Ocasio-Cortez didn’t say it was a question of either/or. She said it was a question of priority, of prioritizing the important moral argument you’re trying to make. Failure to grasp that simple fact has been liberals’ problem since the birth of Enlightenment reason, as George Lakoff has argued since his 1996 book “Moral Politics,” which I reviewed for the Christian Science Monitor at the time. Lakoff’s 2004 book “Don’t Think of an Elephant!: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate” was directly aimed at activists and became a bestseller, but still didn’t seem to penetrate at the highest levels of political leadership, where it matters most.
Until now. Ocasio-Cortez knows better, and she has shown that over and over again. Her point about the primacy of moral rightness cannot be emphasized strongly enough, and is in no sense opposed to making sure you get the facts and figures right. That brings to mind the famous phrase “budgets are moral documents,” which has long been associated with Martin Luther King Jr., although there's no documentation that ever said it.
We do know that King said this: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” That was from his epochal prophetic sermon, “Beyond Vietnam,” and the sad fact is that 52 years later we have not yet gotten past the mistakes that led us into Vietnam and the lessons we ought to have learned there.
By insisting on putting questions of morality first, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is pointing the way forward, seeking to turn us away from that "spiritual death" and toward a future that includes us all