RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR., Special to the Star
By RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR., Special to the Star
SAN DIEGO — Elitism, meet thy sworn enemy: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Other “-isms” often get more attention, but it is elitism that is the major threat to America in the 21st century. We all know that our country is divided to the point of dysfunction. But how many people realize that a big reason for the division is that many Americans aren’t happy unless they’re looking down on someone else?
Elitism isn’t about having money, power or fame.
Some people who have those things aren’t elitists. Stage crews on films starring Keanu Reeves report that the celebrity is the nicest and most down-to-Earth actor they have ever worked with.
Elitism is about a frame of mind that says because you live in the right city, went to the right college, have the right job, read the right newspaper or even eat at the right restaurant, you’re vastly superior to us mere mortals.
Elitism is not limited to any party. Republicans are guilty of it: According to what a Harvard Law School classmate of Ted Cruz told GQ Magazine, the future Texas senator was a snob with regard to study groups, cramming only with classmates who attended Princeton, Yale or Harvard as undergrads.
Democrats are just as guilty: As left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore noted during the 2016 election, it was dumb for arrogant liberal elites appearing on cable news shows to mock the idea that Donald Trump would plaster his “Make America Great Again” slogan on, of all things, baseball caps.
After all, who wears those? A lot of Americans do.
People in Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania — industrial states where scores of Democrats voted for Trump — know that they’ve been forgotten by the coastal elites in New York and Los Angeles.
We need someone to battle this dragon, and — contrary to the MAGA narrative — that someone is not Donald Trump. The president’s supposed “populism” was a con job. His policies have helped the rich and privileged.
Working-class whites in the Rust Belt states were foolish to think that a New York real-estate billionaire understood their lives or cared how they turned out.
The truth is that, as he approaches re-election, Trump is as much of an elitist now as he ever has been.
He thinks he’s better, smarter and more equipped to lead the country than anyone else.
The real enemy of elitism is Ocasio-Cortez, who — unlike most of her colleagues in Congress — didn’t go to law school or public policy school.
Instead the 29-year-old Democrat from the Bronx got a Ph.D. in real life, by majoring in human nature with a minor in common sense.
Let Republicans, and her critics closer to home within the Democratic Party, snark about the Senate rejecting the freshman legislator’s Green New Deal legislation.
That’s the sort of thing Washington cares about, and virtually no one else does. Besides, most firstyear lawmakers are too busy trying to find the washroom to even think about proposing such bold legislation.
What the rest of America should think about is that, in Ocasio-Cortez, common people, everyday folks, bluecollar workers, and the millions of Americans who — as a local Democratic Party official in Ohio told Vanity Fair in January 2017 — “shower after work, not before” finally have a champion. You slap Ocasio-Cortez with a glove, she comes back at you with a sledgehammer.
You attempt to insult her — like many Republicans try to do — by bringing up the fact that, before she got elected to Congress, she worked as a bartender and waitress, and she’ll make you look like the south end of a horse headed north.
In a country where, according to the National Restaurant Association, half of Americans say they worked in a restaurant at some point in life, those in the service industry deserve more respect.
When she is asked about how she filleted former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen last month during his congressional testimony, Ocasio-Cortez credits her many years of working in the service industry. That experience, she says, made her good at reading people, improved her listening, honed her social skills and gave her a well-tuned “BS detector.”
That last item must really come in handy in Congress, where most lawmakers aren’t very good at detecting what they’re so busy producing.
So let’s not sell Ocasio-Cortez short. She serves up a lot in her current role, and it’s just what the country ordered.
Ruben Navarrette’s email address is email@example.com. His daily podcast, “Navarrette Nation,” is available through every podcast app.