Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Clapping back is ‘a Bronx thing, it’s call & response culture’

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (aka AOC) is the subject of a documentary called Knock the House Down, which will be premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in a few days. The doc is directed by a woman, Rachel Lears, and while it didn’t start out as a documentary just about AOC, it evolved into the story of her successful primary race and successful congressional race. AOC plans to go to Sundance to help Rachel Lears hype the film, and they appear together on the new issue of The Hollywood Reporter. It’s a good, well-balanced piece which shows off AOC’s Millennial savvy – she doesn’t need lessons on media relations or how to use social media or how to “clap back” in a certain way, it comes naturally to her because of her age and authenticity. You can read the full THR piece here. Some highlights:

On the reports that Democratic leaders are irritated with her: “People are overwhelmingly over it. They’re overwhelmingly done with how Congress operates. There are a lot of things that just need to change. And friction and conflict is just a foundational element of change. If there was no conflict in change, then we would be in a totally equal society and people would have no problem getting health care and getting paid a living wage. But that’s not the case.”

On how the GOP keeps trying to take her down: “I always expected to be treated differently or less. The extent and the degree to it is actually pretty mind-boggling to me. When it comes to these alt-right dudebros, I think it’s hysteria. It’s the fear of, ‘We may not be in charge much longer,’ in terms of just blanket homogeneous representation. Like, oh my God, what happens if white dudes aren’t in control of Congress? I feel like I’m at the edge of a diving board. And I’m just sitting there looking down. And I’m bouncing on that diving board and I kind of just ask myself the core question. And it usually is like, if we don’t do this no one will. And so I jump, but I’m scared all the time.”

On clapping back: “It’s a Bronx thing. It’s call-and-response culture, which is very much in the wheelhouse of people of color. There is a certain amount of street cred that comes with being able to cleverly defend yourself.”

Why she thinks Trump hasn’t directly attacked her yet: “I’m not sure. I think as nuts as this guy is, one thing he does have an expertise in is media and branding and marketing. And I think, I don’t know, maybe he thinks that he’s met his match.”

She’s been trying to take her safety seriously: “It’s hard. I do everything I can do. I don’t walk alone places. This whole moment is just really emotionally overwhelming for my mom. It was really hard growing up for so many different reasons. There were so many times where we just thought, ‘It’s over, life is just going to be impossible.’ And to have this happen is just so unbelievable for her and for the whole family.”

Just a girl from the Bronx: She was living off her savings of about $7,000 when she was elected while paying off student loans that total a little over $25,000. “There are threads of my life that haven’t changed since I was a waitress….Going back to the same bodegas and talking to everyday people, and my neighbors still being my neighbors. That’s really important.”

[From THR]

Something struck me about AOC in this piece – it’s not that she’s some genius Millennial-whisperer whose every social media move is absolute brilliance. It’s that she just seems real and young and fresh. It’s not rocket science – there are millions of young women like that in this country. AOC just looks so fresh and shiny because we’ve been staring at crusty turtle-faced old men in the House and Senate for too long.

There’s also a section in THR where they discuss “Hollywood money,” in that AOC was the rare candidate who didn’t travel to LA to attend big-donor fundraisers for her own campaign or for the Democratic Party (or DCCC or Emily’s List or anything). She says it wasn’t so much that she was completely shutting off the idea of taking “Hollywood money,” it’s just that is not her priority at this time. And I honestly don’t get why it’s a big deal – Republicans have their shadowy wackadoodle billionaires financing their campaigns, why couldn’t a congressional candidate from the Bronx take contributions from Anne Hathaway and Steven Spielberg? Mostly, I want Democrats and progressives to stop shooting themselves in the collective d-cks about campaign finance. Do I think the current system is awful? Yes, I do. But also: don’t be dumb and play by a different set of rules than the other side.

Photos courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter.

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47 Responses to “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Clapping back is ‘a Bronx thing, it’s call & response culture’”

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  1. Mich says:

    I didn’t want to like her (because I can’t stand Bernie and he wasted no time trying to ride her coattails) but I do. She is awesome.

    So MANY of the women we just sent to Congress are awesome! Smart, honest and fearless. A whole lot of GOP men in the House and the Senate are going to lose their friggin minds because these women are not going to put up with their bs.

    • galant says:

      It’s quite a class of Congresspeople! Really a shame about the anti-Semitism but not surprising, as we see the US move further and further in that direction.

      • hunter says:

        Anti-semitism? That’s funny but I don’t see it. Maybe if you could come up with a persuasive list of Jewish candidates who ran, in which area, and did not receive winning votes I might buy in, but it sounds like you’re making this up.

      • galant says:

        Oh, I meant the anti-Semitism by some of the new Congresspeople. Talking about Jewish people “hypnotizing” and things like that. But uh if you don’t know about the Nazis out and about I commend you on living in a hole.

    • Annabel says:

      I have the opposite problem… I really, really want to like her, because like another commenter said, she’s a breath of fresh air, and also she’s a hugely impressive and brilliant person, and I love that she’s got the GOP all shook up, but her habit of misstating and misrepresenting numbers and data just makes me so uneasy.

      Case in point: the Washington Post gave her a Four Pinnochio rating for her statements about the cost of universal healthcare, meaning their fact-checkers determined that what she said was a blatant falsehood. When Anderson Cooper asked her about that, here’s what she said: “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.” Wait, what? So it’s okay to be factually wrong, so long as you’re “morally right”? Yikes.

      • RunTrain says:

        I’m with you. I’m a flaming liberal, I love Maxine Waters, I love Pelosi, but I feel AOC is much more interested in her fame and cleverness than in learning to be an effective legislator. I know she’s smart, she went to BU, which is a fairly good undergrad, but she comes across when questioned as naive at best, and woefully uninformed at worst. She just isnt prepared for the level of fame and interest she has received – and that’s ok, she is new, but put her and a seasoned Dem on the same panel, and her ignorance is so clear!
        I wish she would stop tweeting all day, stop responding to every insult the way Trump does, stop saying Trump has met his match, not tweet slang, and just follow Pelosi around for a year. And learn all she can, then speak out about issues in a more knowledgeable way.
        The Dems are guilty of the cult of personality, too, it seems.

    • Danielle says:

      Bernie likes her because they have the same platform and like him, she didn’t take huge donations from PACs. Bernie was honest and refreshing too. Some of his supporters were awful but it was a small minority. She is crushing it because she is honest and relatable. I love her and I hope her win encourages more young progressives to leap into politics. Most Americans want more progressive policies and less big money in politics, which is what Bernie and AOC are pushing for.

      • Cranberry says:

        YES. Thank you Danielle.

        Bernie and his platform are refreshing. He didn’t jump on AOC coattails. I believe she worked on his campaign.

    • noway says:

      I like her, and I get the attention somewhat, but I do wish people would let her just be a bit. There is too much criticism and adulation on one person, who hopefully will end up with loads of legislative accomplishments, but hasn’t been there long enough to do much. She’s one congresswoman who represents the Bronx and parts of Queens(I think), and she’s young, and can’t even legally run for President for several years. I know some of her facts have been wrong, but she hasn’t put her ideas to bills yet either, and it’s not like a fair amount of other congressmen get things wrong too. Let’s see what she comes up with. Maybe after some discussions with other members, her facts will be more accurate, and hopefully she will see the importance of that. Also, the Republicans who are going after her like she is the coming of Armageddon, get over it. Her numbers may not all add up now, but last time I looked we are trillions of dollars in debt from Republican control, so I don’t think your numbers have ever added up. They really look like they are picking on the new girl. Still come on it’s nice to change the conversation a bit and talk about some ideas that were on the table before, like Reagan era, i.e higher taxes on the uber wealthy, instead of talking about the same old crap we’ve been doing.

  2. Mousy says:

    For the democrats that are trying to change campaign finance for the better/more equal and less corrupt, then yes, its important they stay on message and dont take special interest money. Its not just – “lets play by the GOP’s rules, its only fair!”. Taking money like that more often than not influences the way people govern and it becomes less about the constituents on certain issues and more about what donors want.

    The GOP (and several Dems tbh) can do it because thats never been their message. So no its not dumb at all AOC and the like wont take the money…its the opposite.

    • Rapunzel says:

      I agree. AOC needs to stay genuine and practice what she preaches.

      • Belle Epoch says:

        Sadly AOC does NOT practice what she preaches. She denounced Uber but her campaign spent $4000 on it. She told everyone in Congress to reject their paychecks during the shutdown and even said “have some integrity!” But she’s accepting hers. She failed to give her people workers’ compensation. She doesn’t even have an office in the Bronx yet. And she’s not a “girl from the Bronx” – she grew up in privileged Yorktown Heights NY (when her name was Sandy). Somehow she managed to wear a $3500 outfit (with Manolo Blahnik stilettos) to interview construction workers – after making a huge deal about how poor she is. (These clothes may well have been given to her, but still … tone-deaf.) She doesn’t feel she needs to be factual all the time. She’s bold and pretty and says some great things, but for being on the job 3 weeks these are a lot of unforced errors.

    • Cranberry says:

      Agree. The game is changing, and those that have vision, integrity and are ready to lead can transcend corrupt system rules and therefore change them. They’re game changers.

  3. Aims says:

    She’s a breath of fresh air. I appreciate that she says what she means and I wish her luck. I hope she doesn’t become jaded after a few years. I hope she has that fire inside her that she has now and I look forward to her journey. Give it hell girl!!

  4. galant says:

    Part of what makes her brilliant is the way she brushes off the creeps and losers who try to harass her, and I think a huge part of why she can do that is related to being of a generation where you call creeps and losers out. Older female politicians still struggle with “oh, if I speak up against this, I won’t be likeable”, whereas a young hot woman who has worked as a bartender is clearly comfortable saying “you suck, get lost”.

    • Kitten says:

      This aspect of her personality is so underrated. She’s the youngest person in Congress, a self-described Democratic Socialist and Puerto Rican woman–she was always going to be a HUGE target on the Right. But she lets all of it roll right off her back. It’s incredible to see. So many people would crumble under the incessant attacks, the negativity from both the Left and Right. and the constant scrutiny–but she prevails and comes out stronger. She’s awesome and I love her and everything the Freshman Class is doing.

  5. Diana says:

    I think she is beautiful. Love her make-up in this shoot. She has gorgeous bone structure.

  6. Case says:

    She makes politics feel accessible to us younger folk. AOC goes out of her way to explain government interworkings on Instagram, and I think that’s amazing! Engaging the younger generation and letting them in on the process is the only way they’ll feel moved to participate — in elections, and in working in government. She’s spectacular.

    • Cranberry says:

      Agree. This is the right way to use social media platforms. Quite the opposite of the self absorbed instegram culture.

  7. Nev says:


  8. OriginalLala says:

    I love her – she has inspired me to look into running for a seat in our House of Commons up here in Canada

    • Who ARE these people? says:

      Do it! And good luck to you.

      • OriginalLala says:

        I’ve always thought I would run “when Im older” (I’m 34 now) but AOC and the new crop of US congresswomen have me re-thinking that mentality…

    • whatWHAT? says:

      that is awesome! GO FOR IT!

    • Scotchy says:


      Same here,
      I have been sitting on the fence about getting involved for years and while I am older, as a Canadian WOC, I am seeing opportunities and places for a voice like mine more so than before!

      So I say yes go for it and hopefully I will see you on the hill one day 🙂

  9. Spunkymama says:

    Is that the director next to her on the cover? I thought it was Rashida Jones and had to look harder!

  10. Who ARE these people? says:

    So happy she’s calling attention to the greatness of Bronx, uh, sociolinguistic norms. No s**t.

    (OG Bronx here)

  11. SuperStef says:

    Found myself LOLing at “crusty turtle-faced men”. Brilliantly written piece on AOC. Thank you, Kaiser!

    It’s enjoyable to watch what she does and how she handles all the adversity. While I don’t necessarily agree with all of her politics, her message of equality is loud and clear; I support her as a brilliant change agent that America needs right now. It’s interesting to see people try and label her as a socialist, even a modern communist or extreme lefty, but I don’t think she falls into any one of those archaic buckets of economic definition.

    Popping popcorn and snacking while I read through her Twit feed has become a new hobby for me.

  12. Jessica says:

    I’m just not a fan of her but the obsessive hatred she gets from the right is why she gets so much attention.

  13. Veronica S. says:

    Her answer to the question about party in-fighting was quite savvy. Framing it as a natural matter of an evolving electorate and not personal discord is a good way to acknowledge problems without weakening the image of the party as a whole.

    I’m impressed that she managed to save up $7,000, though. That’s an impressive feat. I had that much in savings a few years back but wiped it out buying a car, and it’s only recently that it’s been making baby steps back to a decent amount.

  14. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    She’s brave. And she’s necessary.

  15. molly says:

    I adore her. Our representatives are supposed to represent the people, and she 100% does that for her district.

  16. Lightpurple says:

    I love how freaked out the right wing boy pundits are at the mere mention of her initials. Some of them, like Charlie Kirk, are obsessed with her. Feel free to clap back at them all you want, Alexandria. But not on the House floor where doing so can get you in trouble fast. Study and learn because as a freshman representative, there is a tremendous amount to learn about government programs, how they help or hurt your constituents, and why they’re set up as they are. Watch and learn how the established pros play the game of thrones for there is much to learn from the Maxines and the Nancys, both of whom have their own style and approach that serve them in the roles they play. Then, with their guidance, choose and forge your own path.

  17. Jenna says:

    I’m over the word “culture”. We are obsessed with it

  18. KidV says:

    I side-eyed her a bit when Bernie latched on to her, but I’m really enjoying her. She is what Congress needs. The US needs many more of her going forward.

  19. Amelie says:

    I like her and I think it’s great to have young POC women in Congress. I just hope she manages to keep up the momentum. If she is constantly in our faces, people may tire of her and there might be backlash. I just think she needs to be careful about that.

  20. elle says:

    Headline has her name wrong… should be Cortez, not Ortez.

  21. Meg says:

    I like that she admits that she scared all the time but does this anyway because its the right thing to do. fearing not being perfect prevents a lot of us from doing what we think is right, she’s in the spotlight and judged excessively for doing anything imperfect. she’s so well spoken and really describes things well

  22. Nan says:

    The number one reason she is so popular: Transparency. She is showing Americans what life is like for someone in that position. She is educating all of us on what the buildings look like, what her schedule is like, what the committees are and how they are selected. She explains directly to people why she votes the way she does. This is a paradigm shift, a complete awakening for people. They suddenly see that they CAN and SHOULD be running for office. It is not some divine calling. It is public service.

    While in college I had an incredible opportunity to meet Melanie Stambaugh, a 24 year old unemployed recent college grad who ousted a longstanding incumbent for a seat in the Washington State House of Representatives. She is a progressive who won a Republican seat in a liberal state and spent four years working on bipartisan pieces that expanded educational services and continuity for unserprivileged/homeless students (amongst other things). She was an incredibly vibrant, NORMAL person, and absolutely opened the eyes of all of the students who met her and heard her speak. She will not be running a re-election campaign, because she believes in public service and believes everyone should have an opportunity to participate and represent their respective constituencies.

    These YOUNG(!!!) women are so inspiring to me. They are bringing representation, tranaparency, and integrity into an industry that has become definitively corrupt.

  23. Snowflake says:

    Look no one is perfect. We need to take a page from the Republican playbook and defend our party’s people even when they make mistakes. Looking for the perfect POTUS is what got us Trump.

  24. phlyfiremama says:


  25. EJW says:

    I love that she’s championing the 70% marginal tax rate on people earning over ten million a year. Apparently the majority of Americans support it too:

  26. tuille says:

    I liked AOC a lot. Now that she’s officially “in”, her challenges & anti-Pelosi for Speaker “She’s too old.” comment was naive & inappropriate. She wanted a young newcomer as Speaker but eventually supported Nancy. Her early let’s-change-everything-now posture turned me off. I think House experience is very important, as in know the turf & some of the other 434 House members before shouting down the old pros.
    Her erroneous math & moral self-righteousness over factual accuracy is also a negative to me.
    I get it. Maybe everyone in the Bronx loves a newbie who thinks she knows everything but she needs support from her cohorts to effectively do her new job. Hopefully she’ll calm down, get over herself, learn to vet her facts before spouting off & become a new Dem leader. Baby steps now, honey.
    Kamala Harris? 2 years in the House as sole national experience? Too early to jump up for the top job. She was SF District Atty, helped by her then- boyfriend, Mayor Willie Brown who is nearly 30 years older than Harris. She went on to be Atty. Gen’l for CA, narrowly winning in a strong Dem state.. She hasn’t achieved much in the House; no bills adopted, etc. Kamala is a skillful & poised public speaker & presented very well in the Kavanaugh questionings. She’ll do better to build a House base, do some notable work & wait until 2024+.