The crowd at Donald Trump’s latest campaign rally took up a new chant directed at one of the Democratic party’s most visible new members of Congress, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
“AOC sucks, AOC sucks,” the throng in Grand Rapids, Michigan bellowed last night (March28), after Donald Trump Jr., mentioned the New York City representative’s Green New Deal climate change bill. Later on social media, far-right pundits gleefully shared clips.
Hating on Ocasio-Cortez has become reliable right-wing clickbait. She’s replaced Hillary Clinton and even House speaker Nancy Pelosi as a favorite target.
As her questioning of witnesses at congressional hearings wins more praise from Democrats and progressives for, say, examining the American politics’ reliance on dark money, the hate is becoming uglier, more misogynistic—and more threatening.
The Daily Caller published a fake “nude selfie” that purported to show Ocasio-Cortez, members of right-wing groups pretending to be journalists sometimes roam the halls of Congress to film “gotcha” videos of her refusing to answer provocative questions, and her Republican peers have called her everything from “little girl” to stupid.
Trump himself has made a practice of denigrating women during his public life. He insulted Republican primary opponent Carly Fiorina’s looks, bragged about sexually assaulting women, and was accused of assault by multiple women. Since he became president, women of color have been a particular target, and he has repeatedly badmouthed black women, including congresswomen and the widow of a slain soldier.
Prosecutions for death threats against US politicians spiked in 2018, as Quartz recently wrote. In general, about 75% of those charged for making threats against US politicians have come from the ideological right, based on analysis of cases going back to 1990 by the Prosecution Project. They are almost entirely US citizens, male, and roughly 85% white, and their targets are mostly Democrats.
Trump’s nasty personal attacks on his political opponents seem to carry particular weight. Since he took office in 2017, four white men have been convicted of threatening to kill Maxine Waters, the California congresswoman Trump has singled out repeatedly, calling her “Low IQ.” Men who called themselves Trump supporters or shared his anti-immigrant views have sent bombs to his political opponents and have killed worshippers at a synagogue. Since Trump was elected, law-enforcement officials have been “extraordinarily concerned that—based on the polarization and hostile nature of our political discourse—we would see an increase in people carrying out acts of violence,” a terrorism expert told Quartz in October.
At he Michigan rally, Trump’s eldest son seemed to delight in the crowd response. “Now, you guys aren’t very nice,” Donald Jr. said, smiling, as the AOC chant rang out.
Polls show Ocasio-Cortez is most popular among women, and potential voters aged 18 to 34. According to a recent Quinnipiac poll, 27% of the women surveyed and 35% of those 18 to 34 say the have a “favorable” opinion of her. (Both overall and in those categories, more respondents said they didn’t know enough about Ocasio-Cortez to judge her.)
White men don’t like AOC most of all, with 51% of the group saying they have an “unfavorable” opinion of her. Some behavioral experts have said they believe that is mostly because these men are afraid of her.
“She doesn’t just challenge the patriarchy, she’s challenging the race, class, and gender hierarchies all at once, as well as the capitalist system that requires member of Congress be wealthy before they get there,” says Caroline Heldman, a gender and politics professor at Occidental College, who was quoted in a recent Huffington Post column examining why conservative men hate her so much.