It worked... And a story from AOC's restaurant days
One afternoon around four years ago, the boss at Union Square’s Coffee Shop Bar lined his servers up against a wall and ranked them by attractiveness. He told them the best looking would get the best sections, but one of the servers, 25-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, wasn’t having it.
She stormed out and quit.
It took a charm offensive and a set of apologies from the owners, along with a promise the “contest” would never be repeated, for AOC to agree to come back to work. That anecdote is in my book (We’ve Got People) and was turned into a cool Jezebel article today by Molly Osberg. On Twitter, AOC added something I didn’t know: After I learned of this story from one of her coworkers, I asked her if it was true, and she confirmed that it was. What she added today is that she was nervous about the story becoming public. “What’s wild is that I’m a member of Congress & I STILL found myself pausing at this, scared of possible repercussions of this story being public. Imagine how everyday waitresses feel,” she said.
It was only one year ago today that AOC released her soon-to-be viral campaign ad, a key moment in her primary victory. The Intercept’s Aida Chavez wrote a reflection on the day she spent with her when Ocasio-Cortez was still unheard of, and it’s worth a read.
The book also made news today thanks to a pair of Joe Biden quotes from the 1970s included in it. Here’s one of them: “I do not buy the concept, popular in the ‘60s, which said, ‘We have suppressed the black man for 300 years and the white man is now far ahead in the race for everything our society offers. In order to even the score, we must now give the black man a head start, or even hold the white man back, to even the race. I don’t buy that. I don’t feel responsible for the sins of my father and grandfather. I feel responsible for what the situation is today, for the sins of my own generation. And I’ll be damned if I feel responsible to pay for what happened 300 years ago.”
300 years ago? He said this in the ‘70s, not that long after the Civil Rights Act was passed.
For everybody who bought the book in the first two days, I wanted to let you know your purchase was not strategically in vain (and hopefully you’ll enjoy it too). Here’s why it wasn’t:
The marketing plan for the book was an unusual one, and driven in part by having zero budget for marketing. The strategy, as you’ve seen it unfold, was to launch with some scoops in the book that would drive attention and sales on social media, and then hope that readers of this newsletter would buy it early, creating a surge in the Amazon number, momentum which would then be noticed by cable and radio bookers. That all worked. Robert Mueller screwed up my plan a bit and I got bumped from CNN yesterday, but they re-booked me today. Here’s my segment with Brooke Baldwin, which will hopefully lead to other bookings. But I’m confident it wouldn’t have happened without the surge up the charts, so for that I owe you. (I’ll pay you back by continuing to write this newsletter for free until I just can’t do it anymore.)
The other plan for the book was to try to write one that is compelling and important. We’ll find out soon if I pulled that off.
Some readers have (quite reasonably) asked why I would engage with Amazon at all, given all the harm they do in the world. So here’s why: On one level, their dominance makes them simply unavoidable if you want a book that’s going to have the potential to be read widely. But on another level, I don’t believe that, absent an organized boycott, abstaining for ethical reasons from using a company’s services (as if that were possible with Amazon, which probably does web hosting for almost every independent book store) serves any productive political purpose – and risks ultimately sapping the power of genuine, organized boycotts.
I have no problem whatsoever with someone who chooses to boycott Amazon. Indeed, I avoid it when I can. But unless the action is part of an organized effort, it won’t have political impact, and if you haven’t noticed, that’s where I think the game is. In other words, as long as there are other options for me, I try to choose the non-Amazon option. But if you’re trying to mass-distribute a book, there simply is no other option.
All that said, if you haven’t bought the book yet, you can get it directly through the publisher here.
Better yet, get it through your local bookstore or library. For that, you may need the ISBN, because there are strangely two versions of my book currently listed in Ingram, which is the dominant book wholesaler and the one your local store probably uses. Tell them the 13 digit ISBN is 978-1947492387.
Amazon, sadly, still matters. So if you did buy the book, please leave a five-star review. You can pan it, just make sure to leave those stars.