In 2018, Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, proudly embracing the label of "Democratic Socialist."
In the years since, the Congresswoman—colloquially known as "AOC"—has become a favorite enemy of the far-right due to her progressive stances on immigration, climate policy, universal healthcare, and other issues.
A recent Reuters report spotlighted an increase in payments of $1.4 million from AOC's campaign to Financial Innovations—the firm in charge of the Congresswoman's online merchandise, signaling a heavy investment in shirts and other paraphernalia featuring her image in slogans in hopes of a return on fundraising.
Conservatives leapt to accuse AOC of hypocrisy, conflating commerce alone—which has existed in some form for thousands of years—to capitalism, a pattern of commerce in which virtually all goods and industries—even those needed for survival—are privatized for profit and granted broad exemptions from federal regulation. A defining aspect of capitalism is widening the gap between a corporation's costs—including the cost of labor paid to its workers—and the profits granted to its owners and shareholders.
Former President Donald Trump's first White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, missed these nuances, accusing AOC of "using capitalism to push socialism".
using capitalism to push socialism Branding the U.S. left: @AOC makes a push into political merchandise https://t.co/ZgyI18ksHq— Sean Spicer (@Sean Spicer) 1626697184.0
Ocasio-Cortez, who graduated cum laude with an economics degree from Boston University—highlighted this difference to Spicer, while noting her store is "unionized, doesn't operate for profit," and is used to fund mutual aid programs like tutoring, organizing, and food pantries.
Not sure if you know this Sean, but transactions aren’t capitalism. Capitalism is a system that prioritizes profit… https://t.co/jAika1i7vD— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) 1626739024.0
Spicer soon responded, falsely suggesting that any exchange of goods between private individuals or entities is exclusive to capitalism.
He then asked her to appear on his show, which is broadcast by the far-right disinformation outlet Newsmax.
Thanks 4 the reply: 1. actually the definition of capitalism is based in private (not gov) ownership 2. I think u h… https://t.co/UqPBlX4PP3— Sean Spicer (@Sean Spicer) 1626784046.0
Spicer's critics pushed back against his characterization.
This just in: buying/selling things = capitalism As we all know, transactions don’t exist in socialist countries https://t.co/DVUue04Tb4— Matthew Burkhart (@Matthew Burkhart) 1626790519.0
How do you consistently lie for a living? Or are you just too lazy to research your statements? @AOC keeps embarras… https://t.co/BBGo1AhDpn— tripgreat (@tripgreat) 1626787519.0
if engaging in any sort of business transaction makes you a capitalist, does working for the government make you a… https://t.co/iU8lTsuxXa— Armand Domalewski (@Armand Domalewski) 1626742963.0
My favorite brand of moronic commentary is when people are unbelievably stupid enough to think that “capitalism” is… https://t.co/eniZq7f1SG— Chris Lipe (@Chris Lipe) 1626795288.0
When are people going to learn that selling something doesn't automatically make it capitalism? You seem concerned… https://t.co/GuRnMBgB8v— Jatavius (@Jatavius) 1626787240.0
Spicer's tweet inadvertently further promoted AOC's merchandise.
@seanspicer @AOC Thanks for the free ad. Will be sure to check out the merch, which I wouldn't have known about but… https://t.co/0kTyiOukUz— Slymm Pickens (@Slymm Pickens) 1626698527.0
@seanspicer @AOC Wow thanks for alerting me to AOCs business! Can’t wait to buy her merchandise!— Donna Dicesare (@Donna Dicesare) 1626739687.0
@seanspicer @AOC I wasn’t aware she had an online store.... Thanks! going to check it out now— Jacki (@Jacki) 1626698065.0