I wish that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had put a stop to the catfight narrative that emerged a few days ago between her and former-Senator Claire McCaskill.
Women are eager for solidarity with one another within the Democratic Party. That is why it is disappointing that Ocasio-Cortez took the media’s bait to lash out at McCaskill not much more than a week after Ocasio-Cortez herself said, “One disappointment about DC is the gossip that masquerades as ‘reporting.’”
McCaskill did an interview with CNN in which she made some controversial comments about the newly elected representative. As per usual, the parade of reporting took snippets of what she said and created clickbait headlines that the public and the Twitterverse salivated over. Ocasio-Cortez is not new to this phenomenon and has decried it when the reporting has been about her own words.
But the thing is, if you actually watch the McCaskill interview, it is clear that while she may have worded her views quite crassly, the intent attributed to her is totally blown out of proportion.
McCaskill was discussing what she views as extreme Democrats. As examples, she gave: a person who said that the president should be assassinated, people who protested by breaking windows, and people who confront politicians in restaurants. These are views which reasonable people can disagree on — I disagree with most of her comments in the same interview about how Democrats need to work to win back white working-class voters, although I believe that she and Ocasio-Cortez share this concern — but they hardly rise to the level of controversy attributed to them in this recent fiasco.
It was the interviewer who brought up Ocasio-Cortez, asking if she was an example of one of those extremist Democrats. The smile on the interviewer’s face said everything, as McCaskill tried to respond thoughtfully to the baited question. McCaskill’s response was that she did not know her, she did not really understand the media hype over someone who has not served yet, and that she wishes her well, but that action means more than talk.
This is pretty basic advice that any grandmother would give to her granddaughter or any other younger woman, and Ocasio-Cortez could have taken it as such. But she did not. Instead, she did a Twitter clapback that benefited no one but the trolls who live for women fighting and for Democratic infighting.
I am reminded of this quote by Naomi Wolf in The Beauty Myth, “Aging in women is ‘unbeautiful’ since women grow more powerful with time, and since the links between generations of women must always be broken.”
The way that Ocasio-Cortez responded to this innocuous quote taken out of context really exemplifies that broken link between generations. McCaskill has much wisdom to share with Ocasio-Cortez if she is willing to seek out and hear it. We lose so much by discounting one another based on age, and as a person on the younger side, I would say that it is us who lose the most from this divide.
I single Ocasio-Cortez out in this because she is now an elected official and McCaskill is not. We need her to be a leader to women and champion for her district. Imagine what it would look like if her response was, “I know more than anyone how much the media twists women’s words to create controversy and feed a catfight narrative. I am interested in meeting with former-Senator McCaskill to hear what she really meant in her words about me and what wisdom she’s willing to share with me, a new representative who hopes to make a big difference for my district.”
A response like that could have had a huge impact on women.