Thursday, July 11, 2019

She Went There

Vox on Wednesday brought us up-to-date (almost) with the clash between the House Speaker and the gang of four (video below from April before the recent flare-up):

Nancy Pelosi firmly told House Democrats to keep their internal gripes behind closed doors, even as she herself fields backlash for seemingly dismissing her caucus’s progressive firebrands.

“You got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just okay,” Pelosi told lawmakers in a private meeting Tuesday, according to multiple sources in the room.

Pelosi’s comment was directed at progressive House lawmakers, many of whom vocally chided their leadership and moderate colleagues for accepting the Senate’s $4.59 billion supplemental border funding bill in late June, arguing the legislation did not go far enough to improve standards at detention centers. In the end, only four Democrats voted against that piece of legislation: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), Ilhan Omar (MN), Rashida Tlaib (MI), and Ayanna Pressley (MA), the so-called progressive “squad.” But there’s been clear sourness in the caucus since, and that has spilled over publicly.

“I am looking for a new pharmaceutical drug that builds spine,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), a co-chair of the Progressive Caucus, said after the border bill vote. Her co-chair Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) tweeted that a bipartisan group of moderate Republicans and Democrats —dubbed the “Problem Solvers Caucus” — were becoming the “Child Abuse Caucus.”

Pelosi responded to their grievances in public, too. In an interview with the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd, she questioned the actual influence Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib and Pressley, women who have commanded the attention of the Democratic Party with bold policy proposals and a viral internet presence, have in Congress.

“All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi told Dowd. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

Ocasio-Cortez responded on Twitter: “That public ‘whatever’ is called public sentiment.”

And there it should have ended.

But there it didn't, because

“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood,” Ocasio-Cortez told the Post.

“But the persistent singling out … it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color,” she added.

No. She wants Democrats to to continue to control the House of Representatives and if that means degrading Democrats from safe districts, she will degrade Democrats from safe districts, especially if she believes it helps Democratic candidates in swing districts (which it probably doesn't). She wants power because.... because that's what a lot of politicians want.

Pelosi is not singling out "newly elected women of color"/colored women. She is singling out those individuals who voted against the caucus majority on the supplemental border funding bill and actively tweet. "Singling out of newly elected women of color" has the distinct odor of someone who feels entitled.

 The Speaker bears a greater burden of not dividing the caucus because she is the one with the power, and she has failed that test in this dispute, especially by lowering herself to an interview with Maureen Dowd. However, Ocasio-Cortez et al. would do better to emphasize that their loyalty is not to an individual but to their constituents. 

And best of all, to leave out gender and, especially, race. They shouldn't ignore these divisive topics because they are uncivil or hurt feelings. They should steer clear because it simply is not accurate as applied to the Speaker, at least not on this matter.

Pelosi has been acting foolishly lately. But if Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wants to create animosity among Democrats, and toward Democrats from voters, she may have found a truly effective angle.

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