AOC: Not your streamer best friend

Like+oil+and+vinegar%2C+politics+and+gaming+are+typically+mutually+exclusive.+However%2C+congressperson+Alexandria+Ocasio-Cortez+has+successfully+combined+the+two+with+her+Twitch+streams%2C+gaining+support+from+teens+nationwide.+Nevertheless%2C+like+with+all+politicians%2C+crossing+the+line+between+supporting+her+and+idolizing+her+is+where+things+get+problematic.

Olivia Hewang

Like oil and vinegar, politics and gaming are typically mutually exclusive. However, congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has successfully combined the two with her Twitch streams, gaining support from teens nationwide. Nevertheless, like with all politicians, crossing the line between supporting her and idolizing her is where things get problematic.

By Naomi Ichiriu, Los Altos High School

The definition of irony: a sweatshirt reading “tax the rich” while costing a hefty $58. Recently, Congress Member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, known more often as AOC, came under fire as she released new merch with popular phrases from activist and political movements. While her prices and sources may be up for debate, the intention of this merch is to connect with younger voters as she becomes more popular among youth. One of the main reasons for this is her Twitch streams in recent months, which she has used to encourage voting and fundraise for coronavirus relief organizations. 

She held her first stream in October on the gaming platform Twitch to encourage voting in the 2020 election, becoming one of the most popular streams of all time with over 5.6 million total views. The first time she went live, many teens, including myself, were surprised at the notion of a congressperson, a role typically seen as stiff or humorless, playing with professional streamers. 

Ocasio-Cortez won widespread acclaim from teens nationwide, and it’s not hard to see why — she’s charismatic and a great role model for many. While she’s a beacon of hope for many nationwide, especially for working-class and immigrant voters, blindly idolizing any government official can become problematic. It’s important not to forget that she, just like every other politician, is a person subject to the limitations of her role and the Democratic party. 

Gaming and watching Twitch streamers is insanely popular with the younger generations, specifically Gen Z. Watching her play Among Us made me feel like we had something in common, something no other politician has been able to do before. By streaming and connecting with her viewers in this way, Ocasio-Cortez appealed to the majority of her audience — younger voters. These 18- to 29-year-olds tend to have the lowest voter turnout, so gaining their support and their additional votes is crucial for many politicians. This sense of relatability is something Ocasio-Cortez possesses that many other politicians fail to achieve, as she also commonly represents the working class and people of color in Congress. 

On Friday, November 27, Ocasio-Cortez went live for the second time, raising a total of $200,000 for coronavirus relief organizations while playing Among Us, a murder mystery game, with other popular Twitch streamers such as xQc and Pokimane. Among Us is a murder mystery game where up to ten players attempt to complete tasks in order to win. However, there are imposters among these players, whose goal is to kill the other players without getting voted out by the rest of the group. 

As I read the live chat, I noticed a clear distinction between the types of messages I saw — most people sent casual and friendly words of encouragement like “poggers,” a term expressing excitement, or “you got this!” while others said things like, “I would die for you, queen.” Although the word queen is thrown around these days as just a compliment, these comments could be qualified as “stanning” someone, which is to be an obsessive fan of a person, a “stalker-fan.” “Stanning” anyone isn’t healthy, especially a politician who can only do so much for one person. 

As a Democrat, she often is expected to vote along party lines to support her party, which could cause her to sign bills that may hurt her very own supporters. Sometimes it’s necessary for her to compromise with the Republican party in order to pass bills for the benefit of her party and supporters; however, this comes at a cost as she would need to sign on a bill supported by Republicans. This compromise can both help and hurt portions of her supporters. However, people who idolize her would continue to support her even if they’re the ones being affected.

Some of her own policies are controversial, such as her 70-percent marginal tax rate. This policy aims to collect a 70 percent tax from people who earn more than $10 million in income per year. Her policy focuses on taxing the ordinary income rate instead of on capital gains, which are profits from the sale of an asset, like shares of stock. These capital gains are taxed less than general income, allowing wealthier people to avoid the 70-percent tax by shifting forms of compensation to stocks or non-monetary ways. 

The Green New Deal, which she introduced along with Senator Ed Markey, plans to source America’s power and electricity from 100 percent renewable power sources in less than 30 years, in addition to setting many other goals to tackle carbon emissions and climate change. This could potentially lead to repercussions if electrical prices rise, which would hurt the working class the most. 

Regardless of what’s ultimately right or wrong, many supporters of Ocascio-Cortez, especially new ones, are unaware of the implications of her policies. The idolization of Ocasio-Cortez leads supporters to paint her as perfect, which is far from reality as nobody, especially politicians, can be flawless.

With many people, youth specifically, the focus on Ocasio-Cortez isn’t specifically about her policies; instead, it’s about her character and now how she plays with other popular streamers. The growth Black Lives Matter and other activist movements in 2020 received caused teens to become invested in them as they felt a need to address these issues in society. Politics and activism became insanely popular on social media platform TikTok this summer due to viral heart-wrenching videos of protests, resulting in more teens wanting to become more socially and politically conscious. As a result, political Tiktoks are extremely popular, and her positive portrayal in the media, specifically in these videos, have gotten Oscacio-Cortez a lot of new Gen Z support.

However, these videos mainly focus on her assertive personality and charisma instead of her actual policies. The glorification and idolization of her could even potentially lead to further polarization in politics due to the inability to see any other side but hers. There’s a difference between supporting and blindly idolizing her, and it’s crucial to remember that she’s a government official, not the next Pokimane.

This story was originally published on The Talon on December 21, 2020.