As Democrats work through finding an identity to run on in 2020, one of taking a centered, more moderate approach versus taking a leftward tilt and embracing policies championed by Bernie Sanders and others in the progressive flank, there is one voice warning the party to avoid the pitfalls of divisive partisanship. That voice of reason is, surprisingly, Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi didn’t pick on any candidates by name, she’s careful enough not to upset that apple cart, but her message to the 2020 Democratic field was quite clear.
In an interview released over the weekend, Pelosi laid into the party and urged her colleagues to avoid impeachment of President Trump, since she says that effort would be killed by the Republican-controlled Senate, and to avoid drifting too far to the left in 2020 which would leave the center-left lane of moderate politics wide open for Donald Trump to drive a truck through.
Here’s more from the interview with the New York Times, via MSN:
Sitting in her office with its panoramic view of the National Mall, Ms. Pelosi — the de facto head of the Democratic Party until a presidential nominee is selected in 2020 — offered Democrats her “coldblooded” plan for decisively ridding themselves of Mr. Trump: Do not get dragged into a protracted impeachment bid that will ultimately get crushed in the Republican-controlled Senate, and do not risk alienating the moderate voters who flocked to the party in 2018 by drifting too far to the left.
“Own the center left, own the mainstream,” Ms. Pelosi, 79, said.
“Our passions were for health care, bigger paychecks, cleaner government — a simple message,” Ms. Pelosi said of the 40-seat Democratic pickup last year that resulted in her second ascent to the speakership. “We did not engage in some of the other exuberances that exist in our party” — a reference to some of the most ambitious plans advocated by the left wing of her party and some 2020 candidates, including “Medicare for all” and the Green New Deal, which she has declined to support. [Emphasis added]
It’s almost a certainty that Pelosi is trying to steer her party’s primary away from figures like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and back toward established names like Joe Biden. Pelosi, in her heart of hearts, is a very liberal politician coming from a very liberal district in San Francisco. On the balance to those inclinations, however, is a desire to stay in power. Donald Trump successfully exploited the Democratic Party’s drift into progressivism in the 2016 election by working his rhetoric in the rust belt and other Democratic strongholds.
Pelosi is shrewd enough to see the same dynamics materializing again if her party does not stay focused on issues that are relevant and realistic, and avoid grand things like the Green New Deal which is ripe for criticism and ridicule from Republicans.
Will Trump Leave Willingly?
The other topic Pelosi addressed is that she fears Donald Trump contesting the election to the point of not leaving the White House willingly unless he’s beaten by a huge margin:
Few people outside Ms. Pelosi’s inner circle were aware of how worried she was that Mr. Trump would try to stop the opposition party from taking control of the House unless the Democrats’ victory was emphatic enough to be indisputable.
“If we win by four seats, by a thousand votes each, he’s not going to respect the election,” said Ms. Pelosi, recalling her thinking in the run-up to the 2018 elections.
“He would poison the public mind. He would challenge each of the races; he would say you can’t seat these people,” she added. “We had to win. Imagine if we hadn’t won — oh, don’t even imagine. So, as we go forward, we have to have the same approach.”
In recent weeks Ms. Pelosi has told associates that she does not automatically trust the president to respect the results of any election short of an overwhelming defeat.
Well, that sentiment seems to cut into both parties about whether the losing candidate is going to graciously concede in these turbulent partisan times.
Democrats still have Stacey Abrams, a former candidate for Governor in Georgia, who lost by some 55,000 votes in 2018, continuing to say that she won the election but ultimately Republicans retained the Governship due to fraud. Abrams says she’s not “delusional,” she knows she’s not Governor but isn’t going to concede the race or stop talking about the fraud she says was perpetrated on her.
Abrams isn’t entirely wrong to ask pertinent questions, there was enough happening in Georgia running up to the 2018 election that most reasonable people would agree should be investigated. However, there’s a difference between calling for an investigation to look for voter suppression efforts and simply outright claiming that you, as a candidate, won the race but it was “stolen” from you.
Beyond Abrams, there is also Hillary Clinton who had continued to dance around the edges of insinuating fraud and tampering with the 2016 election to the point that it cost her the race against Trump.
Speaking at an event on Saturday, Hillary said she knows firsthand what it feels like to have an election “stolen” from her:
Hillary Clinton said on Saturday she is advising candidates about what it is like to have an election “stolen” during an “Evening with the Clintons” event in Los Angeles, Calif.
“You can run the best campaign, you can even become the nominee, and you can have the election stolen from you,” Clinton said she has been telling candidates who have come to see her. The comment was met with cheers.
Clinton’s 2016 campaign was targeted by Russian interference efforts, which included stolen emails from her campaign chairman that were leaked to the public, and a social media disinformation effort.
The point here is that with such partisan division, Pelosi’s concern about Donald Trump not accepting the 2020 election results, should he lose, are nothing new when it comes to politics in recent years. With hyper-partisanship over new voter laws that require identification and which create claims of voter suppression, the political stage is now ripe for claims of “stolen” elections whether it’s true or not.
In 2018, following the midterm elections, Aaron Blake, writing in the Washington Post, said that these statements by candidates on both sides tend to undermine public confidence in election results, and it’s not good:
However you feel about the underlying issues, saying the election is being stolen skips over all of that and can’t help but undermine confidence in American elections. Democrats might say it deserves to be undermined, given Kemp’s conduct, but it’s a very serious accusation that has implications for our entire political and legal system. If leaders of both parties are alleging this kind of thing is possible in huge races in neighboring states and implying that legal remedies are insufficient to stop it, that’s a recipe for widespread mistrust of elections.
What’s most notable here is that Democrats have made the decision to go down this road. They’ve apparently decided that the Georgia governor’s race is their chance to highlight an issue that otherwise has a tough time getting on voters’ radar: alleged voter suppression.
The tradeoff is they can rightly be accused of prejudging the result and the judicial process — of doubting the same institutions they regularly accuse Trump of attacking and undermining. It’s one thing to say Kemp’s actions amount to suppression; it’s another to determine he will have “stolen” an election, the result of which will be unjust, even if the courts side with him.
Seeing how Trump and the GOP talk about such things with no evidence, Democrats have apparently decided not to unilaterally disarm. But we’ve crossed something of a threshold here.
Pelosi’s fears are not unfounded in this regard since contesting and complaining about election results by the losing candidate has become the norm by both parties.
Impeachment Would Harms Dems in 2020
Back to Pelosi on steering her party in 2020. From the interview she gave over the weekend, it sounds as if she would love to attempt impeachment, but still feels like it would ultimately hamper her party’s efforts at winning the White House:
Ms. Pelosi remains committed to avoiding impeachment, but it is clear that she is losing patience. On Wednesday night, after focusing on House business during the day, she watched excerpts from Mr. Barr’s testimony at her residence in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood.
She was incensed that Mr. Barr had seemingly contradicted an earlier claim, made before a House committee in April, that no one on Mr. Mueller’s team had taken issue with the attorney general’s four-page summary of the report’s findings. Mr. Barr’s refusal to testify before the House Judiciary Committee only amplified the speaker’s anger.
“When you’re looking at Barr, you just think, ‘How could he sell his soul — alleged soul — to Donald Trump,’” Ms. Pelosi told her whip team early Thursday, according to the detailed notes of a person in the room.
Without any major new revelations, impeachment is off the table for Democrats. Their best plan of action is to build a popular campaign platform for 2020 and run against President Trump with it.
Pelosi wants to win, and she’s also very partisan, but her desire to maintain power and control will inform her long-term strategizing more than anything.
The notable point to take away from this is how she’s not afraid to push back against the tilting of the party to the left on various issues, despite her personal support for many of them. She knows they won’t sell in the Midwest, and Democrats need states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio, back in the fold in 2020, or they risk another Electoral College loss.
Strange days are these when Nancy Pelosi is a voice of moderation within the Democratic Party.