As you probably know by now, the Democrats managed to flip the House of Representatives on Tuesday. They fell short of achieving some of their wildest blue wave fever dreams, in the disappointing defeats of Beto O’Rourke, Andrew Gillum, Stacey Abrams, and a handful of others. But considering the gerrymandering and widespread voter suppression, notably Georgia’s Brian Kemp being able to oversee his own election in a district where voter ID laws are so strict that Kemp’s own voter ID card was initially tagged invalid (which, if this were a movie, would’ve been the moment where everyone realized the jig was up and good prevailed)… the Dems did pretty well.
The deck was stacked against them and we all knew it. Still, they managed a national popular vote margin of +9.2%, the largest since 2008. Meanwhile, in Florida, a state that Republicans swept, voters approved an amendment to give the vote back to more than a million people with prior convictions for felonies — a group that had previously encompassed 17.9% of the total black voting age population. And this in a state where most of the races are being decided by less than 100,000 votes. Which is to say, it might have swung the election, and could swing future ones.
Likewise, Maryland and Nevada passed measures to allow for automatic and same-day voter registration. Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, and Utah took steps to take the drawing of district lines out of the hands of partisan state legislatures.
Meanwhile, voters in deep red states like Idaho and Utah voted to expand Medicaid, proving something we already knew — that public healthcare is more popular than any politician. A recent poll showed 70% of Americans in favor of Medicare for all, including 52% of Republicans. It is the very definition of “a winning issue.”
All of which is to say… there’s reason not to be too disappointed. It’s probably not enough to save us from the most dire of climate change predictions or the march of global fascism, but, you know, we did get a few tiny crumbs of hope. And hopefully, strong leadership would be able to build on some of it. So what did the actual current leadership have to say?
“We believe that we have a responsibility to seek common ground where we can,” Pelosi said Wednesday afternoon. “Openness and transparency, accountability [and] bipartisanship [are] a very important part of how we will go forward.”
Ah yes, “common ground” and “bipartisanship.” That was why we all came out to vote, right? That’s why the second frame of the “voting in 2016 vs. voting in 2018” meme always showed a character in the 2018 picture reaching across the aisle to shake hands.
Of course, Pelosi delivered this message after Trump had sent troops to the border to “defend” America from an imaginary “invasion” threat days before the election and aired a racist commercial about a Mexican cop killer that wasn’t even true during Sunday Night Football. They’re not even dog-whistling anymore. They’re not even pretending to dog whistle. And you’re preaching compromise? Pelosi and the Dem leadership have never been particularly bold, but this feels like a new low of tone deafness, even for them.
“Did you watch tonight? I sent United States military to our border. And I looked at those young, great people and I looked at those generals giving the orders, and I looked at the way they worked and I watched that barbed wire being put down. Barbed wire,” Trump told a crowd in Pensacola, where he was revving up voters ahead of Tuesday’s midterm elections.
PELOSI, less than a week later:
Democrats “do not intend to abandon or relinquish” their investigative and oversight responsibilities when their majority is seated in the new Congress in January, she told reporters. “This doesn’t mean we’ll go look for a fight, but when we see the need to go forward, we will.” [emphasis mine]
You’re not looking for a fight? Lady, the fight’s already here.
You’d have to be blind not to acknowledge it. The president is bragging about barbed wire. He’s saying things like “it’s a little suspicious how those caravans are starting” barely a week after a white supremacist killed 11 people in a synagogue because he was convinced George Soros and “The Jews” were helping diseased brown criminals invade the country. It was one thing when Democrats couldn’t stand up to him. We almost expect them to fold eventually. Now Nancy Pelosi can’t even promise to fight.
Trump once again did a great job inflaming anti-immigrant sentiment for the 23% of the country who said immigration was the biggest issue facing America. Meanwhile, 40% said it was healthcare. For those folks, Pelosi offered up more red meat for the base.
“Let’s hear it more for pre-existing medical conditions!” she yelled in an already famous gaffe.
With all the momentum from this election, the Democrats can’t afford more of this kind of leadership. They’ve long seemed spineless, now they don’t even seem to be able to read the writing on the wall. It couldn’t be more obvious that Trump is deeply unpopular and that Medicare-for-all is a winning issue — one that the Republicans have no answer for. And yet the supposed and presumptive candidate for leader of the opposition party can’t even say “Medicare for all,” let alone “impeachment.”
This leadership literally thinks “pre-existing conditions” is an effective rallying cry, unable to even distinguish between rallying cries and disappointing compromises anymore. And this in what was essentially a victory lap! Pelosi can’t even inspire us to dream of anything better than the status quo and market-based compromises. The old guard Democratic leadership is where enthusiasm goes to die. (Meanwhile, the top Democrat in the Senate, which the Democrats still don’t control, Charles Schumer, is just as hopelessly out of touch and essentially useless.)
Trump is a bully, and more and more, a dangerous one. He spent the morning calling a reporter un-American and fired his attorney general in the afternoon, presumably in the hopes of strong-arming the Mueller investigation. His entire MO is to flout laws and norms and dare anyone to stop him. His “business” career has been characterized by exactly the same thing. Voters, and armies of volunteers, just turned out in record numbers, so inspired by the idea that someone, anyone might stand up to him. And now the supposed leader of this resistance party has come out hard in favor of… “the bipartisan marketplace of ideas.”
For the love of God, no. We can’t even have ideas without market-based compromises. Whoever wrote that speech should be excommunicated from the party, have their lanyards melted down and their laptop confiscated. It’s mealy-mouthed pre-surrenders like that got us stacked behind this deck to begin with.
The Democrats just sent a slew of new faces to Congress, including a record number of women, the first Muslim women, the youngest-ever woman, and hell, even an ex-MMA fighter. It’s not as if they lack for new blood. It’s time to use some of it. Pelosi and the old guard need to step aside and let some of the new, younger voices lead the party before they doom us all.