Throughout history, a revolution has sparked change. Normally, positive change. At least that’s what Hollywood, books and many versions of your history texts depict. However, it’s path is messy and complicated; yet, its source is simple, inequality and injustice. The oppressed masses reach their destitute limit and some random spark for advancement ignites a movement, as so powerfully portrayed in the TV anchor scene from the 1976 movie Network…, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore.”
Today’s charged political atmosphere appears to be sowing the seeds of revolution. Protests are erupting in our streets and revolutionary-like markers are popping up all over social media crying out for the downtrodden masses to resist against capitalistic conservative elitists—personified in President Trump.
But where is the spark? The random event or person to enlighten the huddled masses to their plight and a righteous spot in American society? Well, folks, it may already be here? What is consistent about revolution is not that it is unexpected but that the catalyst to deliver it is unpredictable.
And that catalyst may just have happened in the form of an unprecedented democratic victory in the congressional 14th district of New York.
Alexandria Ocasio Cortez defeated longtime Democratic incumbent and Democratic Caucus Chair Joe Crowley, in one of the biggest upset victories in the 2018 midterm election primaries. Cortez’s victory has set in motion a potential socialist revolt against capitalism and the status quo–what many would consider traditional American principles.
Since her election, Cortez’s Twitter and Instagram following have skyrocketed into the millions. Even queries on social media about socialism have gone up over 1500%. Her progressive influence is unquestionable, and her principles are change-based—not just changing the democratic platform but undoing the entire way we govern, our constitution, and ultimately our American traditions.
Is this the spark that revolution needs?
Before we answer this, let’s look at revolution.
Historically, revolution is about inequality and injustice. A battleground between the haves and the have not’s. It’s about stopping the oppressive ways of elite leaders exploiting the persecuted masses. And among these major injustices is poor socioeconomic conditions—in other words, the oppressed and disenfranchised. But another important aspect of revolution is its credibility and message.
People must believe in its purpose and intent.
So, what drives people to revolt and risk everything? What are the dire conditions the masses must endure and more importantly what are these elitist’s doing to the poor wretched souls that would upset them to the point of insurrection?
And here lies the irony!
In 1979, American film director Hal Ashby directed the comedy-drama movie Being There. The film starred Peter Sellers, Melvin Douglas and Shirley McClain which won several American and British academy awards as well as numerous Golden Globes. I want to take a moment and provide a short review of the film as it plays a wonderful and comedic analogy to the irony and credibility of this new progressive revolution.
The film is situated in Washington DC in the 1970s and portrays a simple-minded gardener named Chauncey who lived and worked for a wealthy old man. Chauncey had never left the old man’s house and only knew of the world immediately around him. After the old man’s death, Chauncey was evicted and for the first time left the confines of his townhouse wandering aimlessly about Washington D.C. Chauncey had been so sheltered in the old man’s house that each observation and encounter was a new discovery.
During his wandering, he is hit by a chauffeur drove car and taken in by the owners, a very wealthy and influential couple in D.C. The new family finds Chauncey somewhat old fashion and eccentric and offers him refuge in their home. The husband happens to be a confidant and advisor to the president and introduces Chauncey to him. During a conversation about economics, Chauncey cues in on a comment made by the president, “stimulate growth,” and begins to talk about the changing seasons. His gardening-like comment is misinterpreted by the president as optimistic political advice, who then quotes Chauncey in his next speech.
This ignorant misinterpretation continues in several other presidential venues and launches Chauncey into political advisory stardom. Every word he speaks, even though it is referencing gardening, is interpreted as profound metaphors and insightful. He develops a large prophet-like following and at the end of the movie is being considered as a presidential nominee. Little does anyone know that Chauncey is nothing but a simple-minded gardener whose knowledge of the world is little? In his innocence, Chauncey has unknowingly duped an entire nation.
And now the irony.
Chauncey was an agent of change. Alexandria Cortez is an agent of change. Chauncey was simple in his thoughts, bounded in his experience and ignorant of the world. Alexandria Cortez is also simple in her thoughts, limited in her background, and uninformed of the world. Each accidentally creating a movement and a following based on innocence, ignorance, and misinterpretation. If we change a few names (Chauncey to Cortez), locations (D.C. to the Bronx), and jobs (Gardener to Bartender), one can see the dangers of what Ms. Cortez is bringing to the government table–a confined and naive view of the world.
To put it another way, an overwhelming influence for progressive groupthink.
It is one thing to represent your district, legislating progressive laws to support the voter’s desires and it is another to jump into the national discord and attempt to push isolated district beliefs on others. Ms. Cortez is short on facts and even shorter on economics. For example, her recent debt reduction rants on marginal tax rates for American’s making over $10M is classic of her economic shortfalls. Even the Wall Street Journal did an analysis of her tax proposal and reported that at best this marginal tax rate on the rich would produce $300B over a decade. Hardly a dent in our $21 trillion debt.
Yet, what this sound bite does produce (and dangerously deceptive) is an image of fairness to most Americans. It is hard to get proper statistics on how many Americans make over $10M but what is known is that the top 0.1% of Americans make over $3M. A proposal like this plays well to over 99.9% of Americans–how could you disagree?
A closer look at this proposal.
Is this just a popular attempt to get the masses to follow her–the top 0.1% already pay 22% of the taxes in America! As a matter of fact, the top 1% pay over 43% and the top 5% pay 85% of our taxes. And what do people with money do with it? Hoard it in a savings account at less than 1% interest? Or do what most wealthy people do, invest it! It is free markets and capitalism’s natural way to redistribute wealth and is the most successful economic model to date. By the way, the American economy is already a mixed economy (capitalist and socialist aspects) and would argue is too heavily weighted with government regulations and oversight…what Cortez and her socialist progressive movement desire are a larger government mixture.
What history tells us about big government economics?
History has already shown us that Keynesian and socialist economics has utterly failed in lifting the poor out of poverty or effectively redistributing wealth–Maybe? But what did China do to lift over 800 million people out of poverty since 1978? Establish capitalist reforms–commienapitalism, not the other way around! Or as As left-leaning economist, Robert Heilbroner so eloquently wrote in the pages of the New Yorker in 1989, “Less than 75 years after it officially began, the contest between capitalism and socialism is over: capitalism has won … Capitalism organizes the material affairs of humankind more satisfactorily than socialism.”
And to put a nail into this socialist coffin, I would agree that redistributing wealth through higher taxes would work if somehow the redistributed wealth went into incentivized private run programs, not the government! I spent 35 years in the government and will sadly inform you that very few government programs are effective or efficiently run. There is little incentive for workers and even less incentive for product improvement. What this extra $300B would do, if redistributed, is wasted in inefficient, ineffective and poorly run social programs. Look at what has happened to Social Security and Medicare? They represent over 60% of our spending and are both broken…who broke them? The government!
Finally, and to get to the meat of this irony, does this proposal really make any sense? Has it been thought through? Do any of her proposals make sense? And is this really a legitimate spark for revolution? Or is it more like Chauncey the gardener (or Alexandria the bartender) innocently deceiving the public?
Who is Alexandria Ocasio Cortez?
Is she the next Che Guevara of America (Guevara being the Cuban revolutionary leader who became the symbol of a progressive hero)? What makes her rhetoric and beliefs attractive–because we all know the utter failures of Cuba and today’s progressive revolutions. She, like Che Guevara, grew up in an upper middle class educated family (her father was an architect). Most of her childhood was in Yorktown Heights, NY where the average family median income is about $137K–a far cry from her statements and websites claiming growing up in a blue-collar family.
She, also like Che Guevara, is college educated and not stupid. But, her simple-minded ways do not help her shake a growing ignorant stereotype. Nonetheless, and this is important, your environment, or as a take on Miles’ law states, you view of the world from where you sit, is critical in influencing and shaping your beliefs and actions. It is also relevant to the main point in this blog because your seasoning is what qualifies you for such positions as congresswomen. Your experiences are the credence and foundation to your principles and philosophy–in essence, it is what makes you worthy of being followed.
So, what qualifies Alexandria Ocasio Cortez?
Since her graduation in 2011, Cortez moved back to the Bronx living with her mother (father died in 2008) working as a bartender and waitress. She involved herself in a few organizations like the GAGEis, Inc. (a consulting company in the educational sector), a nonprofit National Hispanic Institute (NHI), and served as NHI’s Educational Director for the 2017 Northeast Collegiate World Series (a five-day long program targeted at college-bound high school students). In addition, Cortez served in the Bernie Sanders 2016 Presidential campaign. She is also a member of the progressive political party, Democratic Socialist of America, (along with Rashida Tlaib, newly elected Muslim congresswomen from Detroit) whose overall philosophy is anti-capitalism, state-run enterprises, cooperative-based consumer goods industries, and social justice. To further emphasize Cortez’s revolutionary intentions, during college, she is listed in Boston University’s student activities under the URL title, “Ourrevolution.com.”
Is this her revolutionary beginnings? Wait! There’s more to add to this impressive and extensive background (it’s a pun people)!
After the general election, she supposedly traveled across America and participated in social justice battles in Flint, Michigan (lead-tainted water controversy) and Dakota access pipeline (Oil pipeline built near historical Indian grounds in North Dakota). Further adding to her broad experience (another pun people), she was interviewed by The Cut (a progressive social media magazine) in which they wrote, “She [Cortez] recalled her visit to Standing Rock [Dakota pipeline protest area in North Dakota] as a tipping point, saying that before that, she had felt that the only way to effectively run for office was if you had access to wealth, social influence, and power. But her visit to North Dakota, where she saw others ‘putting their whole lives and everything that they had on the line for the protection of their community’, inspired her to begin to work for her own community.”
And the reward for this voluminous background and knowledge of America, she is elected to Congress.
Why should I be so critical? Why take the time to review her past? Because it is everything! Cortez’s surroundings are vital to understanding how her beliefs were shaped and more importantly where she wants to take America. Wait a minute! Take America? I’m confused. Is she not a congressional member representing the 14th district in NY? Is she not responsible exclusively for the districts interests—jobs, infrastructure, economy, and overall social progress? Has she already forgotten her primary role in Congress which is to represent her constituents?
The first problem is her official congressional website is completely empty of any substantial content (makes you wonder?). But, here is a few political positions from her election website: Medicare for All; Federal Jobs Guarantee; Abolish ICE; Gun Control; Solidarity with Puerto Rico; Higher Education for All; Climate Change; and Housing as a Human Right, to name a few. Uhmmmm? Sounds like her real intent was never to represent the 14th district but to use the position to advance her larger agenda—a revolution in how we govern and to redo many of the principles of our constitution and economic system.
Yet, what really intrigues me is that her ideas appear to be genuine and some admirable. But, her background and recent embarrassing display of knowledge tell more a tale of Chauncey the gardener, rather than that of a progressive revolutionary. Many times, revolution is not sparked by facts but more by sound bites and images that distort the current situation–with respect to this, she’s on target.
Look at Che Guevara, the iconic revolutionary, and where he and Fidel Castro took Cuba? Into economic disaster and central abuse of power. The same direction that Cortez’s ignorant and inexperience is taking this progressive revolution. And much like the innocent Chauncey in the movie Being There, the innocence and closed world of Ms. Cortez is dangerously deceiving a growing following into radical change for America.
In conclusion, I leave you with a metaphorical story.
Ms. Cortez reminds me of a parrot and their owner. In this example, let’s make the owner, the progressive left, and the parrot, Ms. Cortez. The owner trains the parrot to say certain phrases and respond to certain commands. He tutors the parrot so well that it almost appears as if it is cognizant of what the owner is saying. One day a neighbor is over and here’s the exchange between the parrot and the owner—let’s say the neighbor is an innocent and impressionable young adult. Impressed, the neighbor asks the owner if the parrot understands what it’s saying, the owner proudly says yes.
Doubtful and eager to test the parrot, the neighbor begins the conversation by saying something he heard the owner say. The parrot repeats the phrase and adds a follow-on phrase tied to the original one—as taught by the owner. “Amazing,” says the neighbor! The neighbor then expands the questioning to something beyond what the owner has taught.
Now we are getting somewhere…test and observe…the story continues.
While patiently waiting for a response, the neighbor cannot help but be excited by the possibility of a cognizant parrot. However, the parrot responds with the same set of phrases. The neighbor tolerantly tries again and the parrot repeats it. This continues until the neighbor, dejected, finally realizes that it’s just a parrot.
And the moral of the story.
We better pay attention to what Ms. Cortez is saying and more importantly, her cognizant understanding of it, or lack of. Otherwise, she is nothing more than a parrot repeating popular sound bites that she neither understands nor grasps the severity of their harmful effects. We need to look no further than socialism’s revolution and progressive destructive past—what part of the 20th century are her followers missing? Is Ms. Cortez’s view of America and her intent of progressive change legitimate or is she merely a Chauncey-like character from a bad rerun of Being There? Let’s hope America wakes up and sees Ms. Cortez for the person she is, merely parroting progressive socialist rhetoric and ideas with little understanding of their effect— “danger Will Robinson.”