Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) is calling a thing a thing when it comes to her colleague, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, holding her publicly accountable for being “outright disrespectful” to “newly-elected women of color,” in a recent Washington Post interview.
The tension between Ocasio-Cortez and Pelosi came roaring to the surface last month after Pelosi and her cowardly cohort of centrist Democrats ceded ground to the GOP and the Trump Administration by co-signing the Senate’s flimsy, calculating emergency funding bill—a bill that does very little to address human rights violations in concentration camps at the U.S. – Mexico border.
Progressive Reps. Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.)—the newly-elected congresswomen known as “The Squad”—took another approach. In the face of deep Party pressure, they still voted against injustice and for humanity. Further, they did not hesitate to criticize rank and file Democrats who sent “thoughts and prayers” to the children being subjected to inhumane conditions and treatment in the U.S. concentration camps, before sending that pathetic excuse of a bill to President Donald Trump’s desk.
Pelosi, of course, did not appreciate the idea of public accountability on social media, and the elder stateswoman mocked The Squad in a New York Times interview on Sunday, ridiculing their methods of constituent engagement, and dismissing their socio-political influence.
“All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi told the New York Times. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”
To Pelosi, Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley, aren’t collectively The Squad, or even respected colleagues, but “these people.”
Oh, it gets worse. Pelosi is not simply antagonizing the four freshmen lawmakers publicly, she’s doing so privately, as well.
The four are struggling with the speaker’s moves to isolate them in recent weeks, according to interviews with the lawmakers, congressional aides and allies. Pelosi has made at least half a dozen remarks dismissing the group or their far-left proposals on the environment and health care.
Further, in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday, Pelosi put progressives on notice, “So, again, you got a complaint? You come and talk to me about it. But do not tweet about our members and expect us to think that that is just OK.”
Freedom of speech be damned.
Ocasio-Cortez told the Washington Post that Pelosi’s political maneuvering was expected; what wasn’t expected was the extent of acrimony and animosity toward her and the rest of The Squad:
“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 said. “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.”
When Pelosi was asked if she regrets belittling, chastising, and ultimately attempting to isolate her colleagues, she gave exactly the kind of arrogant response one would expect from an establishment Democrat accustomed to being applauded for the absolute bare minimum—like playful applause transcribed as a revolutionary act:
“I have no regrets about anything,” she said Wednesday. “Regrets is not what I do.”
Of course not. That doesn’t change the fact that Ocasio-Cortez is absolutely right. By mocking and dismissing her colleagues in such a condescending way, Pelosi is signaling to not just her centrist House co-conspirators, but to the GOP that these women are not to be respected, trusted, nor taken seriously. Pelosi may think this show of political might camouflage her venomous insecurity, but she’s not subtle as she thinks she is.
Powerful white women have always played this game when their power is threatened by Black women and other indigenous women of color who are smarter than they are. Pelosi is reminding Ocasio-Cortez, Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley that they don’t belong—that they’re not one of them—something of which all four of the lawmakers should be extremely proud.
Here They Come
As I’ve written previously, the diversification of white supremacy is critical to its survival, so it didn’t take long for Pelosi to rally the (Black) troops. Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris has already rushed to Pelosi’s defense.
“That’s not my experience with Nancy Pelosi,” Harris said during an interview with The Breakfast Club, just days after Ocasio-Cortez lent her progressive bona fides to Harris’ Fair Chance At Housing Act of 2019. “And I’ve known her and worked with her for years. I’ve known her to be very respectful of women of color and very supportive of them. So I have a different experience.”
Harris, making her allegiance to the Democratic establishment clear, positioned her experience working with Pelosi as evidence that Ocasio-Cortez’s, Omar,’s Tlaib’s, and Pressley’s more recent experiences are questionable, at best. Perhaps, Harris has failed to consider that Pelosi never felt that she was a threat to the status quo, so her interactions with Madame Speaker would, of course, be different.
Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo. has also leaped into action.
The Congressional Black Caucus member, who has been known for calling progressive groups “juvenile” and “ignorant,” slammed Ocasio-Cortez for “using the race card”, the Hill reports.
“What a weak argument, because you can’t get your way and because you’re getting pushback you resort to using the race card? Unbelievable. That’s unbelievable to me,” Clay said. “I could care less. I could really care less. I agree with the Speaker. Four people, four votes out of 240 people, who cares.”
Clay is so upset that these four upstarts dared to criticize Ms. Nancy when she’s been so good to us that he had to say it twice: “It shows you how weak their argument is when they have to resort and direct racist accusations toward Speaker Pelosi,” Clay said emotionally. “It’s very disappointing to me.”
Clay would be disappointing to me if this all weren’t so utterly predictable.
Still, despite blatant attempts at suppression, an undeniable progressive shift has happened within the halls of power that can’t be ignored. No matter how much Pelosi whines about the Twitters and warns progressives to get off her lawn, real change appears to be on the horizon; in many ways, it’s already here.
Because Washington, and the nation, have never seen a Squad quite like this one.
The views expressed are those of the author.