AOC Isn’t a Giant Fraud: She’s Just a Millennial Who Grew Up in New York. That’s Worse – Critics of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) – commonly known by her initials “AOC” – are quick to call her a “fraud” or “hypocrite.”
She is a privileged millennial, they will argue, and that her upbringing wasn’t quite as humble as she may claim.
However, she certainly played it up – which led to her political rise.
In 2018, along with Rashida Tlaib, AOC became the first female of the Democratic Socialists of America elected to serve Congress. She advocates a progressive platform that includes support for workplace democracy, and Medicare for All, as well as a tuition-free public college, and a Green New Deal.
She currently serves as the U.S. representative for New York’s 14th Congressional District, which includes the eastern part of the Bronx and portions of north-central Queens. She drew national recognition after she successfully defeated Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, a 10-term incumbent, in the June 2018 Democratic primary.
It was the biggest upset victory in the 2018 midterm election – and when she took office at age 29, Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman ever to serve in the United States Congress.
She may be a privileged millennial, but it may be unfair to suggest she is a total fraud.
Woman of the People or Not?
Here are the facts, AOC was born in the Bronx – the third most densely populated county in the United States and the “poorest” of New York City’s five boroughs. It also contains the poorest congressional district – the 15th – in the country. Yet, the Bronx is home to many middle-income and even some upper-income residents.
Just as parts of Brooklyn had their respective revivals, so too are parts of the Bronx on the return. As anyone who knows New York City real estate will tell you, God isn’t making more land so every neighborhood will be revitalized at some point.
As for AOC, she lived with her family in an apartment in the neighborhood of Parkchester until she was five when the family moved to a house in suburban Yorktown Heights. It was certainly a step up from Parkchester, but in fairness, it was hardly the same as living on Manhattan’s Park Avenue.
AOC later enrolled in Boston University, and she received a John F. Lopez Fellowship – which is only awarded to high-achieving college students to develop their ability to mobilize communities and operate at executive levels and provides these students with a means to share their developing knowledge and expertise with others. As a student, her father – who had worked as an architect – passed away from lung cancer, while her mother was employed as a bus driver and house cleaner.
In other words, AOC was arguably middle class. Perhaps she was better off than she may have at times suggested. She claimed to have “working-class parents,” which is a bit of a stretch, but they were indeed not as wealthy as some critics have also implied. Some of this may be a matter of perspective given the cost of living in New York.
It would also be fair to say that AOC worked hard for what she obtained.
During college, she served as an intern for U.S. Senator Ted Kenney, and after graduating also worked as a bartender and waitress to help her mother fight foreclosure on their home. She also worked for the nonprofit National Hispanic Institute, and as an organizer for Senator Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign.
Matter of Perspective
A case could be made that it isn’t about AOC being a fraud or even a hypocrite – rather, she is an out-of-touch New Yorker. Someone making even $60,000 in the Big Apple won’t likely live in an apartment that is typically seen in TV sitcoms – there is little chance the characters on Friends or Seinfeld, or a dozen other series for that matter, could afford their lifestyles.
AOC was not that different from many New Yorkers (and as a matter of disclosure this reporter lived in New York City for 18 years), where their worldview often ends at the Hudson River. Soon after being elected in 2018, AOC complained that during the transition period, she couldn’t afford an apartment in Washington, D.C. – as she had to pay her rent in the Big Apple.
She had a point, and few New Yorkers who don’t have a name on a building(s) – or work for a hedge fund or have a high-paying job – are unlikely to have multiple residents. One difference is that AOC now earns at least $174,000 as a Congresswoman. Yet, she still suggested that there should be taxpayer-funded dorms built for lawmakers.
That may not be hypocritical, but it shows just how out of touch she (and many New Yorkers) can be. Moreover, those who spend a few terms in Congress often end up with some rather nice residences in their home districts, while some live just as well in the D.C. area. Let’s not forget that President Joe Biden owns two houses in Delaware!
Hobnobbing With the Rich and Famous – Who Cares
There are those critics – such as Piers Morgan – who have called out AOC for hypocrisy for mingling with the rich at New York’s Meta Gala, but again that’s not entirely fair. While many New Yorkers would go to great lengths to attend the posh event and hobnob with the rich and famous, politicians are also all but forced to attend all sorts of nonsensical events.
Few Americans would want to spend days on the campaign trail, or, worse, nights at fundraising dinners trying to court donors. Such events are part of her job.
What should be a greater concern are her Democratic Socialist views, and how she expects Americans to embrace them.
AOC isn’t really a giant fraud.
She’s just another naïve New Yorker and a millennial that expects the country to resemble the world they know and want. She doesn’t think people need to travel so much on airplanes, but she’s also got world-class dining, dozens of museums, Broadway theaters, and other attractions just a subway ride away from her New York apartment. She has access to other museums, attractions, and dining in D.C.
Even before she was elected, she was a young woman who worked in a bar where friends (much like those on the aforementioned TV show from the 1990s) would hang out after work. No doubt, she may be the type of person who enjoys hanging out with friends in coffee houses talking about world affairs, and doesn’t understand why everyone wouldn’t do the same.
That’s a fine lifestyle for some. But it isn’t for everyone.
Like many New Yorkers and all too many millennials, she probably doesn’t need/want a pickup truck, doesn’t need/want a large house with a huge backyard, and can’t understand why anyone would need a 90-inch TV. So why should anyone need or want them?
And perhaps that’s really the biggest problem with AOC – and too many of her generation.
It isn’t her quasi-socialist agenda or the Green New Deal. She is another millennial who doesn’t understand – and therefore doesn’t like – the choices made by boomers and Generation-X, or those who live in the suburbs or worse in rural America.
Simply put, AOC just doesn’t know America beyond the Hudson or the Potomac.
Author Experience and Expertise:
A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.