I’ll say this for Nancy Pelosi; love her, hate her; agree with her, disagree with her, she’s no pushover. Unlike Paul Ryan and John Boehner, who couldn’t run a wet dream, this Speaker of the House knows how to run her caucus. And she doesn’t take shit from anybody.
Case in point, “The Squad,” a group of seven freshmen members of Congress – Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ilhan Omar, Raúl Grijalva, Ro Khanna, Ayanna Pressley, and Pramila Jayapal – who since they were sworn into office this past January, have butted heads numerous times with Party leadership.
They have espoused policies and proposals that are not popular with a majority of Americans, such as the Green New Deal, and have been contemptuous of rank and file Democrats, to the extent that there have been threats that those who don’t support their progressive agenda could face primary challenges next year.
From the sit in stunt by Ocasio-Cortez in Pelosi’s office to the anti-semitic memes by Omar, it was clear that these freshmen members were looking to stir the pot, and Pelosi, to her credit, bided her time. That is until Ocasio-Cortez’s chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti took to Twitter to attack Sharice Davids of Kansas.
“I don’t think people have to be personally racist to enable a racist system. And the Same could be said of the Southern Democrats. I don’t believe Sharice is a racist person, but her votes are showing her to enable a racist system.”
One of those votes that Chakrabarti is referring to was the one that allowed a bi-partisan Senate bill to pass the House that provided for emergency border aid. Many progressives did not like the bill because it didn’t place enough restrictions on the Trump Administration. Chakrabarti went after the moderates who voted for it by calling them the “new Southern Democrats, hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s.”
That, apparently, was the last straw for Pelosi. She had had enough. Comparing moderate Democrats to the segregationists of the mid-twentieth century was a bridge too far for the Speaker. In a closed-door meeting with her members she told them to stop airing their grievances in public. “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.”
Ocasio-Cortez, however, didn’t get the hint. In an interview with the Washington Post she said that Pelosi was “singling out newly elected women of color.” But the Speaker was having none of that. She shot back by saying, “We respect the value of every member of our caucus. The diversity of it all is a wonderful thing. Diversity is our strength. Unity is our power. And we have a big fight, and we’re in the arena and that’s all I’m going to say on the subject.”
While I’m impressed that Pelosi is finally standing up to these freshmen members, what impresses me even more is that a large percentage of rank and file Democrats have apparently decided to make their voices heard loud and clear. Soon after Chakrabarti’s tweet on Sharice Davids, the House Democrats twitter account issued the following statement:
Who is this guy and why is he explicitly singling out a Native American woman of color? Her name is Congresswoman Davids, not Sharice. She is a phenomenal new member who flipped a red seat blue.
Terri Sewell, a New Democrat who is one of several moderate African Americans representing a Southern district, was also offended by Chakrarti's tweet. "To even insinuate that I, or any other member of the New Dems, would promote policies that are racist and hateful or ones that would negatively impact communities of color is deeply offensive and couldn’t be further from the truth."
The good news for Pelosi and Democrats in general is that AOC and her “squad” do not represent the majority of the Party. Unlike the Tea Party uprising of 2010 that ostensibly seized control of the GOP, there doesn’t appear to be anything on the horizon that could pose a similar threat to Democrats. In fact, the overreach by these members has had the opposite effect of galvanizing support for leadership. Most House Democrats know full well the difficult job Pelosi has and are contemptuous of anything or anyone that would threaten the Party’s chances in 2020.
Look, I have publicly disagreed with Pelosi on her decision not to move forward with an impeachment inquiry against Trump. I think she is drawing the wrong conclusion from history by delaying, and this tactical error on her part will inevitably box Democrats into a corner in which they will not have enough time and resources to conduct a thorough investigation into the Administration.
That being said, I give her full marks for finally speaking out against this mounting insurrection within her ranks. It was about time she put them in their place and showed everyone who’s boss. The fact is that the reason Democrats hold the majority in the House is because they flipped a lot of red seats blue. The candidates who won those races were anything but progressive and if they expect to hold onto those seats they will have to make a compelling argument that resonates with voters in those districts. What works in the Bronx doesn’t necessarily work in Kansas.
The vast majority of Pelosi’s caucus understands this, and that’s the biggest reason why they have her back. It’s also why this Speaker, unlike her predecessors, is no one to be trifled with.