The representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from New York came to the Met Gala on Monday evening in a bespoke ivory-colored cardigan dress by Brother Vellies with an organza flounce and the message “Tax the Rich” in red on her back.
In video recordings that were shot before her arrival, she can be seen on the way to the vehicle that brought her to the gala, a masked helper holds up the train of her dress while she smiles brightly and waves to her fans.
Designers and corporate sponsors typically pay the high admission price – $ 35,000 per ticket or $ 200,000 to $ 300,000 per table – for the gala guests, which usually include a quorum of Kardashians, Hollywood stars, and supermodels. The star-studded event is often referred to as the Oscar of Fashion.
Many New York City elected officials are also invited as “museum guests” who do not pay.
Regardless, MPs Ocasio-Cortez’s presence – and their clothes – provided light fodder for their most reliably elicited critics. On Twitter, Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the former president, tagged her as a cheater for sending a message about taxing the rich “while hanging out with a number of wealthy left-wing elites.”
Rep. Jim Banks, Republican from Indiana, tweeted that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is the “gift that always gives”.
But more surprising than the routine judgments of her political opponents was the criticism generated by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, from the left – a chorus of discontent from progressives and self-proclaimed socialists, disappointed in a gesture that she thought caricatured a progressive cause , underscoring her feeling that she is not maximizing her ability to fight for the working people of Congress.
Briahna Gray, former Senator Bernie Sanders’ 2020 National Press Secretary and co-host of the Bad Faith podcast, said that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is being held to a unique standard “precisely because people want more of her.” . She said part of the progressive backlash against the dress resulted from more general disappointment with some of her political positions.
“People are disappointed with their behavior outside of this context, and this seems to reflect a lack of commitment shown in a purely political context,” said Ms. Gray.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez was first invited to the Met Ball in 2019, a year after her victory over former MP Joe Crowley – the biggest surprise to a Democratic incumbent in more than a decade. She did not attend, and the following year the gala was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
This year, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez sat at the table of Anna Wintour, Vogue editor and artistic director of Condé Nast, the long-time co-host of the gala.
Some supporters had a simple, negative gut reaction to their decision to participate. “The Met Gala is an event best avoided by sincere socialists,” wrote John Ganz, a columnist for Gawker.com who described himself as a supporter of Ocasio-Cortez as a “beacon of hope” at other times looked at.
Danny Haiphong, a socialist activist and writer, said what offended him was not the dissonance of a self-proclaimed democratic socialist associating with the elite, but that “AOC and the force are not using their tremendous support to demand just that, what she “put on her dress.”
Many progressives still credit Ms. Ocasio-Cortez for being a consistent advocate of progressive causes. She was the only Democrat to speak out against the $ 484 billion coronavirus aid package last year, saying she felt it was too generous for companies without enough aid to the working class.
Together with Mr Sanders, she has urged triple the amount of money proposed by President Biden to improve the country’s aging social housing system.
She recently joined the marathon protests on the Capitol steps against the expiration of a pandemic-era federal eviction moratorium that was not stopped by the White House or Congress.
“She’s generally excited to get people excited about a different vision for America,” said Faiz Shakir, manager of Mr. Sanders’ 2020 presidential campaign. “It’s an art: politics is theater. You think about how you can animate it. “
In fact, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez has used the slogan “Tax the Rich” on campaign articles before, which Republicans have criticized in the past.
But a group of more left-wing activists have tried to push the party further and are becoming increasingly critical of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez.
Some had demanded that Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and others withhold their votes for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unless she agreed to put the Medicare for All bill to the vote. They have also urged Ms. Ocasio-Cortez to use her position to force a vote on a minimum wage of $ 15 and to voice increased criticism of the Biden administration to fend off calls for blanket student debt relief.
Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is seen as an alleged outsider in Congress, Ms. Gray said, but she doesn’t really do the kind of things that could really create backlash and fighting that some people expected, considering how she’s styled herself in. “The picture of her” rubbing her elbows with these people “on Monday night annoyed some on the left, she said.
The slogan on the dress was also a problem, according to Ms. Gray – not because it was too radical, but because it was too reassuring; A majority of American voters support a wealth tax on the very rich, according to a 2020 Reuters / Ipsos poll.
“If she had chosen to highlight a message that was not already so widely received, her act would have been viewed as more subversive, as opposed to a pomp comparable to Cara Delevingne’s Peg the Patriarchy shirt,” said Ms. Gray – another Met Gala outfit that caught the eye with its message.
Other New York politicians attended the gala this year, including MP Carolyn Maloney, who represents Manhattan’s old Silk Stocking neighborhood, and New York auditor Scott Stringer.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio skipped the ball for years before breaking his streak of absence on Monday night in the final months of his tenure.
“That’s not my thing,” said Mr de Blasio during an appearance on NY1 in 2019 when asked about his absence. “It’s an elite gathering, I’m not an elite type. It really is – let’s just do it, it’s just not my thing. This is the kind of place the elite go and like to be together, and I have a different approach. “
Among Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s defenders was Maya Wiley, the former New York mayoral candidate whose campaign supported Ms. Ocasio-Cortez earlier this year. Ms. Wiley said the Met Gala is part of the fabric of New York City, and identifying yourself as a Democratic Socialist doesn’t mean hating or shunning the rich who show up.
“We’re making everything a purity contest,” said Ms. Wiley. “Politics shouldn’t be about purity. She did the right thing by not avoiding it by saying this was part of us and let’s have a conversation that includes the Met Gala. “
“Going into a room that is about art, fashion, luxury and wealth and saying, ‘This is the conversation we have to face, but I will confront it in the slang of the event’ is brilliant.” says Ms. said Wiley.
Mrs Ocasio-Cortez may have managed to bring up a subject that is at the heart of what the Democrats are asking for in the reconciliation law they are trying to pass by the end of the month. But above all, the dress served as the latest Rorschach test about Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and whether she is seen as a fighter for the people or an ally of the elites.
“I don’t envy them,” said Sumathy Kumar, a chair of the New York chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. “Given the question, ‘Am I going to this event and using it as an opportunity to get the word out, or am I boycotting it?’, She usually chooses to get that message across.”
Ms. Kumar added, “Whether you agree with a tactic or not, more people are talking about taxes for the rich and at least this discussion is taking place. We take what we can get. “
On Tuesday, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who did not want to comment on this article, defended herself against criticism in a long post on Instagram. “I and my body have been so harshly and relentlessly politically monitored from all corners of the world since I won the election,” she wrote.
Ultimately, she said, “we’ve all had a conversation about taxing the rich in front of the very people who oppose it, and we’ve broken the fourth wall of excess and spectacle.” In a subsequent donation email, she instructed supporters to buy their own “Tax the Rich” clothing. A t-shirt is $ 27 and a hoodie is $ 58.