Their slog through political action was electrified when they were visited by an angel, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Although she had not even been sworn in, she exhibited the remarkable political skill that has made her famous. Outside the office, she told reporters that she had great respect for “Leader Pelosi” and her work on climate change. Inside, she told the kids, “I just want to let you all know how proud I am of each and every single one of you for putting yourselves and your bodies and everything on the line.”
Putting their bodies on the line? The kids were sitting on the floor of the Longworth Building, one of the most heavily fortified structures on the planet. What was she worried about—that Mitch McConnell was going to show up and kickbox them? But questions about inflated diction were irrelevant. In the fierce urgency of now, there is no difference between a fact, an exaggeration, hyperbole, and an outright fantasy.
AOC has so much star power, charisma, beauty, and political chutzpah that even older people are moved by her. To the young, she approaches the status of Barack Obama himself; soon, she will probably exceed it. She is perfectly attuned to them, and they respond to her in the deeply emotional way that signals something important is happening. Fools dismiss her; when a natural shows up, things happen that are beyond the control of the powerful systems that normally dominate Washington.
Read: House Democrats don’t know what to make of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
When the young people of the Sunrise Movement arrived at Feinstein’s office, what they had going for them is the kind of perfect and complete understanding of the Green New Deal that only those still freshly acquainted with the worlds of magic and make-believe can achieve. These kids hadn’t spent harassing hours trying to distinguish among the actual bill, a working draft of the bill, and a possibly nonexistent hoax version of the bill. They had not tried to chew their way through a bewildering set of FAQs, nor had they watched one of the bill’s principal architects, the law professor Robert Hockett, trying to decide on live television whether the bill did or did not offer a living wage to people “unwilling to work.” In other words, these kids weren’t a bunch of losers. They weren’t hung up on details when the clock was tick, tick, ticking on the end of the world.
“We’re going to share it in front of Feinstein,” one of the little girls said outside the office building, neglecting the honorific, and unrolling a scroll of demands that were at once precocious and misguided. The implication was that “Feinstein” was a planet-crisping goon and that the kids were the last, best hope of life on Earth. In a pink-and-red sweater and her hair in a ponytail, she exuded the self-confidence of a child about to ace her speech for fifth-grade class president. But standing in front of Feinstein (blue pantsuit, hands clasped behind her back, patience of Job) she was quickly cowed. When the youngsters realized that they weren’t going to get what they wanted, they started falling apart. By the time Feinstein told them, “You know what’s interesting about this group is I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I know what I’m doing. You come in here and say, ‘It has to be my way or the highway.’ I don’t respond to that,” they looked like someone had canceled Christmas.