The new year has brought another litany of pieces on the rising Democratic Party star, the newly sworn-in representative for Queens and the Bronx, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. We’ve heard over and over again about her age, her sense of fashion, her dancing, and even occasionally her policy proposals.
Meanwhile, this publication and others have spent the first days of 2019 remembering the life of our dear friend and colleague, Bre Payton. Bre was a bright spot in conservative media, one of the many talented women to rise within the Federalist family. She was the real deal––hard-working, kind, and smart. Her larger than life presence is noticeably absent.
With Bre’s tragic passing, and the oversaturation of coverage on Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, I started thinking about the similarities between the two women.
Two Different Types of Women
Both are young, successful, and confident. Both are beautiful and stylish women, even sporting the same signature red lip.
And then there’s the work ethic. Ocasio-Cortez gained early notoriety for her grassroots primary campaign, using every means possible to reach every voter she could. She has a blistering social media presence that generates quick responses and demands attention. Bre brought the same tenacity to her work here at The Federalist, and churned out smart and concise pieces faster than almost anyone.
But here’s where things get interesting. For all her earned success, Ocasio-Cortez is thin on substance. She often seems unprepared on camera, and her cringeworthy statements about government, energy and economics, foreign policy, and math keep coming. Instead of owning or correcting her mistakes (let’s be fair, all politicians make them), she is often dismissive, blaming discrimination or bias for the negative responses she receives.
Don’t like Ocasio-Cortez’s economic polices? It’s probably because she’s a not a man. Don’t like high tax rates for the wealthy? It’s probably because you don’t like her dancing (for the record, none of us conservatives really cared about the dancing). Think incoming freshman congresswomen need to back up their words with deeds? You’re just holding her to a higher standard.
In contrast, Bre built a career without any of the faux victimhood we hear from Ocasio-Cortez and her supporters. She simply didn’t have time for that. Was Bre also young and beautiful? Absolutely. Did that make people notice her or sometimes write her off as unserious, just like they notice and perhaps pre-judge Ocasio-Cortez? Of course it did.
But Bre never once used her youth or beauty as an excuse for why anyone treated her the way they did. She worked hard and earned people’s respect one article at a time––and she never went on camera without being prepared for the fight. Most importantly, Bre made her ideas and ability to express them what defined her as a writer.
So to those of us who knew Bre, Ocasio-Cortez’s spin about why she isn’t taken seriously by policy heavyweights falls flat. Her focus on playing the victim takes away from her own success. More importantly, it sets a bad example for other young women looking to make their way in Washington.
Deflecting Is Easier Than Finding Substance
It’s always going to be easier to deflect and say Paul Ryan’s ideas were taken seriously just because he’s a man. It’s a lot harder to come up with serious proposal yourself and effectively defend it. Every time someone plays the bias card to avoid fair criticism, we minimalize tough, bright women like Bre who are going toe-to-toe with experienced policymakers.
Ocasio-Cortez still has plenty of time to put this routine behind her and become a serious politician. She can do her research, put in the work, and try to be the most prepared person in the room. But at age 26, Bre knew what it took to succeed from day one, and she did it. The next generation of women in politics would be wise to follow her example.