When she is sworn-in in January, the congresswoman-elect for New York's 14th district will be the youngest woman to ever serve in the legislative branch. As a result of her age, she has received some criticism characterizing her as naive and inexperienced — something which she says represents a double standard. Indeed, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Paul Ryan both won elections at 28, but the future congresswoman believes that people have different opinions about whether or not their youth was an asset.
Ocasio-Cortez highlighted what she says is a double standard between her and Ryan, the outgoing Republican speaker of the House, in a tweet on Dec. 10. In her tweet, Ocasio-Cortez shared a link to a Vox opinion article by Ezra Klein in which the author lamented initially giving Paul Ryan the "benefit of the doubt." In commenting on the link, Ocasio-Cortez expressed indignation at the adulation she believes Ryan was given when he was elected at age 28 compared to the criticism she's received. As Ocasio-Cortez wrote:
Double standards are Paul Ryan being elected at 28 and immediately being given the benefit of his ill-considered policies considered genius; and me winning a primary at 28 to immediately be treated with suspicion & scrutinized, down to my clothing, of being a fraud.
Since she was elected back in November, Ocasio-Cortez has received some criticism regarding everything from her policy knowledge to her appearance. For example, in November 2018, conservative author Eddie Scarry wrote a now-deleted tweet that appeared to accuse Ocasio-Cortez of having an appearance that doesn't match her working class background, Business Insider reported. "Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now," Scarry wrote when sharing the photo. "I'll tell you something: that jacket and coat don't look like a girl who struggles."
The future congresswoman has also been pointedly criticized for her age, with former Florida representative Ron DeSantis once calling her a "girl" during a campaign event in July 2018. As The Cut reported, when speaking with audiences at the event, DeSantis delivered a harsh condemnation of Ocasio-Cortez:
You look at this girl Ocasio-Cortez or whatever she is, I mean, she’s in a totally different universe ... It’s basically socialism wrapped in ignorance.
The congresswoman-elect believes that the criticisms she has received stand in contrast to the way Ryan was perceived when he was elected at age 28. While Ryan was certainly not immune to criticism, he was often perceived by many as a policy wonk. Indeed, a lengthy 2012 profile by Alec MacGillis in The New Republic is entitled, "How Paul Ryan Convinced Washington of His Genius: The Rise of the Philosopher Prince."
The article details how Ryan's intellect was praised when he was elected as a young congressman. "Still, by the time he became a congressman in 1999, Ryan had a command over domestic economic policy that was sorely lacking among many of his House colleagues," MacGillis wrote. "'This is someone who likes to read the underlying rules and regs of Medicare programs!' marveled Joseph Antos of the American Enterprise Institute."
The praise MacGillis details in The New Republic article perhaps offers some insight into what Ocasio-Cortez perceives as a disparity between how she and Ryan have been received by Congress and the broader public. It's certainly clear that the future congresswoman thinks that there is a double standard when it comes to assessing how an elected official's youth will impact their career and prospect for success.