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The queen of the online clapback imparts wisdom to her elders

Seasoned Democrats sure are trying, but some things can’t be taught

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took some time on Thursday to tweet about teaching a class about tweeting. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took some time on Thursday to tweet about teaching a class about tweeting. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

You may have noticed that freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is Very Online — which isn’t uncommon behavior for us millennials.

At 29, the Bronx freshman is on the younger end of the cohort, which ranges from ages 23 to 38. (For a handy distinction, think of Old Millennials as internet savvy people who had to log into Facebook from their dorm rooms. Young Millennials have always tweeted from their smartphones.)

She’s also an effective political communicator, especially when using modern platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. That’s why the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee invited
her to lead a social media seminar on Thursday for her Capitol Hill colleagues who want to become better posters.

And like a millennial working yet another unpaid job at Christmas by setting up her grandparents’ iPads, Ocasio-Cortez obliged.

The purpose of the seminar was to teach lawmakers how to be more authentic and reach constituents in creative ways. But can they replicate AOC’s success by studying her helpful pointers?

I’m skeptical. Like dating advice columnists, some political pundits tell politicians to just “be themselves” and what voters truly crave is “authenticity.” But what if your authentic self is a truly, deeply boring
person? No amount of lessons on proper hashtag usage can change that.

Ocasio-Cortez is fluent in online slang and has an intuition for virality … like a millennial who has spent a lot of time online, where people tend to be more brash. It’s no coincidence that many of the critics who come for Ocasio-Cortez end up getting washed in the spin cycle.

To the consternation of her fellow Democrats (and some journalists), she doesn’t have the same respect for institutional authority as her elders. This could be because millennials as a group have a deep distrust of institutions, characteristic of a generation who came of age during the Clinton impeachment, 9/11 and the war-on-terror surveillance state, and the Great Recession.

Please forgive the following NFL metaphor but I watch a LOT of football.
At the end of this year’s regular season, eight head coaches were fired. Meanwhile, the youngest coach in the league, 32-year-old Sean McVay, led the Los Angeles Rams from one of the worst records in the NFL to back-to-back playoff appearances.

He is heralded as a boy genius and a wunderkind. So what did these teams looking to fill their coaching vacancies do? They hired anyone under age 40 who once had a beer with McVay and coached offense.

By all accounts McVay’s success is not duplicable. He has an exceptional ability to communicate his expectations to his players. He has an obsessive eye for detail. He is a creative play-caller with an unbelievable memory — all traits that can’t easily be found by hiring someone who kinda sorta knows him.

Many lawmakers are in danger of repeating the mistake of NFL team owners. Mimicking the social media patterns of a lawmaker whose online skills are almost native may lead to some clumsy outcomes.