Stop Asking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Debate You

Politics Features Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Stop Asking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to Debate You

There are only three reasons for you to know John Delaney’s name:

1. You follow politics too closely for your own health and somehow knew that the former Maryland House representative was running for president.

2. You think he’s another, different guy named John Hickenlooper (he’s not).

3. You saw him get booed in California—vigorously—for telling Democrats that Medicare is “not good policy or good politics”:

Now, as much fun as this clip was, it changes absolutely nothing about John Delaney’s chances to become president. He was polling low before this speech, he’s still polling low, and he will poll low until the moment he drops out of the race. This got him a little bit of face time with the American people, but it’s the exact wrong kind of face time—the kind where you get booed by your potential constituents for refusing to embrace a progressive ideal. He whined about it afterward, of course, peddling the same deceptive “boo-hoo, it’s bad to lose private insurance” line:

It may be that single-payer healthcare in America is far away, or that Senate Republicans will block it, or that this bogus “people love their private insurance!” line will be used to stonewall any progress. But that doesn’t mean actual Democrats should be doing anything but fighting tooth-and-nail to see it passed, especially if those Democrats want to represent the party in a presidential election.

As often happens these days, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke for all of us when she next took to Twitter:

“Sashay away” is hilarious, and it’s exactly what Delaney should have done. Instead, he did the thing he shouldn’t do: Challenged AOC to a “debate”:

This is dumb for a few reasons, primarily because the crux of their disagreement is pretty simple: AOC thinks a single-payer plan would be way better for way more people than the private insurance that covers some (but not all) Americans—and that often results in mediocre coverage and exorbitant premium/deductible/coinsurance costs—while Delaney thinks it’s legitimate to say that Medicare for All would be the same as “kicking 150 million people off their health insurance.” Her take is principled, his take is propagandistic—failing to mention that these people would have, um, NEW insurance. Seems like a pretty big blind spot, and the chasm between the two isn’t the kind of thing you can hash out over 30-second orations.

What would a debate solve? If Delaney “out-argued” her, would it make his position any less ridiculous in her eyes? If she excelled, would it convince Delaney or any other M4A opposition that she was right? Debate is theater, and the idea that we can resolve anything with an hour of arguing is just fundamentally archaic.

More importantly, there’s this: Any time you ask to “debate” with someone who is miles more famous than you are, it’s a selfish, transparently self-promotional act. You want to glom onto that person’s status like a leech, and it’s gross. You want her microphone, but you have not earned it. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is famous because she ran a transformational campaign to oust a Democratic heavyweight, she has loads of intelligence and charisma, and her command of social media is unlike anything we’ve ever seen in a politician. John Delaney is having his 15 minutes of fame because he got booed by his own party, and it went viral.

These two are not in the same class, and Delaney has no right to ask for a “debate” with AOC. Ben Shapiro is far more famous than Delaney, but the same dynamic applied to his AOC debate challenge. He saw somebody lighting up the political sphere, and he wanted a piece of it. Same deal for these others, as compiled by The Independent:

Town hall editor Katie Pavlich, conservative podcaster Allie Beth Stuckey, Hitler apologist and one-time Turning Point USA flack Candace Owens, Turning Point USA head Charlie Kirk, and (really) former Pussycat Dolls performer Kaya Jones all bombarded Ocasio-Cortez with debate challenges.

Let’s put it simply: AOC doesn’t need any of these fools. They all need her, in various ways, but she would be lowering herself by sharing a stage with them, and she’s absolutely correct in not responding. Delaney, Shapiro, and the others need to understand that people like AOC represent the future, and though someone like her may take a moment to criticize a bad position now and then, it doesn’t mean she wants to get stuck in the debate mud with someone whose views are antithetical to the progress she represents…and maybe amplifying those views by accident.

So stop asking. It’s pathetic, and unless you run for office and establish a platform to rival hers, it’s never going to happen.

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