OCDS: Ocasio-Cortez Derangement Syndrome

Fifteen years ago, the late Charles Krauthammer made the following diagnosis:

It has been 25 years since I discovered a psychiatric syndrome (for the record: “Secondary Mania,” Archives of General Psychiatry, November 1978), and in the interim I haven’t been looking for new ones. But it’s time to don the white coat again. A plague is abroad in the land.

Bush Derangement Syndrome: the acute onset of paranoia in otherwise normal people in reaction to the policies, the presidency — nay — the very existence of George W. Bush.

Today, there is a new plague abroad in our land: Ocasio-Cortez Derangement Syndrome–the acute onset of paranoia in Trump loyalists in reaction to the policies, the candidacy and the very existence of New York Democratic Congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Incontinence is also a symptom of OCDS, as exemplified by the bedwetting of Trumpistas the day after Ocasio-Cortez defeated Rep. Joseph Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional district seat. The right-wing panic over Ocasio-Cortez’s candidacy clearly stems from the recognition that her policy positions might appeal to all but the most rigid of Republicans. Even since FDR, the right has sought to define progressive ideals as anti-American and subversive: the rise of Ocasio-Cortez indicates that this decades-long, well-funded effort has failed, a prospect these folks cannot countenance. (When the New York Post’s gossip page is being used to take shots at Ocasio-Cortez, one can tell just how desperate the right is to stop her.)

There’s a related malady out there, one that affects the mainstream press. I’m not sure what to call it–Cortezphobia is perhaps too strong a word–but it’s symptoms include a failure to truly understand Ocasio-Cortez’s views. We saw a little bit of this dynamic earlier today on NBC’s Meet the Press: host Chuck Todd was not openly rude to Ocasio-Cortez, but his body language and tone made it clear that he did not know what to make of the candidate, did not understand what inspired her, could not comprehend why someone would embrace democratic socialism as a value.

It seems obvious that Todd doesn’t have too many strongly progressive people in his social circle. He’s probably not the only one in the mainstream press: isn’t it a bit odd that Ocasio-Cortez wasn’t booked for any of the other Sunday morning news shows, despite her trailblazing primary victory?

Ocasio-Cortez proved to be a compelling speaker in her Meet the Press appearance; she wasn’t thrown off by Todd’s awkward body language, and forcefully made the case for a more passionately progressive Democratic Party. Somewhere, Paul Wellstone and Ted Kennedy were applauding.

We’re going to see more right-wing fear and mainstream-media awkwardness in the months leading up to the general election, which pits Ocasio-Cortez against Republican opponent Anthony Pappas. Trumpistas and the Fourth Estate civility-above-all crowd don’t know how to deal with unabashedly progressive voices who come across as “unbought and unbossed,” as Shirley Chisholm famously put it. It will be interesting to see how Ocasio-Cortez deals with right-wing attacks and mainstream-media skepticism going forward.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.