With arguably the most important election of our generation playing out, Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to the streaming-platform Twitch this past week to encourage voting among youth by playing Among Us with fellow Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar. Nearly half a million viewers watched live as AOC played with a host of streamers, including big names Pokimane and Myth, making this one of the most-watched streams on the platform — and an effective way to get younger voters energized.
Playing Among Us — a popular game that places the player as either a “crewmate” of a spaceship who must complete tasks or an “imposter” whose role is to kill the crewmates without being caught — isn’t the most conventional way to encourage voting. Yet, AOC reached millions of viewers who could either vote themselves or remind their parents to vote. She directed viewers to IWillVote.com, a website with information on how to register and vote. With a new generation born and raised on the internet, AOC knows how to appeal to new voters, something many politicians have failed to do in the past.
Throughout the stream, AOC showed that she’s a real person who cares about the people she serves. One viewer wrote, “watching tonight gives me such hope for positive change.” At one point during the stream, AOC talked about free health care and acknowledged why it might be so difficult to achieve in the U.S. because “people just don’t even believe it’s possible.” She explained why it’s so important to vote and encouraged those who cannot to talk to their friends and family about their voting plan. Instead of just asking those close to you if they will vote, AOC encouraged viewers to discuss creating plans to vote. This motivates individuals to actually think about when they’re going to vote and what for.
Of course, some thought Ocasio-Cortez couldn’t simply have a fun time on Twitch to encourage voting. Opposers took to Tik Tok and Twitter to criticize her for being unprofessional or for wasting her time on games. AOC’s opposers seem to have missed that she did this get-out-the-vote effort entirely on her own time and dismissed the fact that she had fun while doing so. AOC is unfairly being held to a higher standard where she is not allowed to take a break or have some fun every once in a while, especially during a time where millions are cut off from each other because of COVID-19.
The focus of her stream was dedicated to voting, yet many criticized her on other issues. One viewer in particular asked why she wasn’t pushing for a stimulus instead of playing games. In reality, Ocasio-Cortez has pushed for a stimulus, but passing such a package is dependent on a majority in Congress, not solely up to her. It seems that no matter what AOC does, it just isn’t enough for her critics.
Whether Ocasio-Cortez is using this platform to encourage voting or not, she should still be able to spend her free time how she chooses. Though she’s a representative, she’s still human. She deserves the ability to take some time off work and play a video game if she pleases. President Trump constantly takes frequent trips to play golf for no other reason than to simply enjoy himself. If he can do that, then AOC should be able to connect with voters through Among Us, shouldn’t she? Perhaps AOC is being unfairly criticized because of the negative sentiment associated with video games and other youth platforms, while golf as a more traditional hobby in older demographics is accepted by mainstream politics. However, as younger people get more involved in politics, it is important to engage with them in a way that both motivates and accepts them.
AOC bridges politics to the youth. As a former bartender, she understands the lives of working-class individuals and aims to represent the people’s needs. Unlike some politicians who constantly try to portray a certain image through a diplomatic facade, AOC isn’t afraid to show what she stands for. With this stream, Ocasio-Cortez encourages voter engagement and gives young people a new outlook on politics.
Jacqueline Nguyen is an Opinion Intern for the 2020 Fall Quarter. She can be reached at email@example.com.