Background: Last week, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted pictures of her grandmother’s house in Puerto Rico with lingering damage from 2017’s Hurricane Maria. She then criticized the slow disbursement of recovery funds, blaming it on the Trump administration and a Wall Street-controlled “La Junta.” Shortly afterwards Matt Walsh set up a GoFundMe for Abuela’s(Spanish for ‘Grandmother’) roof, it raised over 100k before a family representative told the crowdfunding company the funds would not be accepted and the campaign was cancelled and refunded. Lots of hooting followed about Le Epic Troll and AOC buying a Tesla instead of taking care of Abuela, meanwhile AOC seized the opportunity to hammer home her original point about corruption and the delayed recovery funds.
I’m not really impressed with the Abuela GofundMe stunt, and I think I should explain why. It’s not because I don’t appreciate a good troll, it’s rather the fact I think for far too long we’ve lacked tangible gains in things we actually care about that we’ve compensated for by caring too much about illusory rhetorical wins. Unfortunately, rhetorical victory is no substitute for material victory (link also includes another example of Walsh cluelessness). We had the World’s Greatest Troll as president for four years, what did he actually accomplish and how did that end up working out for him?
Ultimately the point of politics is to materially benefit your allies and materially harm your enemies, and sick burns on Twitter only count to the extent they help you accomplish that goal. The natural response for a Righty at this point is usually to cite Alinsky’s rule 6:” A good tactic is one your people enjoy.” This claim fails on two counts: (1) Alinsky is overrated and actually not well-regarded by the contemporary activist left, for legitimate reasons outside the scope of this piece; and (2) the faulty syllogism that just because all A are B, it does not necessarily follow that all B are A; enjoying it may be necessary, but it does not follow that mere enjoying it is sufficient.
To properly explain everything wrong with this I need to compare it to a similar case done right; ironically this second case also involves AOC as well.
TL;DR: AOC raised outside funds via in-house resources and strengthened allies while targeting persuadable voters in a close district with a vulnerable incumbent, while Walsh raised funds from allies using enemy infrastructure to help someone he can’t persuade in a place that can’t even vote to target someone 4k miles away in a safe district. Longer explanation follows:
2021 Texas Winter Storm and Aftermath
February 13, 2021, the most destructive natural disaster in American history took place in Texas. Winter Storm Uri crippled power utilities, did 195 billion in damages, and killed almost 200 people. To add insult to injury, the highest profile federal politician -Senator Ted Cruz- got caught absconding to Cancun with his family at the beginning. Despite Texas being a red-leaning state, AOC took advantage of this misstep and used her platform to raise over five million dollars for relief efforts there. The money was also raised on ActBlue, and disbursed to leftist-aligned non profits to support their operations.
This was intrinsically more effective for the following reasons:
The media in in AOC’s corner is a way they are not for Cruz or Walsh. This isn’t a knock against them, just an acknowledgement that her efforts will always get painted in a positive light the way a similar attempt by Walsh or Cruz will not.
Texas is the second-most populous state, and while red-leaning is not monolithically so. The Dems have the medium-term objective of turning Texas blue in a Presidential election as well as picking up a few more house seats as well as at least one Senate seat, given that Cruz won his 2018 reelection by only 2.5%. Texas may not be a swing state (yet), but it is squishy enough that making an investment now and taking advantage of opportunities is justified given the potential payoff in the 2022 midterms as well as the 2024 Senate election.
AOC helped directly aid voters the Dems wish to persuade/flip in a relatively close district. This also reminds voters that Ted Cruz fucked off to Cancun while they froze in the dark, and a NYC Dem politician actually helped them in the end instead.
The money was raised via the Dem fundraising platform ActBlue. This means the DNC gets a cut of the donations, and the donors get added to proprietary email fundraising lists. These lists are valuable because someone that has been persuaded to donate once, can always be persuaded to donate again for something else.
The money was disbursed to local leftist non profits to aid their relief efforts. This helps grow the local leftist mutual aid network, as well as allow them to directly take credit in their communities. Righties love to talk about winning over undecideds with the power of LOGIC and FACTS, but do you know what’s even more effective at persuading them? Saving that swing voter from starvation or freezing to death.
Lefties do a good job of taking care of their own. So the fundraising efforts and expenditures Texas ironically reminds lefties that there’s infrastructure out there to back them by demonstrating it in action. By using allied non profits as the go-between, lefties also manage to combine helping your own with helping others, which is a twofer.
I don’t think Texas is going reliably blue any time soon, but if it does it will at least partly be because the Right kept handing them unforced errors like this they could capitalize on.
Abuela’s Roof Fiasco
By comparison, basically everything was done wrong for the Walsh/Daily fundraiser:
The media isn’t going to be sympathetic, so it can’t be obvious it’s only a cheap clickbait stunt (spoiler: it was, and everyone basically admitted it).
Puerto Rico isn’t a swing state, in fact it’s not even a state at all. It doesn’t vote for anything federal because it’s just a territory, so it can’t affect the legislative makeup or the Presidental elections.
Abuela is just one person, she can’t vote federally, and even if she did she probably wouldn’t throw her granddaughter under the bus and switch parties just because someone bought her a roof.
AOC is in a safe district 4,000 miles away, whatever happens with her abuela’s home is not going to cost her her seat.
GoFundMe is an enemy platform that cuts off conservatives but allows bail funds for leftist rioters, there’s no excuse to allow them to have a cut of the profits when alternate platforms like Givesendgo exist. GFM also means they can’t collect donor emails for future projects.
Offering to give the funds directly to AOC’s family is stupid. Granted it was almost certain the funds were going to be refused, but a better option would have been to find a Trumpy PR-based construction company and offered to pay them to do the repairs. As I mentioned previously if you’ve going to help strangers, you can probably still find a way to help your people in the process.
Unlike the Left, the Right does a really bad job supporting its grass roots base. So watching Shapiro and Walsh convince conservatives to paypig for AOC is humiliating, infuriating, and just reminds folks trying to do good things that right wing grifters are busy sucking up funds that could be better applied elsewhere (Alinsky was actually notorious for doing this, which is one reason lefties hate him so badly). Don’t support your enemies when your loyal base is suffering, that’s just terrible leadership.
100k also may be nothing to raise from billionaire donors, but most of this came from small donors which comparatively makes it a lot given the source. Many of these people probably trusted Walsh enough to do it because he asked, once you gain a reliable source of small donor funding like this you have a responsibility to only ask them to donate for things that materially advance your cause.
The two biggest objections I’ve gotten to my take are that this created talking points to persuade swing voters in ads, as well as exposing leftist hypocrisy. The first one is nonsense because the relevant parties aren’t vulnerable: PR doesn’t vote in federal elections, AOC’s deep-blue NYC district ain’t going R, no one else gives a shit (Do you really think an Arizona swing Voter cares either way about a NYC congresswoman’s Puerto Rican grandmother having a trashed house?) the election is 18 months away, and anyone still dumb enough to use this line of attack in an ad only opens up a counter that the terrible response to Hurricane Maria is what happens when the GOP has the White House and both houses of Congress. This is a complete non-starter.
The leftist hypocrisy one is usually a riff on Alinsky’s rule #4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.” The problem is the Left only has one rule, “fuck the Right”, and the Right has been pushing this angle for years now and it never works. In fact, I argue that this is actually a deliberate trick to get righties to insincerely adopt leftist attitudes and inadvertently amplify leftist policies, which only ends up reinforcing things the Right doesn't want.
Ultimately this isn’t about hypocrisy, it’s about power. True power is not about imposing rules, it’s about imposing rules and then passing out exceptions to said rules; hypocrisy is arguably the point.
Arguing the Left is hypocritical is, in effect, arguing the Left is the Sovereign.
The core difference here is that Walsh is an entertainer chasing clicks, while AOC is a politician chasing power. It’s fashionable to snark about AOC being stupid -and perhaps she is in most things- but I implore you to consider the possibility that, like Archilochus’ hedgehog, she knows One Big Thing.
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