Jul 29, 2021
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Last week, conservative political pundit Ben Shapiro challenged Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, ,the 28-year-old Democratic Congressional candidate, to a debate. The challenge was so important to Shapiro that he offered to donate $10,000 to her campaign or a charity of her choice. Ocasio-Cortez refused to debate Shapiro and thus began a battle royale on social media.

It’s a shame, because such an event would be an interesting match. Even though they are both young and rising stars, the two could not be more diametrically opposed. Thirty-four year-old Shapiro is a strident republican and conservative. An Orthodox Jew from Los Angeles, he graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School. Though he did not support Donald Trump in the last elections, Shapiro was a sharp critic of Hillary Clinton, frequently referring to her as “the worst candidate in history.” He was even more critical of Bernie Sanders’ platform of social reform. Shapiro is a strong supporter of Israel and his wife is Israeli.

Ocasio -Cortez is of Puerto Rican descent and was raised in the Bronx. She worked as a campaign organizer for Bernie Sanders’ unsuccessful presidential bid and is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America. She supports progressive policies such as Medicare for All, a job guarantee, tuition-free public college, ending the privatization of prisons, and enacting gun-control policies; all of which Shapiro opposes. She has stated that she supports the impeachment of President Trump and abolishing the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE). In addition, she has already established herself as a harsh critic of Israel, referring to the IDF shooting Hamas terrorists attempting to cross the Gaza border fence  as a “massacre.”

Last Wednesday, Shapiro challenged Ocasio-Cortez via twitter, noting that she has been called “the future of the Democratic Party.” He cited claims by Ocasio-Cortez that Republicans were afraid to debate her.

She responded via twitter, comparing the challenge to an unsavory sexual proposition.

Shapiro did not take kindly to the accusation of impropriety and this led to a twitter storm of  sharp responses.

“Discussion and debate are not ‘bad intentions,’” he wrote in one tweet. “Slandering someone as a sexist catcaller without reason or evidence does demonstrate cowardice and bad intent, however.”

In a phone interview with the New York Times, Shapiro denied there was anything sexist about his offer.

“I would offer Bernie Sanders $50,000 to debate, absolutely,” he said, referring to the Vermont senator. “What in the world does this have to do with her being a woman?”

The exchange has led to open debate on social media with sharply divided opinions, with Ocasio-Cortez supporters noting that she has no obligation to debate a non-politician. Many have criticized her response as unfair, ascribing sexist intent to Shapiro’s straightforward challenge. It is interesting to note that Elle published an article about the challenge. Despite the anti-Shapiro bent of the article, a survey showed that 87 percent of respondents felt she “missed the mark when she compared Shapiro’s invitation to catcalling.”

Ocasio-Cortez’ refusal to debate is an ironic turnaround. A newcomer to politics, her upset victory in the primaries over Democratic incumbent Joe Crowley came after he refused to debate her on several occasions, sending a surrogate in one specific instance. Ocasio-Cortez felt face-to-face debates were such an important part of the democratic process that she went to his office to throw down the gauntlet in person.

Shapiro’s challenge comes after many articles on his website, The Daily Wire, have questioned Ocasio-Cortez’ public speaking abilities. He challenged her claim made during a recent interview on Pod Save America in which she said the Democratic party had made a tactical error in focusing on the upper-middle class.

“The upper middle class is probably more moderate but that upper middle class does not exist anymore in America,” she said.

Shapiro cited statistics, saying her claim “should come as a shock to the millions of members of the upper middle class in America, the fastest-growing class in America for decades.”

In another Pod Save America, Ocasio-Cortez was asked how the government would pay for the social programs she advocated. In an article about the interview, Shapiro described her answer as “two minutes of complete babbling” which he summed up in two words: “Um-what?”

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In another article, Shapiro challenged her claim that the cost of socialized medicine could be offset by the savings on funerals.

“And we’re also not talking about why we aren’t incorporating the cost of all the funeral expenses of those who die because they can’t afford access to health care,” Ocasio-Cortez said in an interview with CNN. “That is part of the cost of our system.”

Shapiro dubbed that the “strangest reason ever why socialized medicine is cheaper.”

Shapiro has dedicated many articles to the growing list of Ocasio-Cortez’ speaking gaffes. Ocasio-Cortez, for her part, does not appreciate being criticized and feels it is a sexist attempt to silence her entirely.

It seems clear that were Ocasio-Cortez to accept Shapiro’s challenge, he would be a formidable opponent. Not only is Shapiro an attorney, he has spoken at hundreds of colleges where he is a high-profile target for the extreme-left. He testified before Congress about the sorry state of free-speech on campus  and has defended right-wing talking points on television.

In any case, Shapiro’s debate offer would cause more trouble for Ocasio-Cortez than it is worth. According to OpenSecrets.org, new regulations cap 2018 individual campaign contributions to candidates at $5,000.