By FROMA HARROP, Special to the Star
It was certainly no slip of the tongue when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi cut a small group of her party’s radicals to size. “All these people have the public whatever and their Twitter world,” she told The New York Times. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people, and that’s how many votes they got.”
The issue at hand was the $4.6 billion border bill passed by Congress.
The “squad” — Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib and Ayanna Pressley — considered it inadequate for protecting migrant children. Pelosi argued that it was the strongest bill they could get passed.
It was totally predictable that the four would go bananas over this questioning of their real power. Pelosi had stuck a pin in their balloon of self-importance, and with it, the myth of their immense following — outside Twitter, that is.
Speaking in their defense, Hillary Clinton’s former spokesman Brian Fallon said, “Those freshman members are breaking through, and they’re building a movement, and the more power that movement gains, the more persuasive they will be to Pelosi.” OK, Brian, when they have eight members, give us a ring.
But even if their number were to double to eight, the squad would still be a small fraction of the House’s 235-member Democratic caucus. Some 30 of the newly elected Democrats took seats in Republican-leaning districts, which is where the party’s “energy” really is. What’s the big deal about winning in totally safe Democratic districts?
Of course, every Democratic member has the right to dissent or challenge what he or she sees as party orthodoxy. But Pelosi seems to be drawing the line at posturing considered poisonous to the party’s prospects. That would include proposals seen as encouraging illegal immigration and nonstop appeals to ethnic and racial identity.
Still more aggravating are their threats to “primary” Democrats they do not deem to be sufficiently obedient. (For all their obsession with diversity, some of the squad’s targets are black and Latino representatives.) If these women are so unhappy with the Democratic Party, why don’t they leave and run for reelection as democratic socialists? But they would never do that. For all their pitching of socialism — whatever they mean by that — they know that they can’t win on the democratic socialist line. (Note how Sen. Bernie Sanders routinely slips in and out of Democratic affiliation to ensure that when it’s time to vote, there’s a D after his name.) Working against efforts to contain these egos is a branch of the liberal media that inflates the importance of their every mood swing. To these reporters, all the important stuff happens on Twitter, which makes their jobs extremely easy. And if the attention-seeking tweets inflame the folks at Fox News, so much the better. Meanwhile, the hard work of other Democrats goes unnoticed.
Bear in mind that almost all these Democrats qualify as progressives. The characterization of these conflicts as liberals versus conservative moderates is lazy and unsophisticated. Until recently, Republicans portrayed Pelosi as a wild-eyed liberal from San Francisco. Her views have not radically changed.
Democrats have an opportunity in 2020 to bring home independents, never-Trumpers and no-longer-Trumpers. In doing so, they may be forced to choose between these new potential Democratic voters and appeasing some on the radical left.
That may risk another leftist attempt at sabotage similar to the Ralph Nader debacle in 2000. Back then, the left was so dissatisfied with the Democratic candidate, that famous right-winger Al Gore, it sent enough votes to Nader to hand the election to George W. Bush.
Now is the time to tell the furious four to play fair or go pound sand. Stay strong, Speaker Pelosi. American civilization is at stake.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @ FromaHarrop.
She can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.