Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) is everywhere; it is as if she found a phone booth (doubt they exist anymore) and then reappeared as Superwoman.
AOC seems to be the leading advocate for the Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and the provocateur who caused Amazon to reverse course on its planned expansion in New York. AOC has the attributes that populate the media—good looks, and quick-tongued. And I might add, an absence of deep knowledge that might inform or even pre-empt the quick tongue.
In reaction to her comment about a three billion dollar tax credit that was a part of the Amazon deal to establish a second headquarters in New York, the New York Times columnist, Andrew Ross Sorkin, commented: “There is a financial literacy epidemic in America. Quick lesson: NYC wasn’t handing cash to Amazon. It was an incentive program based on job creation, producing tax revenue.” AOC had said the $3 billion could be better spent on other things.
Now lest I be taken to task for being anti-good looks paired with a quick-tongue, there are persons in that category that are thoughtful. Amy Klobuchar, for example.
As a Republican who has decided well in advance of the next presidential election to vote for someone other than President Trump, I decided to begin to pay attention to the center-left candidates seeking the nomination to run for President. In pursuit, I watched CNN’s coverage of a New Hampshire town hall meeting featuring Amy Klobuchar, a U.S. Senator from Minnesota who is in the race. My wife, after all, is from Minnesota and we have gotten along for over fifty years; a testament to her tolerance.
Predictably, the first questions of the Senator pertained to the Green New Deal and Medicare For All. She skirted an answer by calling both aspirational but impractical in some respects. She was not full-throated in her objections, but I guess that is to be expected when rationality is on the defensive.
Adding to my angst as a potential voter for the Democratic nominee are polls that show Millenials infatuated with Socialism and the immediate leap to the top of the polls by Democrat-Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders after his announcement last week. All of this has caused one friend who voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 to say he is likely to vote for Trump this time around. As painful as it would be if the Democrats nominate somebody from the hard left, I might join my friend.
Okay, I know the election is twenty-two months away so there is a lot of time to vet candidates. But it is probable that in several months the candidate slates will be fully formed. It is also probable that a culture of slogans will persist. Afterall it is hard to take back an endorsement of a slogan in the age of gotcha politics. Make America Great Again (MAGA) anyone?
Having posed the problem as I see it, let me simply ask several questions and close.
Is there a more benign version of capitalism where stockholders pay attention to stakeholders, like workers, on offer? Perhaps Bill Gates and Warren Buffet can create a movement toward a more equitable distribution of business revenues. Is there a Republican who can support regulations when companies pursue profits at all costs?
Are there examples of socialism, defined as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods,” that actually work? I for one do not regard safety net programs as socialism, they are just inadequately funded.
Are there examples of large government agencies that are not corrupted by self-serving interests and/or ambitious bureaucrats?
Are there center-right reformers who have not been either co-opted or silenced by Trump? If so, what do they stand for? Who are their advocates?
Are there center-left reformers who have not been intimated by the hard left? If so, what do they stand for? Who are their advocates?
Or, have we descended into an era of personality politics and performance art that makes these questions seem woefully out of date, indeed irrelevant?
We live at a moment when history, as the content of databases, can be tapped to find efficacy, as in what has worked or not? Is there anyone up for attempting to discern practical solutions in our age of disruption?
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.