Hearing American progressives speak in 2021 is like picturing Luke Skywalker battling the overwhelming force of the Death Star.
Despite the fact that liberals dominate American culture in the media, entertainment, bureaucracy, and education (as Shadi Hamid recently pointed out in the Deseret News), the David vs. Goliath narrative is so ingrained in their identity that they will find it difficult to confront the reality of the status quo.
Which brings us to the strange saga of Alexandria Ocasio-Met Cortez’s Gala gown. To the most glamorous American cultural event, the New York representative wore a dress emblazoned with the words “Tax the Rich.” Ocasio-Cortez, perhaps today’s most astute politician-influencer, clearly recognized the hypocrisy and most likely calculated it for maximum coverage. And she was very successful in doing so.
However, she was met with backlash not only from conservatives, but also from many on the left.
Some may be surprised by this criticism from the left. It is hardly controversial for a New York City congressional representative to appear at a fundraiser for their local art museum. Sharing the message “Tax the Rich” at an event with many of those same wealthy attendees could be framed as speaking truth to power, as a few progressive commentators did.
If the left had wanted to defend Ocasio-dress, Cortez’s they certainly had the weight to do so. So, why didn’t they do it? Because the dress revealed the fragility at the heart of the progressive underdog narrative, rather than hypocrisy (which was practically the point).
Democrats have reacted to the dress not because of hypocrisy, but because the stunt revealed that there is, in fact, a humbug pulling the levers behind the curtain, and that humbug is a Democrat. Democrats can’t claim to be cultural outsiders when the political messages at the country’s most important cultural events are “Tax the Rich” and “Equal Rights for Women.” And it’s hard to argue that this is a message to the wealthy and powerful when those same leaders run organizations that support the progressive agenda.
No, this dress was clearly a message from the rich and powerful, who were all too happy to line up for photos with the dress’s capitalistically prudent virtue signaling.
The wealthy want you to see them next to a “Tax the Rich” billboard or wearing a “Tax the Rich” dress because it benefits their brand. While this is good for the elite’s image, it is poison for the progressive narrative that they are oppressed freedom fighters.
Ocasio-Cortez rose to political prominence in a cultural environment so clearly dominated by progressives that she may have missed cues that this was one of the quiet parts you weren’t supposed to say out loud.
So, as you try to comprehend the left’s outrage, keep in mind that it is likely to have little to do with the obvious hypocrisy and much more to do with undermining a core, but false, narrative at the heart of progressive identity.
A conservative group has asked the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate AOC for accepting free tickets to the Met Gala on Monday.
In an ethics complaint, Thomas Jones, the founder of the American Accountability Foundation, stated that he believes Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who represents parts of the Bronx and Queens, violated House rules by accepting “an impermissible gift” of free tickets to the annual gala, which was also attended by fellow New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney.