I once had my 5-year-old niece and my son of the same age out with me shopping when my son asked if we could go spend the night at “a hotel with a pool”. This was something we did from time to time when we wanted to enjoy a treat and some swim time during the long Midwestern winters. I told them that we couldn’t do it that weekend because I didn’t have the money to pay for a room at that time. My niece looked at me quite earnestly and said, “But can’t you just take one of those card things and go get money from the machine?”
Bless her sweet little heart. At that age she naturally could not understand the concept of earning money, saving money and spending money. For her it was just something that came out of a machine whenever adults wanted some.
I am reminded about that cute encounter years ago every time I see Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speak publicly about all of the programs she hopes to magic into existence during her tenure as a member of Congress. Like my niece, she has no concept of where money comes from, how it is earned and how it is spent. She has an idea that when she (government) wants money, all the adults have to do is hit up a machine and get some.
America has all kinds of celebrity cultural representatives. Julia Roberts has often been described as America’s Sweetheart. The Kennedys were America’s Royalty. Oprah Winfrey is sometimes considered America’s Favorite Auntie.
Ocasio-Cortez is America’s Child.
She’s been thrust onto the national stage, but hasn’t lived long enough or had enough experience yet to shape her into a mature thinker. Life hasn’t yet imposed its cold, brutal reality. She still has hopes and dreams.
Like every other child in the nation, she thinks history began the day she was born. She’s pretty sure the grown-ups in the room are too old to know much about anything cool or worthwhile. She’s like a 5-year-old when it comes to money, but like a sullen teenager when it comes to learning. My niece and son are now teenagers, and like Ocasio-Cortez they think every adult around them is clueless and out-of-touch. We’re all just sucking up air and taking up space while denying people like her the opportunity to Change the World™.
Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal is simply the manifestation of a juvenile wish list - the same utopian fantasy that resides inside the bubble of every wide-eyed, curious, well-intentioned child. And make no mistake, just because she’s a far-left progressive doesn’t mean she’s not well-intentioned. Maybe she doesn’t mean well for you or even for me, but (again) like a little child she means well for the people who spin around in her orbit; and like a child she thinks that is the only orbit that exists. All that exists outside of her immediate experience doesn’t exist at all.
This isn’t meant to dismiss Ocasio-Cortez as a formidable politician. In fact, I think Republicans and conservatives should take her a lot more seriously. She’s not stupid, just uneducated about the things that matter. This week Nancy Pelosi played scolding grandma to Ocasio-Cortez’s whiny kindergartener and yanked her back in line after letting her play dress-up with the big girls for a while. If the young representative from New York is as savvy as I think she is, she’ll learn from Pelosi’s leadership and experience and end up following her as a party leader one day, but that’s only if she has the ability to take her lumps. That remains to be seen.
Just as Pelosi took Ocasio-Cortez by the ear this week and pulled her back in line, so did America do what most responsible adults do with ornery kids - we laughed to ourselves and shook our heads. “Kids will be kids”, we muttered through our bemused exasperation.
Maybe Ocasio-Cortez will grow up soon enough. Maybe she’ll figure out one day that she can’t just have whatever she wants whenever she wants it by simply sending a rainbow unicorn with a mane made of chocolate dreams and marshmallow wishes to a mysterious machine that just spits out unlimited cash.
We’ll have to wait and see. Until then it looks like America’s Child is going to keep throwing her Christmas wish list at us in the hopes that the world will one day bend to her singular, childish will.