Currently, the most entertaining spectacle in the nation’s capital is the
catfight battle between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her “Squad.” This is one fight Republicans hope both sides lose.
Politico provides the Washington insider’s take:
THERE IS NO QUESTION THAT, at the moment, we are witnessing a clash within the House Democratic Caucus. It’s PELOSI vs. a group of Democrats who call themselves “The Squad”: REPS. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, ILHAN OMAR, AYANNA PRESSLEY and RASHIDA TLAIB.
THIS IS A CLASSIC CAPITOL HILL POWER STRUGGLE. But it also has some unique qualities, as it pits traditional — or hard — inside-the-Capitol power against external — or soft — political power.
The Squad’s power comes, ostensibly, from its great popularity with the public:
TO PELOSI, if you are one person, you have one vote. That’s the lens through which she views power. If you are one person who controls 20 votes, you’re powerful. If you’re one person who controls one vote, you’re just a normal member. So when she told the NYT’s Maureen Dowd that those four people are, indeed, four people, that was meant not as an insult, but rather as a reflection of a reality under which she operates.
“THE SQUAD’S” power is different. It’s almost entirely external. AOC, Pressley, Omar and Tlaib are big personalities on social media, with massive followings outside the Capitol.
If you take seriously the idea that Twitter either reflects or significantly influences reality, then the Squad is powerful. Here, I agree with Pelosi: I don’t take that idea seriously.
THE DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP believes that the weight of the caucus — at the moment — is more aligned with Pelosi. So the speaker’s brushback of the young upstarts is seen as internally wise.
That belief is obviously correct. The most entertaining part of the
catfight conflict is Ocasio-Cortez calling Pelosi a racist:
“When these comments first started, I kind of thought that she was keeping the progressive flank at more of an arm’s distance in order to protect more moderate members, which I understood,” Ocasio-Cortez told The Washington Post. “But the persistent singling out … it got to a point where it was just outright disrespectful … the explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.”
That was too much for pretty much all House Democrats who are not members of the Squad. The Hill reports, “Dems rush to support Pelosi amid fight with Ocasio-Cortez.”
A growing number of progressive House Democrats, frustrated with an ongoing spat between Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D), are taking the freshman New Yorker to task for accusing Pelosi of treating minority women unfairly.
“What a weak argument,” said Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), a member of both the Black and Progressive caucuses. “Because you can’t get your way and because you’re getting pushback you resort to using the race card? Unbelievable. Unbelievable to me.”
Unbelievable? Why? This “weak argument” is the one Democrats deploy on virtually every occasion. They just don’t like to see it turned against themselves. But until now, it has worked for Ocasio-Cortez and fellow Squad members like Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, so why would they change their tune? AOC’s chief of staff went even farther in accusing fellow House Democrats of racism:
Ocasio-Cortez’s top aide, chief of staff Saikat Chakrabarti, went a long step further, accusing the centrist members of the Blue Dog and New Democratic coalitions of being racist.
“They certainly seem hell bent to do to black and brown people today what the old Southern Democrats did in the 40s,” Chakrabarti said in a tweet that has since been deleted.
One senses, here, an uncertain grasp of history. What I like best, though, is this:
There were early signs that Pelosi’s entreaty not to air dirty laundry in public has yet to sink in.
Part of what is going on here is that some members of the Squad are not only inexperienced, they are also not very bright. I refer to Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar; I don’t know enough about the other two to have an opinion. To the extent that their thirst for publicity and loose cannon pronouncements are the result of less than adequate capacity for their jobs, the Squad has the potential to bedevil the Democrats for some time to come.
As Steve likes to say, get out the popcorn.