The Atlantic

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Self-Limiting Revolution

Knock Down the House set out to show an inspiring political movement—but instead revealed its boundaries.
Source: Jeenah Moon / Reuters

The final image of Knock Down the House, the hit documentary about a quartet of 2018 congressional primary candidates, shows Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her boyfriend newly arrived at the east plaza of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C. She has just been elected to Congress, but not yet taken office. They both start to cry; the waterworks run at a low gurgle throughout the movie, and at this point the viewer won’t be alarmed by another eruption.

Suddenly scooters appear, and the couple, with infectious delight, takes off in zigzags across the plaza, which is usually closed to tourists. The image thus combines three elements—Millennials, scooters, and trespassing—that seem designed to make a certain kind of conservative Republican’s head explode. The poor fellow will probably view the film as an exercise in trolling, a giddy, unapologetic version of his worst nightmare.

But it takes two to troll.; some will be inspired. The filmmakers, the wife-and-husband team of Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick, set out to record a political movement at the moment of its creation, and there’s no mistaking the uplift implied by their final shot: Let the word go forth, from this time and content provider (Netflix), that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans, come of age in this century, tempered by two wars, disciplined by piles of student-loan debt, proud of their multicultural heritages. And they will be arriving on scooters.

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from The Atlantic

The Atlantic4 min readPolitics
Trump Takes A Back Seat To Policy At The Democratic Debate
The president dominates every aspect of American politics, but you wouldn’t have known that from watching the first batch of candidates Wednesday night.
The Atlantic5 min readPolitics
America’s Free-Rider Problem In The Strait Of Hormuz
“The United States has not been willing to walk away from the Gulf, so other allies may not step up to do anything because they know that if they don’t, the U.S. will.”
The Atlantic3 min readSociety
How Do Rich Neighborhoods Exist So Close to Poor Ones?
The research of the Harvard economist Raj Chetty shows that the scale of inequality is incredibly small.