I don’t know why anyone is so surprised to see New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez splashed everywhere. She fits right in with what the nation likes to see: quirky politicians acting out of the norm, if there is such a thing as norm nowadays.
Ocasio-Cortez is the latest flavor du jour in America’s ongoing love affair with out-there, outrageous politicians. She has even gone the extra mile to be referred to simply by her initials, AOC, and that takes her to a whole new level of stardom.
Calling someone by one name or initials or first names means they are firmly ensconced in America’s conscience. Oprah ... Elvis ... Gaga ... JFK ... FDR ... BA ...
OK, I just threw that last one in there to see if you were paying attention. But you get the picture. All it takes is one word or initials to know exactly who you are talking about.
And right now, the political world is OC with AOC.
It’s a concept almost as old as time, only now with the gigantic spin machines we have, it just gets out faster and stays out there longer.
Imagine if we had all this spin around back in the days of the Founding Fathers. The colonists would all be buzzing over “George,” “Benny Frank,” “TJ” and “Alex.”
Voters love different. Look at Minnesota in 1999 when the Gopher State went goofy for Jesse Ventura. The idea that an entertainer from something so culturally vile as professional wrestling could someday run a state probably was hard to swallow. But Minnesotans (not to mention wrestling fans and other Americans) happily ate it up to the point where quirks just make a candidate more appealing.
Fast forward to 2008 and Sarah Palin. Talk about your continental divide. Here was someone tucked away up in Alaska who burst onto the political scene and chewed up the scenery along the way. If anything, she overshadowed the top of the Republican presidential ticket, and John McCain became HER running mate instead of vice versa.
Unfortunately, there is a fine line between quirky and cartoonish, and folks like Jesse Ventura and Sarah Palin quickly crossed it with their continued outrageous statements and actions.
People soon grew weary of them to the point where they simply were written off as something akin to a cartoon character ... interesting to experience, yet way too outlandish to be 100-percent believable.
But people like Jesse Ventura and Sarah Palin opened the door for people like Donald Trump and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to walk through and take their spots as cartoons or cartoons-in-waiting ... Trump’s over-the-top personna and Twitter-baiting, and Ocasio-Cortez’s little-girl-riding-a-unicorn and dancing-on-social-media personality.
It’s because of those cartoonish pioneers that our nation’s political dialogue is what it is now. In the past, when we spoke of political issues, we talked about taxes, the economy and other kitchen-table issues. But thanks to DT and AOC, we now add to that dialogue snowflakes, “beautiful” walls and pooting cows.
Pretty soon, the tide will turn and we will find some other shiny new quirky objects to love on politically. Donald Trump and AOC will become answers in trivia contests just like Ventura and Palin. And snowflakes and pooting cows will go back to their rightful place in media ... on the Weather Channel and the Cartoon Network, respectively.
Bill Atkinson is assistant editor and political columnist of The Progress-Index in Petersburg, Virginia. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @BAtkinsonpi.