A mostly facetious campaign to help Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s grandma was met with equal amounts of resentment, leaving $104,000 on the table and a deeper trench of petty partisanship.

AOC should have taken the money.

Last Wednesday, the progressive New York congresswoman shared on social media that she traveled to Puerto Rico to visit her grandma, who had fallen ill, and accompanied the post with pictures of a dilapidated home, saying it was the house of her abuela. The photos show water-damaged ceiling panels drooping, several buckets dotting the floor and a solitary chair covered in plastic.

“This is her home,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted. “Hurricane María relief hasn’t arrived. Trump blocked relief $ for PR. People are being forced to flee ancestral homes, & developers are taking them.”

Conservative commentator Matt Walsh responded by scolding the representative for living in “luxury” while allowing her grandma to dwell in “squalid conditions.”

Two days later, Walsh organized a GoFundMe campaign to deliver money to Ocasio-Cortez’s family. Its initial goal was to raise $48,990, which donors surpassed by more than double.

But the check isn’t getting cashed. GoFundMe shut down the campaign after somebody in the lawmaker’s family signaled they would not accept the money. 

Is all this performative and a bit ridiculous? Absolutely. It’s unlikely Walsh had the noblest of intentions when he started the fundraiser. Ocasio-Cortez’s visibility and politics make her an easy target, and feigning charity seems a good way to needle her. Yet, the money was raised by honest means and would have certainly been a blessing to Ocasio-Cortez’s extended family.

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Rejecting the offer seems similarly charged, and the optics make one question the authenticity of Ocasio-Cortez’s intentions to improve the situation. 

How social media and ‘attention economy’ politics are redefining power in Washington

It’s another show of the performance art that dominates our political theater. In this medium, clout isn’t gained by what gets done but by what doesn’t get done while finding excuses to blame the other side. It’s a good way to get campaign cash and a terrible way to govern a country.

But so long as we’re chained to our seats in this awful cinema, we should at least demand a performance worth the ticket price. A conservative blogger teaming up with a progressive lawmaker to pull a grandma out of dire straits, however theatrical, would be a wonderful bit of news in an otherwise dreary milieu. Both sides could have come out the better for it. And who knows? It could have led to a genuine cooperation to hold the federal government accountable for helping one of its territories.

It wasn’t to be. At least the donors to the GoFundMe campaign get their money back, unlike the rest of us who frown at the sign tacked to our house of political discourse: “All Sales Final.”

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