Last night, Nancy Pelosi — the happy new 78-year-old Democratic majority leader — made a victory speech about how the new Democratic-led House will differ from the GOP-led one. While it had lots of great parts, she also said Democrats will “strive for bipartisanship … to find a common ground.”
Uhhh, has she met a House Republican lately?
Pelosi’s speech started off by thanking campaign volunteers, stating, “Thanks to you, tomorrow will be a new day in America.”
Then she said, quite accurately, “Today is about more than Democrats and Republicans. It’s about restoring the Constitution’s checks and balances to the Trump administration. It’s about stopping the GOP and Mitch McConnell’s attack on Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, and the health care of 130 million Americans living with pre-existing medical conditions.”
She continued, “It’s about ending wealthy special interests’ free reign over Washington. But more than anything, it’s about what a new Democratic majority will mean in the lives of hardworking Americans. [We will] lower the cost of healthcare by lowering the cost of prescription drugs, raise workers wages with strong economic growth by re-building the infrastructure of America, clean up corruption to make Washington work for all Americans….”
But here’s where things started to turn.
“In stark contrast to the GOP Congress,” she said, “the Democratic Congress will be led with transparency and openness. So that the public can see what’s happening and how it affects them and weigh in…”
Alright… sounds good…
But then, she added, “We will have accountability and we will strive for bipartisanship with fairness on all sides. We will have a responsibility to find a common ground where we can stand our ground where we can’t, but we must try. We have a bipartisan marketplace of ideas that make our democracy strong.”
Okay, let’s stop here for a moment. She does realize in 2017 that 217 House Republicans voted to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act, voting to deny insurance to tens if not hundreds of millions of Americans, right?
And she does realize that only 27 House Republicans voiced any opposition whatsoever to Trump’s zero-tolerance policy of tearing immigrant kids away from their parents at the border, right? That’s 27 out of 240. The 213 other Republicans had nothing to say about tossing kids in jail or forgetting about them.
And she’s aware that in July 2018, Republicans created an infrastructure plan that only addressed roads and completely ignored mass transit, water supplies, waste management, power generation, or telecommunications, right? And even this weaksauce plan went nowhere despite Republicans controlling both houses of Congress.
No to mention, has she heard any House Republicans even mention Trump’s constant rolling back of LGBTQ rights or his attacks on trans people?
And she expects to reach a bipartisan consensus with these people?
Remember how in 2008 newly elected President Barack Obama had a plan to reach a bipartisan consensus with the Republican minority? Remember how that turned out? It blew up in his face and two years later, voters blamed him for not getting anything done even though Republicans branded themselves as “the party of No.”
Pelosi didn’t want to come out last night talking about kicking Republican housemates in the face. And the Democratic Party can’t spend the next two years just trying to impeach Trump and refusing to work with the GOP — it might fire up the base, but Dems lose when they run on an uninspiring platform of “We’re not Trump.”
Rather, Pelosi’s speech makes me worry that the Democratic House leadership lacks backbone or a coherent plan for 2020. In fact, if the House Dems actually lower drug prices and create a coherent infrastructure plan, Trump could always take credit for them, actually undermining Democratic interests in 2020.
That doesn’t mean that House Dems shouldn’t try to legislate positively. Rather, as I said earlier, they should also force votes on issues that on social issues beloved by all Americans — like protecting healthcare and increasing voter access — and then use the GOP’s “no” votes against them to build a serious pro-Democratic case for 2020.
Many of last night’s Democratic candidates won, not by luring Republican voters or promising bipartisanship, but by suggesting bold policies that made their opponents seem disconnected to real people’s needs.
Pelosi should consider stepping aside for a more confrontational leader, one schooled in the political art of war. The new face of the Democratic Party is more diverse and more focused on economic, gender and racial inequality and community improvement.