AOC illustration

(Gaby Mendoza / Daily Titan)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, a left-wing rising progressive figure in American politics, has had yet another hiccup in her inevitable lifelong political campaign. The Bronx native’s Met Gala appearance might not damage future election results, but it likely would taint Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s image.

The “Tax the Rich” slogan seen during Ocasio-Cortez’s 2021 Met Gala visit is a familiar concept. However, evidently the hypocrisy is written all over her dress as she rubbed shoulders with some of the country’s wealthiest celebrities. This political misstep will hang over her, despite the legislation she introduces.

On her website, Ocasio-Cortez sells a sweatshirt of different colors with the same slogan seen on her white gown that graced the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The union-made symbol of expression costs $58, a price point that has received ridicule in the past. 

Despite the overwhelming popularity in the U.S. of taxing the rich, people have associated the slogan as an attempt to punish prosperity. Even the majority of registered Republicans agree to increase taxes for the extremely wealthy in society, so fundamentally, the motto itself isn’t the problem.

Instead, the self-proclaimed Democratic socialist decided to ignore principality and knowingly attended an exclusive event amongst other elites in society.

Defending her willingness to hang around beloved public figures is silly. Proud defenders of Ocasio-Cortez cannot deny the damning image of a politician socializing with celebrities maskless when the media and others working the fundraising gala were required to wear masks.

Although the efforts to bring attention to economic reform and taxing the wealthy might be recognized by the individuals who attended, there was no benefit in sharing such a provocative statement, as this move was widely perceived as hypocritical and empty by the general public. The red-lettered dress did nothing but create controversy in a way that harmed the message.

While wearing the dress can be viewed as an attempt to break the status quo, Ocasio-Cortez’s actions are a prime example of performative politics displayed at the highest level. In a mind-boggling public relations move, she wore this slogan as she partied with the wealthy and elite, which undoubtedly was perceived as hypocritical.

To make matters worse, when Ocasio-Cortez was invited to the Met Gala in 2019 she skipped the event. Clearly, at the time, there was an understanding of how the public would perceive her surfacing at such an exclusive event.

On the night of the 2021 Met Gala, Ocasio-Cortez clarified on an Instagram post that “NYC elected officials are regularly invited to and attend the Met due to our responsibilities in overseeing our city’s cultural institutions that serve the public.”

The lame excuse conjured by Ocasio-Cortez does little to negate criticism of her attendance, for the same reasoning was obviously not applied toward her 2019 invitation.

However, there is no denying the amount of work the 31-year-old congresswoman has done in such a short time in Congress. In her first two years in the House, Ocasio-Cortez co-sponsored 78 bills, 14 of which were signed into law.

It is hard to imagine the people of New York’s 14th district not re-electing the young progressive, so her House seat is most likely secure.

Ocasio-Cortez introduced the Green New Deal, an influential piece of legislation that addresses climate change, and authored the “A Just Society” package to modernize how the U.S. government measures poverty and makes immigrants eligible for social safety nets, among other things. 

Other accomplishments such as repealing the Faircloth Amendment, which leads the way to solve the public housing crisis in America, are why her constituents and followers will continue to stay loyal. Even if she makes the occasional blunder.

But passing legislation is only a slice of politics. At least in this country, optics are just as crucial for reelection as making a meaningful impact on a community. Ocasio-Cortez is already subject to consistent criticism from right-wing political figures. Now, people from all over the spectrum are critiquing the infamous politician.

Controversy regarding Ocasio-Cortez’s Met Gala dress will be remembered as yet another mistake in her political career. 

Ocasio-Cortez’s ruin will come from how bad her public image becomes the longer she remains in politics. It’s still early in her political career, but it is safe to say the 2021 Met Gala will be mentioned for years to come, and rightfully so.

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