American political junkies have watched with wonder as former Speaker Nancy Pelosi came unglued over the past few days. It was one of the most unnerving mental deteriorations ever seen in a major political figure.
First there was the unbelievable moment in her farewell press conference when the Speaker who presided over the greatest expansion of our national debt in history claimed that “deficit reduction has always been a high priority for us.”
This was followed by her bizarre, rambling introduction of John Boehner as the new Speaker, in which she spent twelve endless minutes praising herself for making history and rattling off ObamaCare talking points. The Washington Examiner called the speech “self-serving, sharp, and partisan,” contrasting it with John Boehner’s brief and gracious introduction of her as Speaker back in 2007.
During the vote for Minority Leader on Wednesday, Pelosi made history again, as a remarkable 19 members of her caucus refused to vote for her, and Peter DeFazio of Oregon skipped the vote entirely, after unsuccessfully trying to have it postponed – obviously not a show of support for San Fran Nan.
When she nevertheless secured election to the Minority Leader position, Pelosi took CNN cameras on a tour of her modest office… and announced she didn’t expect to be in it for long. In a movie, this moment would have been accompanied by shrieking violins and a thunderclap.
Pelosi’s weird fall from power paints a troubling picture of the Democrat minority in the coming years. Their politics have always been delusional, and they’ve always been able to count on voters who are not, shall we say, picky about facts or logic. (Remember when they were trying to claim ObamaCare would actually reduce the deficit?) They’ve always been rude and graceless, in both victory and defeat. Of course, every politician from every party in the world tries to put the best possible face on even the worst setbacks, and assures voters a thrilling comeback is right around the corner.
When we take all aspects of Pelosi’s behavior together, however, we are left with a disturbing sense of illegitimacy.
Sometimes conservatives get mad at Republicans for being polite. They might say John Boehner was a fool for being so nice to Pelosi in 2007, and should have known she would be crass and partisan when it was her turn to pass along the gavel. I think it’s important to remember that the Republicans are correct in being dignified and respectful during these moments, while the Democrats are wrong. We should condemn their ill manners, not seek to emulate them. Politeness and respect during ceremony are part of the peaceful transfer of power – an acknowledgement that no matter how much the losing party might disagree with the victors’ agenda, they are humble before the will of the voters, and honor the results of a lawful election.
This respect creates an indispensable sense of continuity. Every President is a successor to George Washington, and each Congress carries on in the tradition of the one that framed our Constitution. It’s fair enough to criticize the Republicans for being milquetoast once Congress is in session, and making endless Charlie Brown runs at the football of bipartisanship… but when they take a moment during ceremonies to celebrate every election as a victory for democracy, and offer kind words to a new Speaker or Majority Leader from the opposing party, they perform the valuable service of establishing the legitimacy of the new Congress.
Every elected representative has a duty to honor that legitimacy… and this is but the latest duty in which Nancy Pelosi is derelict. She’s been acting as if she were deposed in a coup. The will of the voters against her, and the Party she led to ruin, could not be more clear, so the insult extends to voters as well. To believe her wild rambling about deficits and Pay-Go, one must assert the American people are crazy, and the simple math of a $9 trillion deficit rising to $14 trillion is a “Matrix” illusion, which they should chug a red pill and let go of. This is, to put it bluntly, a demand for submission. Admit you were wrong, America, and return the gavel you stole from Nancy Pelosi, so she can continue using it to hammer nails into the framework of utopia.
Conservatives can barely conceal their glee at the Democrats’ folly in making Pelosi the Minority Leader. On the contrary, it’s a bad sign for the future of the Republic that a dwindling Party is becoming more bitter and extreme, after losing almost its entire moderate wing to conversion or electoral defeat. Either Nancy Pelosi doesn’t understand what just happened to her, or she doesn’t accept it. Neither explanation bodes well for the future of a House minority that would retain her as leader, or the Republic they serve.