Be careful if you ever notice the political pundit class settling on a big, broad-sweeping media consensus- regardless of the subject. If they do, you can bet your last money that they will all be proven dead wrong. In case you need a very painful reminder, the last time there was such a big, broad-sweeping media consensus about something, it was that Hillary Clinton was about to cake-walk to the presidency. We all know how that worked out. Lately the big, broad-sweeping media consensus has been that Nancy Pelosi is some kind of a political zen-master- a strategic savant that shall not be questioned or challenged by the rest of us mere mortals. This is true even if the mortals questioning or challenging her also happen to be duly elected members of the United States House of Representatives. You hear this one a lot on MSNBC and CNN panels: “I am certainly not going to questions Nancy Pelosi’s skills or record as Speaker, but…” and it is pure b.s. media myth making at its worst.
The truth is that Nancy Pelosi should have been questioned and challenged a long time ago. Massachusetts Congressman Seth Moulton took all kinds of incoming fire for even suggesting that the Democrats consider alternative leadership when they won back the House in 2018. Conventional wisdom was that Seth was just an entitled young white guy trying to undermine a woman. “If not Nancy, then who!?” they chided Seth. The media and even most of his colleagues dismissed his basic concern that the Democrats should seriously deliberate about who and what they needed to steer the party through the most volatile Congress in a half-century. But they didn’t bother. It was just too convenient to suggest that Seth was ageist and sexist and move on.
It turns out Seth Moulton was right and the entire caucus owes him an engraved apology. The way that the Democrats have performed under her muddled leadership and mixed-up messaging over the last few months totally vindicates Seth’s position. The political theater that was the Bob Mueller testimony sealed the deal: the Democrats are dead and it is more than fair to assign the lion’s share of the blame to Nancy Pelosi because she is the leader. There is nothing wrong with being a nearly 80 year old woman in a high pressure, high risk, leadership position in a hot combat zone. You just can’t perform like an 80 year old woman and Speaker Pelosi has done exactly that. Is that ageist or sexist? Maybe. But is it the truth? ABSOLUTELY. Please do not pretend that the very sight of Nancy Pelosi standing at a lectern waving her skinny arms around does not make you feel deflated and defeated. We both know better.
It would be pretty difficult to muck up the Trump counter-offensive worse than Pelosi has. She has played from a position of weakness and projected timidity from the very start of this Congress- except of course when she is taking shots at the young, strong women of conviction that are inside her caucus. For some reason the speaker has no problem getting it up for them. She has continued to manage her messaging to and about the electorate as if the vote of a “working class white Trump voter” counts as 3 votes but the vote of a person of color only counts as 1. Apparently, her entire strategy is built around keeping the House by keeping districts like Orange County, California from flipping back to the Republicans and she figures that snatching Trump’s collar and slapping him around in public will offend those voters.
It is painfully obvious that it never occurred to her that holding Trump accountable- collar snatching and bitch slapping aside- is exactly what those people need to see so they DON’T go back to him in 2020. Worse still, she cannot see that aggressively corralling Trump and curtailing his criminal administration could turn out even more of those voters that Beto awakened in Texas or that Stacy Abrams awakened in Georgia. That lack of vision added to her lack of muscle makes her so weak and ineffective that the Democrats cannot win anything in 2020. Of course the Republicans are so repugnant that they can lose, but the Democrats do not have a winning down-ballot strategy. Why? Because they look about as imposing as a skinny 80 year old woman with shaky speech and bulging eyes. It is not my intention to be cruel but optics matter- especially when they reflect reality.
But Nancy’s biggest problem is not her age, it is who she has always been that has gotten us to where we are right now. This is a time when only a true fighter can meet the moment. And Nancy is not a fighter. She has never had to be a fighter. She is undeniably progressive but that is not enough under the withering assault of Trumpism. The Democrats need to be led by a progressive pugilist and Nancy Pelosi’s punching power can’t break an egg. But I do not blame her for who she is any more than I blame anyone for the circumstance they are born into. She happens to have been a child that walked a protected path of privilege. She walked it well, but any way you want to dice it, her path through life has been one of ease and access. To put a fine point on it, she has had about as much struggle in her life as Ivanka Trump has.
And just like the nauseating queen of Trumpworld, Nancy was born on third base. She just had class. Her father was a powerful politician in Baltimore and her brother followed him to become a big wheel in city politics long before any member of “The Squad” was even born. Because she was born on the inside, Nancy got the opportunities with the right people that put her in the right positions to do the right things to land her exactly where she wanted to be. Marrying into extreme wealth certainly did not hurt the cause.
But I ain’t mad at Nancy for being who she is. I am mad at us for putting her where she is- standing in front of an army of political soldiers ready to fight and holding them back; discouraging them under the false pretense of protecting them. What good is it to hold the House if you can’t pass any laws and you won’t do oversight like you mean it? Any Congressman who is afraid to take a serious vote deserves to lose so protecting them is a foolish priority. If all the Democrats are there for is to keep the most extreme GOP policies from making it through the legislative process then maybe it is time to bag the entire enterprise. Perhaps people will finally wake the hell up when the abject stupidity of the Republican Party bites them on their own asses. In the meantime, let’s see if we can get a real fighter to lead the party and the nation out of the sunken place we have fallen into. I’m all in on Senator Elizabeth Warren these days.
See what I did there?