Screenshot: MSNBC

Between President Trump struggling to read his racist bile off the teleprompter in the Oval Office and a stultifying “rebuttal” by our leading Democratic crypt keepers, Sen. Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, you would think that being past retirement age with brain fluid slowly leaking out of your ears is a requirement for public office.

Schumer and Pelosi may be on the right side, but their speech was perfunctory at absolute best, and harmful at worst. Schumer even admitted that the Democrats agree with Trump on the need for “stronger border security.” Their total lack of energy, along with their stern expressions and the comically small podium, looked depressingly like a political movement in decline. Over on Facebook, even the often riled-up Sen. Bernie Sanders looked and sounded exhausted.

Thankfully, someone in our government is still a living, breathing human being. Yes, we’re talking about the dancing menace, the nightmare of GOP tweeters, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who tore down Trump’s fear-mongering over the invented “border crisis” in her first appearance on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show, bringing desperately-needed charisma to the fight over the government shutdown and border wall funding.

On Maddow, the new Congresswoman was fiery, angry, and pointed.

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“The one thing Trump has not talked about is that he has systematically engaged in the violation of international human rights on our border,” Ocasio-Cortez said. She went on to talk about the child who died in ICE custody on Christmas and the freezing holding cells—known as hieleras—where many detained immigrants are kept.

“The president shouldn’t be asking for more money for an agency that has systematically violated human rights,” she continued. “He should really be defending why we are funding such an agency at all.”

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Ocasio-Cortez also disputed the notion that most undocumented people in the U.S. cross the border illegally. Instead, she said, visa overstays are the biggest source of undocumented immigrants. And, she added, the more Trump restricts legal immigration, the bigger this problem will get.

“He’s fighting against almost every legal way people can enter this country, forcing them to become undocumented,” she told Maddow. “And then he’s trying to attack their undocumented status. It is systematic, it is wrong, and it is anti-American.”

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“These women and children who are coming here with nothing but the shirts on their backs... are acting more in the American tradition than this president right now,” she added.

Finally! Someone who isn’t so beaten down and warped by decades of bending to the will of donors and lobbyists that they can’t even take a stand on something as utterly absurd as “stronger border security” to put down a manufactured crisis.

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AOC’s youth and vitality matters, but her message is even more important. Nancy and Chuck would never support something as radical as defunding ICE on their own. During the Obama administration, they never uttered peep about his record numbers of deportations. To them, this issue is politics, a way to fight Trump and regain control. To AOC—a young Latinx woman with family and friends in the most diverse city in the country—immigration policy isn’t abstract. It’s a matter of life or death.