Ocasio-Cortez, Crenshaw Show That Millennials Can Lead the Way in Congress
With a commitment to accessibility, approachability, and good humor, Democratic and Republican millennials are already changing Congress.
While the president fires off on Twitter every morning, and D.C. speculates over whether Nancy Pelosi has the votes to be the next speaker, something extraordinary is happening at freshman orientation: millennials are running the show.
Twenty-nine-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic rising star and representative-elect from New York, and 34-year-old Dan Crenshaw, Republican representative-elect from Texas, are quickly two of the most recognizable new members on social media.
It’s for good reason Ocasio-Cortez and Crenshaw are in the spotlight this month, several weeks before they even take their oaths of office. The two new members are making themselves more accessible and more approachable, and bringing a good sense of humor, to a job that so many inside and outside Washington have associated with secrecy, partisanship, and woe.
Some good will between members of Congress and millennials is sorely needed, especially given the body’s approval is about 12 percent among young adults.
Here’s how Ocasio-Cortez and Crenshaw are changing the game.
Ocasio-Cortez’s Instagram feed has been nothing short of an unprecedented look inside freshman orientation, and people smarter than I am have written about how this is exposing her followers and constituents to new parts of Congress.
The freshman congresswoman is not just showing her audiences new and exciting parts of the political process, though; she’s expanding who can access her content. Example: she’s captioning her Instagram stories to make them accessible to the deaf community.
It doesn’t matter whether you agree with Ocasio-Cortez’s ideas or disagree with them: the fact she’s making her ideas and her public life more accessible to more people is an incredible thing. Other members would be wise to follow her lead.
On the other side of the aisle, a millennial Republican is making an extra effort to reach across the aisle after a contentious election season.
Dan Crenshaw of Texas became a household name after “SNL” comedian Pete Davidson told a joke about Crenshaw’s eye patch. The congressman-elect wears the eye patch due to wounds sustained fighting in Afghanistan.
Crenshaw and Davidson made up (more on that below), and Crenshaw offered a simple but brilliant prescription for settling political differences in a post-“SNL” op-ed for The Washington Post:
How, then, do we live together in this world of differing ideas? For starters, let’s agree that the ideas are fair game. If you think my idea is awful, you should say as much. But there is a difference between attacking an idea and attacking the person behind that idea.
Crenshaw followed his verbal commitment — to treating the other side of the aisle with dignity — with some action, appearing with three of his new Democratic colleagues for a lengthy and friendly “Face the Nation” interview on Sunday.
Finally, in a place as glum as Washington can be it’s also been encouraging to see Ocasio-Cortez and Crenshaw show off good senses of humor.
For the Democratic member-elect, it’s been everything from shrugging off an “evening in sweats” to pushing back on character attacks.
For the Republican member-elect, it’s responding to a low blow by going in front of a national audience…and jokingly airing a ringtone by the singer who just broke up with the comedian who mocked you.
Of course, humor and feel-good moments aside, every new member-elect will probably find governing hard in 2019. They’ll also be under pressure to fundraise and plan for the next campaign, which begins, well, now.
But it’s been a breath of fresh air to see two new members bring joy, accessibility, and an invitation across the aisle to a body that lacks comity these days. Maybe members younger and older could learn a thing or two from them.