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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Calls Out the “Sheer Mediocrity” of GOP Congressional Witnesses

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) listens during a House Financial Services Committee hearing

A big part of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s first year serving in Congress has been spent relaying to her supporters and social media followers all the things she’s learning on the job. It’s an interesting window into the political process, and it’s also an effective demystification for anyone thinking about getting involved in politics themselves, but who might have felt intimidated by an institution that’s designed to seem intimidating to anyone not born into wealth or existing political connections.

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AOC regularly shines a light on just how little there is to feel intimidated by. She has spent this week calling out the “mediocrity” she sees in the GOP witnesses brought before Congressional committees.

On Wednesday, she criticized Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta’s lack of knowledge of (and confidence in attempting to regulate) women’s reproductive healthcare. Sec. Acosta was unaware that women use birth control to manage a whole host of health issues in addition to the essential task of preventing unwanted pregnancies. Illinois Rep. Lauren Underwood took Acosta to task for his apparent refusal to inform himself regarding an issue he insisted on meddling in. (Acosta’s labor department introduced rules last fall that allowed employers to opt out of providing employees with health insurance that covers contraceptives based on religious or moral objections.)

Sharing the video of Underwood, Ocasio-Cortez called the mediocrity “astounding.”

That wasn’t AOC’s only example, either. Thursday, she indicated that this sort of under-preparation and overconfidence was a regular occurrence.

She says before she got to Congress, she expected to be up against “well-prepared,” “evil-genius lobbyist types.” That has not been the reality.

This is reminiscent of comments Michelle Obama made last December during her book tour for her memoir, Becoming. During a conversation with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Obama touched on issues of imposter syndrome. “I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of,” she said. “I have worked at nonprofits. I have been at foundations. I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards. I have been at G-summits. I have sat in at the U.N. They are not that smart.”

I read this as intending less to disparage those leaders and more to encourage people–especially women–to have more confidence in their abilities and their deservedness to take up space at those tables. Because if we don’t, mediocre men with unearned confidence certainly will.

(image: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.

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