When Democrat Jon Ossoff lost the special election to Republican Karen Handel in the Georgia 6th Congressional District, some called it a disaster for the Democrats, as they have lost the most recent special elections. That is true if you want to call Democrats making remarkable gains in heavily Republican-leaning districts a disaster. These results can easily be read as bad news for Republicans as we look toward 2018 mid-terms, when many races will take place in more bluish districts.
Regardless, some took this loss in a close race as an opportunity to pounce on one person: Nancy Pelosi. She was called damaged goods as a Democratic standard bearer. And there were even calls for her to step down as House minority leader.
It is true that during the Georgia race, negative ads linked Ossoff to Pelosi. And because she is so prominent and rightwing attacks often center around her, leftwing critics of the Democratic establishment decided that she is toxic for Party—that she is the problem. I guess they figure if we only get rid of Pelosi, Republicans will take the left in a warm embrace. If we just cut Nancy out, the right will reveal themselves to be the progressive socialists they really are. You see, the Republican establishment doesn’t really want to attack Democrats. They would not be doing it at all if not for that darn Nancy Pelosi.
Firstly, by all accounts, Pelosi is great at her job, which is primarily keeping the Democratic congressional coalition united and voting as a block. Secondly and most importantly, it’s not about Nancy Pelosi! The right attacks her because she is the face of the liberals. (In fact, Bernie Sanders was also featured negatively alongside Pelosi and Ossoff in some of those ads. I assume we should label him damaged goods, too.)
Let’s say that hypothetically Pelosi were to step down. What would happen? Republicans would just aim their arrow at the next high-profile liberal. And that new target is sure to be Elizabeth Warren. In preparation for 2018, Republicans are already planning to use Warren as the lightning rod for their assaults in red districts. They will highlight her as the symbol for government expanding, high taxing, socially radical liberals. And it will be effective in motivating a big segment of voters. Why? Because Republicans hate liberals! That’s the real problem. Expunging Pelosi as a symptom does not cure that disease.
And what happens when Elizabeth Warren becomes the primary prey for Republicans? Will she too be called toxic and asked to step down? And what about the one who comes after Warren? Will she get the same treatment? And how about the one after? That list will go on and on.
You may have noticed that Republicans often pick Democratic women as their prime targets. There seems to be added potency when the mark is a woman. Or it’s just easier. And interestingly, the ones on the left calling Pelosi damaged goods, such as Democratic Congressman Tim Ryan, want the Party to pursue more white male voters. Most women may not be ideal for that outreach. However, Tim Ryan (who challenged Pelosi for the leadership slot this year and lost) of course thinks he’s perfect for that job.
So, if liberal women continue to be the focus of rightwing attacks, and if they are also deemed not helpful for expanding the Democratic base, then they, like Pelosi, will be called “the problem.” We can look forward to a never-ending string of female officials who are labeled a drag on the Democrats. The future will sound like this:
“I like Elizabeth Warren. But we’ve got to face facts. She’s become toxic for the Party.”
“Kamala Harris: Toxic”.
“California Congresswoman Jackie Speier. She’s toxic for the Party.”
“Councilwoman Shannon Sneed from the 13th District in Baltimore: Toxic for the Democrats.”
“There’s a baby born to Democratic parents, but she cries too much. It’s toxic for the Party.”
“The ultrasound says it’s a girl and she’s already toxic for the Party.”
Let’s be clear: It is not individual Democrats who are the issue. The real problem is that to right-leaners, the entire left is toxic. I do not claim to have the answer to solve this problem. But the solution is surely not to get rid of Pelosi or any individual Democratic, as if that will rid Republican hatred of liberals and somehow stop them from ever using one Democrat to attack the whole again.