Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has a strenuous task: to keep President Donald Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ala.) and members of her own party at bay while her Democratic majority chamber attempts to put workable legislation through a divided government.
Recently, she has clashed with “The Squad” - Progressive Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) - over the House of Representatives’ initial border aid bill.
The Squad had been the only four members of the House to oppose the bill, justifying their no-votes by claiming they did not trust the Trump administration to administer the aid - as it could be diverted toward immigration enforcement. This original House bill, which was defeated and overshadowed by the Senate, stipulated how the money could be spent and demanded standards of care at migrant centers.
Pelosi argued in an interview with New York Times Opinion Columnist Maureen Dowd that they "have their public whatever and their Twitter world, but they didn't have any following. They're four people and that's how many votes they got."
This was met with Ocasio-Cortez’s response via Twitter:
But public clapbacks such as this distract from the Democratic caucus’ efforts to give meaningful aid to those on the border. What is happening on the border is a humanitarian crisis, and Democrats should use their majority in the House to address it. Having a progressive bloc refuse to join the rest of the Democrats on this measure to flex their progressive muscle is counterproductive. Some view it as an implicit statement of “my way or the highway” - “my way” being to abolish ICE, something that is arguably not expedient - when at least some reform could be given.
"We were protecting the children,” Pelosi said of those who voted “yes” on the initial House appropriations bill. “Overwhelmingly, our caucus voted to protect the children -- our blue dogs, our moderates and all the rest voted to protect the children."
It’s important to note that Democrats don’t often differ in ideology as much as they do in strategy, and such is the case with the border aid bill. To Pelosi, the task was to craft legislation which appeals to the broadest swath of Democrats. To The Squad, as freshman members of the legislature, the task was to be outspoken progressives. These inevitably clash, especially when a majority of The Squad’s colleagues in this freshman class are swing-district moderates.
Pelosi has also taken heat over her strategic but tacit refusal to bring impeachment articles against President Trump. She, like many establishment Democrats, believes the best way to remove him from office is to defeat him in the 2020 election. But as the party lunges toward the left, especially on the presidential stage with talks of abolishing private health insurance and decriminalizing illegal border crossings, Democratic leaders like Pelosi fear that this movement could jeopardize that potential victory over Trump.
In my view, the loudest voices in the Democratic party are those pushing it to the left, which may have electoral consequences. As was shown in the debates, standing out requires big promises in a race to the left. This could spell danger for moderate Democrats running in vulnerable districts who are often pressured to embrace the presidential candidate’s platform - a platform potentially not suitable for that district. This cycle, not being “left enough” can be devastating for a Democratic leader or presidential candidate, and being “too left” can be devastating for the electoral majority Democrats are working towards in the legislature.
“If the left doesn’t think I’m left enough, so be it,” Pelosi said in that controversial interview for the Times. “As I say to these people, come to my basement. I have these signs about single-payer from 30 years ago. I understand what they’re saying. But we have a responsibility to get something done, which is different from advocacy. We have to have a solution, not just a Twitter fight.”
I agree with Pelosi about working towards tangible solutions, and fear pushback and litmus tests from the more progressive wing of the party could cost us gaining/sustaining majorities and the presidency in November of 2020. Being an advocate and bringing change are neither interchangeable nor mutually exclusive, but fights within the Democratic party over strategy may be the party’s downfall.