Pelosi Under Fire As “The Revolution” Devours Its Own

Below is my column in The Hill newspaper on the rising tensions between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and young freshman members, particularly Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders has criticized Pelosi for being “too hard” on Ocasio-Cortez, saying that she and her young colleagues are the future of the party. Other have supported Ocasio-Cortez in saying that Pelosi has a problem with women of color and liberal groups are now going after Pelosi. In the meantime, Democratic members and staff are attacking both Ocasio-Cortez and her top aide, including criticism them for criticizing another member who is a minority woman. Note only did Trump succeed in unifying the Democrats and putting the Republicans on defense, but newspapers are now declaring him the “bigot in chief.”

Here is the column:

This week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) discovered the greatest peril of unleashing a revolution: The transformation from revolutionary to reactionary is always just one political cycle away. 

Pelosi began the week throwing Molotov sound bites at President Donald Trump, including the allegation that what he really wants is “to make America white again.” It was only the latest example of Democrats ramping up racial rhetoric for the 2020 elections. By week’s end, it was Pelosi who was being labeled as a racist after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) accused her of “explicit singling out of newly elected women of color.” Worse yet for Pelosi, it was Trump who came to her defense, chastising Ocasio-Cortez for disrespecting Pelosi and insisting that the Speaker is not a racist.

In the meantime, Ocasio-Cortez has continued to be supported by groups such asOur Revolution and has described herself as a new “American revolutionary” to forge a government truly based on the people.

This is why French journalist Jacques Mallet du Pan famously observed during the French Revolution that “like Saturn, the Revolution devours its children.” Many of Ocasio-Cortez’s supporters already have attacked former Vice President Joe Biden, the party’s presidential front-runner, on race-based issues, from his opposition to school busing as a U.S. senator to his work with segregationists in the Senate. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) fueled such attacks in the last Democratic debate.

The Democratic Party has long relied on identity politics to balkanize the voter base and appeal to each group to oppose Republicans. Race, however, has always been carefully handled to avoid inflaming public sentiment. That restraint has been lost in the “age of rage” known as the Trump administration. From the outset, Democrats have portrayed Trump as pandering to white nationalists and racists with his controversial Charlottesville comments and his immigration policies. Even Trump’s signature symbol — the MAGA (Make America Great Again) hat — has been denounced as racist and “triggering.” Numerous Trump supporters have been attacked for wearing the hats.

Last week, Gonzaga University School of Law visiting law professor Jeffrey Omari wrote a column in the ABA Journal that offered an almost breathless account of his encounter with raw racism in his class: a student wearing a MAGA hat. Omari states matter of factly that the hats are meant to advance “racial antagonism” as “an undeniable symbol of white supremacy and hatred toward certain nonwhite groups.”He recounted the moment with the same sense of danger as if the student was wearing a live cougar on his head: “As my blood boiled inwardly, outwardly I remained calm.”Yet, he not only concluded that “this student was indeed trying to intimidate and/or racially antagonize me” but that “I understood that my lack of tenure, precarious status as a [visiting professor] and the hue of my skin meant that I would be fighting an uphill battle should I have asked the student to remove his distracting red hat during class.” 

Of course, it would have been an “uphill battle” to ask for the removal of just that hat unless he asked for the removal of all hats and clothing of all political viewpoints, from pro-antifa to pro-choice to pro-NRA.

Omari assumed that his interpretation of the hat (which is not shared by many) was manifestly true. This is part of the trend on today’s campuses, where speech is being curtailed as racist or “microaggressive” based on how it is perceived by others rather than how it is intended. In this case, the hat has different meanings to different people. Yet it was deemed racist because Omari considered it to be racist.

Omari survived his harrowing encounter, and Gonzaga University School of Law issued a meaningless, cowering statement that “this situation presents an opportunity for our community to listen to and learn from each other.” The faculty, however, failed to note what should be learned from “this situation,” particularly about free speech on campus. Instead, they avoided taking a stand on the right of political expression. If other campuses are any example, they will soon find themselves facing insatiable demands for greater and greater speech regulation. 

Such refusals to take responsibility on campus has resulted in schools yielding control to students who have shut down classes and speakers with impunity.

Democratic members of Congress are doing the same with their party as they seek to use radical movements to their advantage while struggling to maintain control. It is Ocasio-Cortez — not Pelosi — who is being courted by candidates such as Sens. Harris, Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who also have courted young socialists. Ocasio-Cortez has rejected the “middle ground” of Democratic candidates on issues such as climate change, and candidates are moving to “join the revolution.” Of course, the French revolutionaries eventually suffered the same fate as the aristocrats, including the infamous Robespierre, who found both his political and physical stature cut short by the guillotine.

That evolution already has started, with young House members portraying Pelosi as an all-devouring Saturn. Ocasio-Cortez has accused Pelosi of burying her in committee work to keep her from agitating or advocating in public. Other members such as Rep. Wm. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) called Ocasio-Cortez “juvenile” and said her “ignorance is beyond belief.” Clay added that she and other young members need “maturing” and accused them of lacking “sensitivity to racism.” Another Democratic source called Ocasio-Cortez “a fraud” as attacks mount from leadership. In January, when “mature” Democrats objected to Ocasio-Cortez’s demeanor — including her dancing videos — fellow freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said, “If we can’t dance it’s not our revolution.”

In the end, burying “Les Enfants” in work may not be enough to keep them from dancing or agitating — at least if Greek mythology is any measure. The Titan Cronus (whom the Romans denoted as Saturn) was afraid his offspring would overthrow him. Accordingly, as each child was born, he ate them. Cronus’s wife hid her child Zeus (or Jupiter to the Romans) while feeding Cronus a large stone wrapped in swaddling clothes. Zeus grew up, overthrew Cronus, and forced him to regurgitate his siblings, who in turn defeated the Titans and threw them into the pit of Tartarus.

The pit of Tartarus, in this case, may be the 2020 elections. Pelosi has previously lost the House majority but has repeatedly refused to yield power. Moreover, the Democratic leadership has changed very little despite successive elections showing an overwhelming dislike for the establishment. Instead, Pelosi has hoped to absorb the revolution. Yet as Cronus vividly shows, devouring revolutionaries is rarely successful. They have a habit of, well, coming back up.

If Pelosi cannot devour the revolution, she could well be devoured by it. She’s no racist — but such distinctions mean little in this revolutionary moment.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.

58 thoughts on “Pelosi Under Fire As “The Revolution” Devours Its Own”

  1. “Note only did Trump succeed in unifying the Democrats and putting the Republicans on defense, but newspapers are now declaring him the “bigot in chief.”
    **************
    I just re-read your preamble and it’s a nonsequitur. You write about the sniping between Pelosi and AOC as well as Pelosi’s poor relationship with other minority women in the Democratic Party and then conclude they are united by Trump’s rhetoric. Looks to me like a civil war between corporatist Democrats and radical socialist Democrats that Trump engendered. That’s good politics. As for Trump being the “bigot in chief,” I see his poll approval ratings have jumped 4-5 points putting him at or near 50% since the “love it or leave it” tweet. Seems Tump has struck our inner Meryl Haggard with his rebuke of the communists in our midst.

    https://youtu.be/uIxBmyRQlwQ

  2. Notice I said nothing about racist J. Omargi

    I’m reminded there are three types in these discussions The Righteous, The Debaters and those who DO something. Just like Rand’s correct, incorrect and compromise that leaves two wrong and one correct. Now I have corrected the error and done something.

  3. The professor does not call attention to what’s happened to the British Labour Party. They have a perfectly atrocious leader. He never would have been selected by Labour MPs. They modified their leadership selection principles to allow rank-and-file party members the dominant voice. What they got was Jeremy Corbyn.

    Prior to 1935, Labour Party leaders were generally men who had grown up in (and lived the first leg of their adult life in) Britain’s wage earning strata. They had what formal schooling was available to their cohort (e.g. the state-financed elementary schooling instituted in the 1860s), which they supplemented with private study. After 1935, Labour Party leaders where generally university educated men with more-or-less bourgeois backgrounds. Only Neil Kinnock and James Callaghan grew up in wage-earning families. Only Kinnock and Callaghan lacked a university degree. (Both had a full complement of secondary schooling – unusual in their cohort – and Kinnock also had some tertiary schooling at a junior-grade institution). Jeremy Corbyn is unique among Labour leaders: he’s a child of the professional-managerial class with two academically and professionally accomplished brothers. He made a complete hash of his ‘O’ level and ‘A’ level exams, has no tertiary schooling, and spent pretty much his entire work-life prior to 1983 on the office staff of trade unions. He was elected to parlianment in 1983, but the other Labour MPs never trusted him with any responsibility. This dopey hack is who the Labour Party leadership want to lead them.

    And just what is most salient about Jeremy Corbyn’s political thought? Well, at one time, he was associated with the Trotskyist element who had infiltrated the Labour Party’s constituency parties. Oh, and he loathes the Jews and seeks to injure them. This is the man the Labour Party’s membership wants. It should wreck them with the British electorate, but it hasn’t.

  4. Just think, if Hilary won the election we wouldn’t have to go through all this. Nothing to see here folks, just move along.

    1. Entirely correct when you look at Hillary there IS nothing to see if one is looking for substance or for anything in some way related to What We Are in our Constitutional Republic. unfortunately we don’t see anything being done but may instead of rejecting we should try injecting such political Typhoid Mary’s and send them to where they are welcome. and not taught as some more than ridiculous.

      1. But as for the Party of Racism and Slavery one can hardly feel sorry for them when they add anti civil rights and tout the one party one leader system and claim their right wing aka RINOs are more Bidenesque than the unfortunate RINOs of the GOP. I have to laugh at it. The KISS principle states keep it simple stupid.

        Constitutionalism vs Socialism

        One straddling the center under a Red, White, And Blue future while the other is grazing in Red Pastures with Marx and Engels

        Constitutionalism and Res Publica

        1. In the meantime, Ocasio-Cortez has continued to be supported by groups such asOur Revolution and has described herself as a new “American revolutionary” to forge a government truly based on the people.

          Ocasio wouldn’t make a pimple on Carlos Marighellas Theory and name or no name she is no Fidel. but true to her parties nick name she is way stupid to claim to be something she is not but which started in 1909. what she doesn’t understand is Counter Insurgency and it’s first rule is identify the opposition. No she has openy violated the Constitution again she can be considered nothing more than a Target of Opportunity

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