A bad trend is developing and it needs to stop, please.
In recent primaries, Democrats running for Congress in traditionally Republican-held districts have deemed it advantageous to run against one of their own — Nancy Pelosi, the Democrat who’s now House minority leader and formerly its Speaker.
This tactic worked for Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania in April and, more recently, for Dan McCready in North Carolina. Both ran center-right campaigns, focusing on local issues rather than “nationalizing” their race — that is, pointedly not running against Donald Trump. Yet both made an exception and nationalized their race in this insidious way: Both vowed not to support Pelosi for Speaker if Democrats retake the House in November.
And featured last week in The New York Times, more of the same: Congressional candidate Clarke Tucker in Arkansas “signals misgivings about Nancy Pelosi” as the next House Speaker.
As an act of political cannibalism, ingratitude, misplaced allegiance, cowardice, and, yes, misogyny, this tactic needs to stop before it causes serious damage to the bright prospects for Democrats in the fall.
About the political cannibalism: It’s not hard to make the case that Pelosi may have been the most successful Speaker in modern times. She was the prime force behind enactment of Pres. Barack Obama’s healthcare law, wrangling the votes to get this historic bill passed; moreover she marshaled 100% of the Democratic caucus to defend the law against the Republicans’ drive to repeal it last year. Pelosi also was the force behind passage of the Dodd-Frank Act in the aftermath of the ’08 financial crash. This powerful progressive leader deserves defending, not subversion.
About the ingratitude: It’s also not hard to make the case that, in terms of tangible service to the Democratic party, Nancy Pelosi has few peers. As its star fundraiser, Pelosi, since she entered the Democratic leadership in 2002, has as of April of this year raised $659.6 million — which millions of course go to campaigns of Democratic candidates like….Lamb, McCready, and Tucker.
About the misplaced allegiance: How is it possible that Republicans, incumbents and candidates alike, are increasingly embracing our incompetent clown of a president, Donald Trump, while Democrats disavow a peerless legislator and national leader like Nancy Pelosi? Republicans, always sticklers for loyalty, are one by one pledging fealty to Trump, even though Trump admires autocrats (like China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladimir Putin) more than democratic leaders and even though, as to party loyalty, he shows none at all, in fact has basically destroyed the modern GOP. Meanwhile Democrats, showing little loyalty themselves, turn on Pelosi. Sad.
About the cowardice: Nancy Pelosi has long been a favorite bogeyman of the Republicans, who pillory her as a hated “super-liberal,” overlooking the fact that her San Francisco district is indeed a liberal stronghold and, as she’s been serving it since 1987, her constituency clearly deems her a fit representative. Come on, Dems, how about showing some spine and puncturing that bogeyman? At the very least, Democratic candidates for Congress, instead of attacking Pelosi, should waive off the question about allegiance to her and treat it as “hypothetical,” the standard response when a politician wants to duck a question; after all, electing a Speaker is an internal matter and will involve them only if they win their race and join the Congressional club.
About the misogyny: Hard to quantify but, if you’re a woman, easy to detect. The virulent misogyny let loose at Hillary Clinton in her presidential campaign continues to exert its influence, now against the bogeyman — bogeywoman? — Pelosi. Who knows how it works: Is it a tacit, wink-wink agreement between candidate and voter that, if you vote for me, you won’t have that harridan Pelosi in your life anymore? However it works, running against Pelosi has worked thus far to the benefit of — well, what do you know! — men, and white men at that (see above). With the #MeToo movement banging the drum so loudly in this moment, the wise candidate would think twice about sounding even vaguely anti-woman.
For all these reasons, Democrats need to rethink their attacks on one of their own, Nancy Pelosi. And the commentariat might rethink the anti-Pelosi meme, too (also here). Even the estimable Frank Bruni, the New York Times columnist than whom no one has a keener sense of inequity, failed to question this meme in a recent interview with candidate McCready, in a column titled “Renounce Pelosi, Ignore Donald Trump — and Win?” The question was left dangling: Yes, winning seems to require renouncing Pelosi and ignoring Trump.
Again, in tough races in traditionally Republican-controlled districts, some of which Democrats will need to pick up to retake the House, it is no doubt wise to run principally on local issues and campaign to the center-right. But if forced to nationalize the race, for heaven’s sake, quit the unfriendly fire on Nancy Pelosi and quit the phony politesse of ignoring Donald Trump. Attack, attack, attack! Talk about a truly deserving target.