How AOC Became the Boogeywoman of the 2020 Election

Why Republican candidates can’t stop themselves from using the gentlewoman from Queens in their ads

Andrea González-Ramírez
GEN
Published in
4 min readSep 18, 2020

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Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez arrives for a hearing about mail in-voting. Photo: Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images.

If you went by the advertisements we’ve seen this election season, you would think most Republican candidates were facing off against the same foe this November: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Forget about producing ads that focus on Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, or any of the top-ranking Democrats, GOP candidates across the country are betting that Ocasio-Cortez’s name recognition makes her the most effective target in their efforts to bank votes from fearful voters.

The closer we get to November 3, the more common the vilification of AOC has become, from Texas to Colorado and beyond. A survey published earlier this month by Business Insider found that 44% of Americans had seen an ad mentioning Ocasio-Cortez this election season. “AOC wants to plunge us into communism. She is clueless about how capitalism even works,” Republican congressional candidate Marjorie Green of Georgia falsely claimed in an ad. “AOC [is] the architect of the socialist Green New Deal,” a female voice says in another ad supporting first-term Republican Sen. Thom Tillis. The Trump campaign has also made Ocasio-Cortez a primary target, implying that she is among the puppeteers of the “radical left” working in shadows to control Biden’s political agenda. Fifteen percent of respondents said they were more likely to cast a ballot for the Republican Party after seeing this type of messaging, the Business Insider survey found.

The goal of the ads has often been twofold: linking Democratic candidates to the polarizing Ocasio-Cortez, and positioning her as a natural enemy of all Republican candidates, who then promise to take her down if they are elected to Congress. There’s also an undercurrent of bigotry present in targeting AOC specifically that’s not necessarily present in attacking powerful white Democrats such as Biden or House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “It’s demonizing a way of thinking by linking…

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Andrea González-Ramírez
GEN
Writer for

Award-winning Puerto Rican journalist. Senior Writer at New York Magazine’s The Cut. Formerly GEN, Refinery29, and more. Read my work: https://www.thecut.com/