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Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib.
Photo: Getty Images
It was a typical Tuesday evening, and a significant chunk of Twitter was invigorated thinking about one subject in particular: the Green New Deal. Or, more specifically, a video of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez delivering a blistering, eloquent response to criticism that the popular legislation was too “elitist” at a House Financial Services Committee meeting.
“This is about American lives, and it should not be partisan,” she fired back at Republican Representative Sean Duffy, who had suggested that homeless and working-class families would struggle to pay for housing under the policy package, which seeks to reform the U.S. economy and fight against climate change. “Science should not be partisan.”
The video, circulated on Twitter by Occupy Democrats’ on-camera host Brian Tyler Cohen, has been retweeted more than 50,000 times and liked by more than 135,000 people.
The video’s virality wasn’t unwarranted: Ocasio-Cortez manages to deliver a rebuke that is simultaneously impassioned and controlled, informative and concise. And, we’ve seen her — and the other progressive freshman congresswomen — do it before. In the the less than three months that the women have been in office, they’ve had an impressive number of video clips of them go viral on social media. And not simply of them, say, dancing around rooftops during college. People have been sharing videos of them speaking about campaign-finance laws, making war criminals squirm, and calling out a representative for using tokenism — subjects that might not typically garner widespread media coverage or viral-level interest.
Of course, politicians’ comments and tweets have been going viral for years — but the virality of these types of video clips on social media is a “new phenomenon,” according to Shannon McGregor, an assistant professor in the University of Utah’s department of communications who studies political science and social media. In her assessment, there are a few reasons why we’re seeing this happen now: We feel like we know the freshman congresswomen personally because they’re active on social media, which is complemented by their use of accessible language and fearlessness in the face of power. And though she doesn’t think these clips are “made” to go viral, joking that they’re often quite “policy-wonky,” she thinks they have “the potential to make people more interested in politics.”
“These clips don’t look like the stodgy legislation we might have seen on C-SPAN five years ago or ten years ago,” she told the Cut. “I think it appears, especially to younger people, to be more authentic because they can literally see themselves in these legislators … And I think the more that people get an idea of what the literal functioning of government looks like, that’s fantastic.”
Turns out, it’s refreshing to watch elected officials actually speak truth to power, and speak passionately about the laws that currently — and could in the future — affect the lives of every human on this planet.
Below, here are some of the most notable clips:
1. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez concisely explaining U.S. campaign-finance laws, and how under them, it’s “super legal” for a lawmaker to be a “pretty bad guy.” (Per the Guardian, this is the most-watched political video on Twitter.)
2. Representative Ilhan Omar cross-examining Elliott Abrams, a war criminal who once called a U.S.-led massacre a “fabulous achievement,” and who is naturally leading the Trump administration’s response to the crisis in Venezuela.
3. Ocasio Cortez and Representative Ro Khanna asking Harvard University professor Aaron Kesselheim about the National Institutes of Health’s role in drug discovery.
4. Rep. Rashida Tlaib calling out Republican representative Mark Meadows for using a black woman as a “prop” during a House Oversight Committee hearing.
5. Ocasio-Cortez demanding answers from Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan about the bank’s involvement in everything from private prisons to the Dakota Access Pipeline.