially since how and what she is doing is loved by the liberal press. She doesn’t develop her statements from logic or dispassionate fact, but instead thrives on hyperbole and relentless attack. Is she sneaky-shrewd, or does she simply have an instinct for this game?

Doesn’t matter. She’s proven to be good enough to alter the landscape. Whether that lasts, only time will tell. But, she’s a player, and one who’s learned to play the game well.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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