By Peter Roff • Newsweek
Have you heard the one about the entire GOP thinking that “women dancing are scandalous”? If you haven’t then you’re not following newly-elected Queens, N.Y. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter.
It seems Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who is rapidly becoming the public face, if not de-facto leader of the national Democratic Party, wasn’t too pleased with a comment someone made about a video released through social media that she made while in college, showing her and several others dancing, 90’s Hollywood style.
Now, to me and to the other people on the right with whom I discussed this, the video was no big deal. To others in the media, it was. The New York Times and the left-leaning Huffington Post both called it an attempted smear that backfired. To MSNBC, it was “Right Attempts to Discredit AOC.” And to Newsweek it was “Conservatives Mock Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for College Dancing Video, Everyone Else Thinks It’s Adorable.”
Even Ocasio-Cortez herself, as she often does, weighed in via Twitter: “I hear the GOP thinks women dancing are scandalous. Wait till they find out Congresswomen dance too!”
It’s a nice frame, but the facts don’t fit. Patient zero appears to have been a single tweet from “AnonymousQ1776,” who called the video an example of “America’s favorite Commie know it all acting like the clueless nitwit she is.” There’s no way to tell, for reasons that should be obvious, if Anonymous1776 is an authentic voice on the right or a social media provocateur. Prominent conservative pundits including National Review’s David French and The Daily Caller’s Benny Johnson tried to run the story down, just as I did, looking for an elected official, party bigwig, or opinion leader who’d had anything negative to say about the video. None could be found.
Hopefully the story won’t enter the mythology of American politics alongside other fables, like the one about George H. W. Bush being flabbergasted by a supermarket barcode scanner while on campaign trail. These kinds of myths, which often have some tiny bit of tangential truth connected to them, are the stuff from which so-called “dog whistles” are made.
It’s bad enough the coverage, brief as it was, perpetuated the mildly offensive depiction of conservatives as asexual puritans who are anti-fun and anti-women. There are many, including newly-elected GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, House Republican Conference Chairman Liz Cheney, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, and Ginni Thomas, the political activist wife of United States Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who would disagree strongly with that characterization. But it suits the liberal narrative just fine, as do notions about how those on the right hate the underprivileged, want to disenfranchise minority groups, and are, as The Washington Post infamously described Christian Conservative activists, “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command.”
There’s plenty to dislike about what Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has to say regarding public policy. Her support for a top marginal tax rate of 70 percent is, to say the least, alarming. History has proven lower marginals rates lead to increased economic growth and produce record returns to the U.S. Treasury. Conservatives do not believe, and this is another of those myths the liberals like to keep alive despite considerable evidence to the contrary, tax cuts pay for themselves. They do, however create an atmosphere in which the rewards of increased productivity and capital investment lead to job creation and higher living standards for everyone—even if the increase does not occur at the same rate across the board.
Liberals tend to react in a hostile manner when they believe their positions are being distorted, either by their friends in the media or their political opponents. That’s understandable, and considerable weight is being given of late by those in a position to do so to correct the record. The right’s concern its views are being misrepresented never seems to be given the same degree of consideration, which is something that needs to change. It was not the case, as this publication and too many other had it, that “conservatives” condemned Ms. Ocasio-Cortez for her dancing. It was an easy generalization to make, which is something leaders on the right might wish to consider, but it was not a truthful one.
If we in the fourth estate wish to continue to be viewed as those who honestly hold the politicians to account for what they say and what they do, we must be much harder on ourselves than we are on them. Public confidence in our industry is at all-time lows. It may be worth it to think about why that is. This lamentably widespread example speaks volumes to anyone who cares to listen.