As the youngest woman elected to congress at the age of 29 two years ago, not only is Ocasio-Cortez new to politics, but she represents an entirely new faction of the long-standing democratic party: democratic socialists. She, alongside mentor Senator Bernie Sanders are a part of the growing left-leaning, progressive Democratic section of the party, that often counters Democratic policy just as much as they counter Republican platforms. 

In the past, politicians were typically older white men from some Ivy League school who ran on their charisma combined with lackluster policy plans. As Americans, we’ve evolved past the need for egotistical politicians. We are at a point where American people want to see themselves on the screen. They want to see someone who looks like them, talks like them, and represents them on their screens. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represents the group of Americans who are sick of older white men creating policy that impacts our everyday lives. 

The 31 year-old, ex-bartender from the Bronx, New York has redefined being a representative and reinvented what it means to listen to the needs of her constituents.

The Republican Party and Political Gaslighting

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, known to her supporters as AOC, quickly became the favorite love-to-hate DNC member among right-wing media and republican party members. 

In 2018, she was labeled a “Mini-Maduro,” referencing Venezuela’s authoritarian leader. Prominent conservative TV personality, Ben Shapiro, has attacked AOC since day one, publishing a story titled “Ocasio-Cortez Makes Most Idiotic Statement Ever On Twitter,” among many others. More recently, Shapiro compared AOC’s statements regarding the failures of the capitalist system to a “badger trying to explain calculus.” 

AOC, unfortunately, became the ideal target for the Republican party. Political gaslighting, or the use of “lies, denials, [and manipulation] to control people” is popular among the Republican party, especially when it comes to marginalized groups. 

Former president Donald Trump is known for his political gaslighting, calling  himself, “the least racist person in the room” despite being interviewed by a Black woman and having a history of racist comments and beliefs. His infamous catchphrase of declaring anything he disagrees with as “fake news,” alongside his simple denial of any COVID-19 related consequences (which disproportionately affect marginalized communities) are only a few of the examples of Trump’s ability to gaslight Americans. 

Political gaslighting grew with the Trump administration, and AOC quickly became the focus for the brunt of Republican abuse. 

The Capitol Attack: A Blip in Time for Some, but Déjà-Vu for Many

For many, the attack at the capital was a moment of déjà vu; photos of congressmen and women cowering on the ground of the house chamber, accounts of them hiding under their desks, covering their heads, barricading doors, staying silent and away from windows all look and sound eerily familiar to American high school studentsit’s how we grew up. 

Rioters at the Capitol were seen with semi-automatics, assault rifles, thousands of rounds of ammunition, among other more unusual weapons including brass knuckles, stun guns, crossbows. Authorities found pipe bombs near both of the parties’ headquarters, that were  planted the night before. Needless to say, it was an insurrection: an attempt by the US president to stage a coup-d’etat. 

A week after the attack at the Capitol, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Instagram Live to recount her experience during the terrorist attack. Obviously, and justifiably-so, AOC believed that she “was going to die.” 

Republican congress members and right-wing media took no time at all going after Ocasio-Cortez’ version of what happened to her at the Capitol. Victim-shaming and trauma denial were in abundance on right-wing media given that Ocasio-Cortez is often the “punching bag” for anti-democrat, anti-progressive and pro-Trump, pro-conservative media. 

February 1st, she took to Instagram Live again, revealing more details on what she did during the Capitol attack; she hid in fellow Democratic Rep. Katie Porter’s (D-Calif.) office, fearing that she would have to eventually run for her life. 

Unlike any politician before her, she revealed she was sexually assaulted in the past, referring to it as a memory so traumatic she hasn’t “told many people that in [her] life.” In that same moment, she equated the actions of republican party members demanding her to “move on” equal to the rapist-defenders who tell women their trauma is “no big deal.” 

Republicans’ Faulty History with Sexual Assault

Republican attacks against AOC cannot go unnoticed, nor can they go unidentified. These are the same people who attacked Christine Blasey Ford after accusing now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of rape in the late 1980s. Just like Ford was accused of lying about her sexual assault, Ocasio-Cortez now faces the same attacks. 

These are the same people who like tweets labeling VP Kamala Harris a “whorendous prick” and play into the white-majority’s fear of integration by focusing on Harris’ race in their attacks.

Slut-shaming and trauma denial have only increased among the right-wing party members in light of the #MeToo movement. They love to claim that a woman was “asking for it.” Members of the GOP have even accused AOC of using her sexual assault for political gain, going as far as claiming she was never assaulted in the first place. 

Here’s the thing: if AOC wanted to use her sexual assault for political gain, announcing it a month after the insurrection and weeks before Trump’s second impeachment trial seems like the worst possible timing. 

However,  this is completely besides the point. The point is this: no one wants to be assaulted, no one uses their trauma for their own gain. 

AOC’s callout of Republican Party members as utilizing abuser-tactics is perhaps more important. She is not wrong. She states Republican member’s attempts at silencing her accounts of trauma as, “the same tactics of abusers.”

GOP and the Cycle of Abuse

The cycle of abuse has long been discussed, and the American people are currently experiencing an elongated cycle perpetuated by a political party. There are typically four phases in the cycle: honeymoon, tension building, incident, reconciliation, repeat.  

Actions taken by Trump follow this pattern pretty closely:

Tension Building: Trump continually denies facts (“fake news”); in November, 70% of Republican Party members doubted the results of the election, calling it “rigged;” days before the attack on the Capitol, Trump tweeted “FIGHT FOR IT,” ‘it’ being the election; the day of the attack he stated, “We’re going to walk down to the Capitol… You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.”

The Incident: The domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol.

Reconciliation: For the Republican Party, ‘reconciliation’ looks  a lot like gaslighting: denying the severity of the attack, undermining the experiences of fellow members of congress, targeting AOC, and claiming she lied about her whereabouts and her encounter with rioters.

Republicans are falling behind, attempting to wade their way back to the honeymoon phase as soon as Biden does something to upset his base. But, unfortunately for Republicans, AOC is determined to block them from making it to the finish line. 

As a young, Latinx woman coming from an impoverished borough of New York City, AOC epitomizes the marginalized groups that Republicans try so hard to leave behind. She also represents groups who are more likely to experience domestic abuse. She knows exactly what it’s like to be left behind, and refuses to do the same to her constituents. 

Republicans hate AOC so much because she recognizes their long-standing party faults, and isn’t afraid to do something about it. AOC is the bright shining light in the dark tunnel of American politics, and she is determined to continue calling out the faults of both parties.