It has been a big week in politics in both the UK and the US.
Wonder Woman or Wicked Witch – depending on which side of the US two-party system you speak to – congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, also known by her initials AOC, has been no stranger to public scrutiny since she ousted 10-term incumbent Joe Crowley to represent New York’s 14th District in June 2018.
Young, and with a substantial social media presence relative to her fellow members of Congress, you would be forgiven for mistaking AOC for a media personality rather than politician and activist. She has 8.7 million followers on Instagram and 12.7 million on Twitter. Thousands of people tune in to watch her re-pot her houseplants on Instagram Live or play the online multiplayer game Among Us on Twitch, allowing her to tap into an audience that few politicians have access to.
Heads turned and jaws dropped when she attended the Met Gala earlier this week, donning a white gown with bright red letters ‘tax the rich’ splashed across her back. The ensemble was accessorised with a matching slogan on her handbag.
It didn’t take long for AOC’s dress to draw ire from her legions of opponents on Twitter. While some praised her stunt as iconic, others were much less impressed. The conservatives, led by Donald Trump Jr., accused her of being hypocritical and out of touch. After-all, the buzzy Met Gala, hosted by Anna Wintour, is known to be an exclusive affair where individual tickets are priced at an eyewatering $35,000 and tables start at $200,000.
Be that as it may, the thing to remember about AOC is that she is no ordinary politician. She doesn’t talk about flipping seats and votes, but rather of winning hearts and minds. She is less concerned with elections than she is with creating a movement. The Green New Deal, which AOC advocates strongly for, has been lauded as “not a resolution but a revolution”.
Love or hate it, most of America can’t stop talking about AOC and her dress – and she knows it. A mere day later, President Biden tweeted in response: “It’s time the super-wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share in taxes.”
Taxing the rich is by no means a new concept in politics, but it is one that has historically struggled to gain traction in the US. AOC has put the issue firmly in the spotlight, fuelling the flames of a political debate that looks set to stay.