It’s Up to Nancy Pelosi to Cave In

Image result for Nancy Pelosi AOC How should the Democratic Party resolve its civil conflict between progressives and centrists? Society has a simple rule. When an argument gets out of control, it’s up to the side with the most money, power and social standing to extend an olive branch. Even when kids are wrong, parents must make nice first.

In the workplace, a good boss knows that smoothing her employee’s ruffled feathers is her responsibility.

The same is true about international diplomacy. When a dispute between two nations becomes a crisis there’s a stronger chance of keeping the peace when the bigger, stronger, richer country makes the first concession. (The United States doesn’t see things this way, which leads to many unnecessary wars.)

The vast majority of Democratic voters are self-identified progressives. Left populist progressives like “the Squad”—House Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan—have millions of followers on social media, providing them with outsized influence beyond their status as incoming freshmen.

Yet the party apparatus remains under the control of the same center-right corporatist clique that took over in the 1970s. The DNC is chaired by Tom Perez, a moderate aligned with the Clintons, Rahm Emanuel, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. They control party pursestrings, ballot access, debate invitations and the imprimatur of legitimacy in the media outlets they control, like The New York Times, NPR and MSNBC.

It’s easy to see why establishment Democratic leaders like Pelosi are irritated by upstarts like AOC and “their public whatever and their Twitter world,” as she recently sniped. But Pelosi is 79 years old to AOC’s 29. She’s worth $30 million; AOC has zero savings. As Speaker of the House she has sat in the room watching President Obama blow up people with drone missiles. AOC was tending bar.

Nancy Pelosi is a big girl. And she should act like one.

She should be mending the rift within her party. She should not be picking fights with someone young enough to be her granddaughter. It makes her look small. And it alienates progressive voters. When 72% of your party’s voters are progressives and you’re not progressive yourself, you have to step gingerly if you want to avoid a revolt that topples you from power. If she wants to preserve her and her center-right faction’s control of the party, Pelosi should make amends with AOC’s Squad in word and in deed.

Episodes from opposite sides of the electoral-political spectrum illustrate the foolishness of the Pelosi Democrats’ broadsides against insurgent progressives.

California and national Republicans had been wary of Arnold Schwarzenegger when he entered the wild gubernatorial campaign that followed the 2003 recall of California governor Gray Davis. GOP leaders thought he was too moderate. But Schwarzenegger climbed in the polls, party bosses embraced him and he won.

Faced with rising political stars within their party of whom they initially disapproved, Republican gatekeepers have been remarkably nimble at pivoting to adjust to the popular will expressed by their voters. They wanted Jeb! Bush in 2014 and 2015 but were happy to join the formerly dreaded Team Trump by 2016.

Faced with populist challenges, Democratic bosses stubbornly defend their preselected moderates against populist challenges from the left: Jimmy Carter against Ted Kennedy in 1980, John Kerry against Howard Dean in 2004, Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders in 2016. They’re repeating the pattern now with Joe Biden.

What’s baffling is how the DNC alienates progressives in the general election campaign after it crushes them during the primaries. Uniting the party wouldn’t be hard: have the nominee support some progressive platform planks, pick a progressive as vice president, pledge to include progressives in the cabinet.

Center-right Democrats give progressives no quarter. They’re like Genghis Khan’s army, slaughtering with abandon, salting the fields, nothing left behind.

Hillary embodied this take-no-prisoners approach. After defeating Sanders—by repeatedly, overtly cheating—she offered no quarter. No offer of a veep spot. Even though they were popular with voters she wanted none of his ideas. She refused to hire Sanders’ campaign workers.

It mostly went unnoticed but Obama did the same thing, ignoring the progressive surge of John Edwards’ “two Americas” campaign during the 2008 primaries. Obama’s cabinet didn’t include a single liberal.

Dean and his supporters similarly found themselves left out in the cold after Kerry secured the 2004 nomination.

Considering the fact that snubbing the progressive base rarely works out for Democrats—it failed in 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, 2004 and 2016—you’d think DNC insiders would rethink their strategy. It’s pretty clear that they would rather lose as a center-right party than win as a center-left one.

Pelosi’s open disdain for her party’s newest progressive stars continues this self-defeating tradition.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

 

6 thoughts on “It’s Up to Nancy Pelosi to Cave In

  1. Society has a simple rule. When an argument gets out of control, it’s up to the side with the most money, power and social standing to extend an olive branch.

    Just where have you encountered this «rule», Ted ? From my own experience, I’d say it is those lower on the ladder who are expected to extend an olive branch cave….

    Henri

  2. Re: “Considering the fact that snubbing the progressive base rarely works out for Democrats—it failed in 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, 2004 and 2016—you’d think DNC insiders would rethink their strategy. It’s pretty clear that they would rather lose as a center-right party than win as a center-left one.”

    If this is meant to imply that rank-and-file Dem voters won genuine “center-left” victories in 1992/1996 and 2008/2012, I would have to strenuously object.

    The maxim should go: “DNC insiders would rather lose presidential elections than nominate anyone tainted with the merest sincere intention of advancing progressive ideals.”

    The 92/96 and 08/12 Dem presidential election victories were anything BUT beneficial for “progressive” voters … beyond momentarily being able to holler “our side won!!!”

    Those victories were for the 1% and dutifully delivered by the non-stop, “bi-partisan,” high-level fellators Clinton and Obumma whose “legacies” are nothing more than an, admittedly impressive, lists of VERY satisfied GOP winkies.

    This will continue as long as “progressives” continue to slavishly vote for the nominees of their chronic political abusers, whether the DNC has offered them a flat out Republican (lite?) candidate or has gotten a real chuckle from having slipped them a fraudulent “progressive” poseur.

    The most recent and egregious of these was, again, that truly skillful con man B.H. Obumma: illustrious summa cum laude graduate of the Neville Chamberlain Night School of High-Stakes Negotiation … AND one-man Weimar republic.

  3. > Republican gatekeepers have been remarkably nimble at pivoting

    Yet they wind up facing right back in the same direction as before. Tax cuts for the rich, vilification of the poor, and the destruction of Mother Earth for fun & profit. At least they’re *supposed* to be conservative.

    Entrenched power (e.g. Pelosi) is always conservative. Change may mean that they lose that power.

    Along that line, it’s inevitable that the first female speaker would be moderate to conservative. Those that speak out more are seen as shrill (he’s strong – she’s a bitch, etc.) Hopefully the next one will be a little more on the progressive side.

  4. “Ocasio-Cortez […] Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley […] and Rashida Tlaib […] have millions of followers on social media.”

    And what do they do with that influence?

    “Yet the party apparatus remains under the control of the same center-right corporatist clique that took over in the 1970s.”

    AOC (et al.) have tremendous influence, but can’t get anything done because the old guard still runs everything. Or, another way to put it, they have no power and they never, ever, not ever, nope, never, will be given power by Pelosi, Perez, etc. Unless they are going to launch a coup, they will never get anything done, so we’re right back to the usual holding pattern the dems love.

    Pelosi cares about power. She is not interested, in the least, in being told she’s out of touch or needs to step down because neither is about power. She is given her power by the people who own her, and she does what they tell her to. It is the only thing she does well. Everything else is an awkward, embarrassing fumble; it’s like seeing your grandmother drunk.

    Further, Pelosi doesn’t “have to step gingerly […] ]to avoid a revolt” because the dnc has so effectively divided the party via infighting that a revolt is pretty much impossible, especially when no one’s going to be the one to start the coup.

    “What’s baffling is how the DNC alienates progressives in the general election campaign after it crushes them during the primaries.” I don’t think this is baffling at all. The people who run the democratic party (the “liberals” clutching their NIMBY pearls, the ruthless CEOs who throw people into the woodchipper of “rightsizing” every goddamn day but pretend they’re “good folk” because they have recycling bins in all their offices) don’t want progressives in the political system. No boss wants employees coming to realize they’re human beings. Every boss dreams of running a hong. No one in actual power at the dnc wants the lumpen masses waking up from their misery.

    “Uniting the party wouldn’t be hard: have the nominee support some progressive platform planks, pick a progressive as vice president, pledge to include progressives in the cabinet.” But the party’s controllers don’t want unity. They want to be in control. And they are.

  5. “When 72% of your party’s voters are progressives and you’re not progressive yourself, you have to step gingerly if you want to avoid a revolt that topples you from power.” Exactly why I want her and those like her to keep it up. 🙂 I’ve been saying for the past few years that we simply won’t get real political change in this country until the average person cares, and that won’t happen until Gas & milk are $20/gallon. So vote for the wackiest, most right wing candidates (doesn’t really matter if they are R or D) so that they can destroy the economy and usher in real change when voter revolt finally happens.

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