Begala: 'Dump Pelosi' plays right into GOP's hands
Posted June 23
Democrats lost a special election for a congressional seat they have not held in decades, so some are calling for the head of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Huh? Dumping Pelosi, who has devoted her professional life to Democratic values, would be like throwing the captain of your ship overboard when the sharks are circling. It only draws more sharks, but leaves you leaderless.
The "Dump Pelosi" movement shines a light on some of the unloveliest instincts of some Democrats: self-loathing, scapegoating and a desire for quick fixes, rather than hard work.
Sure, Pelosi is unpopular, but compared to what? After tens of millions of dollars of negative ads over many years, her unfavorable rating in the most recent Quinnipiac poll is 50%. Contrast that with Speaker Paul Ryan, who is rarely the focus of Democratic ads, but whose unfavorable rating is 54%. But I don't hear Republicans clamoring to dump Ryan.
In this year's special elections for open House seats, Democrats ran an average of 8% better than they usually do in those deep-red districts. That should embolden Democrats and intimidate Republicans. That's how pros read those results. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report analyzed the results and reported, "If Democrats were to outperform their 'generic' share by eight points across the board in November 2018, they would pick up 80 seats."
That, of course, is not going to happen, as Cook quickly notes, given the advantages GOP incumbents enjoy. But the point is, the results in Georgia, while a gut punch for Democrats, may actually be a canary in the coal mine for Republicans.
The practical point is Pelosi is doing a great job, which is why the GOP is demonizing her. Without Pelosi, there would be no Affordable Care Act, and tens of millions of Americans would not have health care. Without her fundraising, countless Democrats would not be able to mount effective campaigns.
If there were a Mount Rushmore for speakers, Nancy Pelosi would be on it. No wonder the GOP wants to take her out. Democrats should not help them.
The right always savages successful Democrats: Back in 1960, a rising conservative star named Ronald Reagan said of John F. Kennedy, "Under the tousled boyish haircut is still old Karl Marx..." President Bill Clinton was accused of murder by right-wing conspiracy buffs. And I don't need to remind you who pushed the baloney that President Barack Obama was not born in America, do I?
Should Democrats have dumped JFK? Abandoned Bill Clinton? Disavowed Barack Obama? Of course not. If they dump Pelosi, Democrats will reward GOP attacks, and encourage them to repeat the process on Democrats' next leader. Appeasement never works. Standing strong does.
To take the lead against the reactionary right is to become a spear catcher, and Nancy Pelosi should wear her war wounds as a badge of honor. As another great Democrat, Franklin Delano Roosevelt said in 1936 of the far-right forces arrayed against him, "Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me -- and I welcome their hatred."
I'm sure Pelosi welcomes their hatred, too. But no one welcomes friendly fire. Instead of betraying Pelosi, Democrats should spend their energy shining a light on the shameful GOP health bill. The fate of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions is at risk. Millions of nursing home residents and special needs children who rely on Medicaid need a champion. So do millions of women who count on Planned Parenthood for cancer screening, birth control and health-and-wellness checkups.
Pelosi is their champion. Democrats ought to have her back, not stab it.