Behind closed doors, the Democrats are not nearly as unified as they want you to believe.
The Washington Post has reported that a closed-door meeting of House Democrats turned into a bloody verbal brawl, with Democrats deeply divided on the issue of a House resolution condemning anti-semitism.
The resolution itself is an indirect response to freshmen Rep. Ilhan Omar, who has been under fire for using the same type of rhetoric that anti-semitic, anti-Israeli groups have used against Jews (both American and abroad). These comments, rightfully, drew the ire of pro-Israeli groups on the right, and Omar, along with her defenders, have had to address these comments repeatedly.
Now, the Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, are wrestling with whether or not to address the remarks… albeit indirectly. A resolution condemning anti-semitism seems like it should be a no-brainer, but the Democrats are divided over it.
This puts Nancy Pelosi in a tough place. A far-tougher fight than she expected to have led to her negotiating terms for her election to Speaker: She’s done after this. Younger and further-left representatives seemed satisfied with those terms, seeing an opportunity to get one of their own into the spot in the next Congress. However, those terms apparently do not mean peace, and whatever coalition of support she had at the time appears to be withering.
Only the House leadership team appears to be fully united behind the idea of this resolution. The Congressional Black Caucus appears to unified in opposing it, as does the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Pelosi, according to The Post’s reporting, is struggling to keep the party unified behind legislation, instead bickering over resolutions and whataboutisms.
It’s a fight that should be all-to-familiar to Republicans. John Boehner was ousted by a growing conservative wave he could no longer control. Paul Ryan was deemed a suitable-enough replacement, though eventually conservatives turned on him as well. Pelosi could make a similar move in stepping down and letting an ally take her spot, but it is clear by now that while she has an agenda to push – even with the Senate and the White House unlikely to work with her – she does not have the power to push ahead.
Pelosi represents a somewhat-moderating voice in the Democratic Party establishment, but the Democrats’ Old Guard is not wielding absolute power like it used to. The idea that you need to pull back from Trump and more toward the center is not enough for the new wave of progressives entering Congress. Now, you must be willing to go as far left as possible.
It could well be an over-correction, and the poll numbers following a vote on late-term abortion might be the indicator that there is a too-far-left for the American public. There appears to be a big shift in attitudes on abortion since a vote in the Senate on the subject. More issues like this could be coming for the Democratic Party.
However, a resolution condemning anti-semitism, even if it is at the expense of one of your own members, shouldn’t be controversial, but it is. It faces opposition from Democrats for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it targets Omar, which many have claimed is itself a racist or anti-Muslim targeting. For another, it gives the Republicans a win – after all, they are the loudest voices against Omar’s statements.
But, it is also controversial within the Democratic Party because a not-insignificant number of Democratic politicians have openly criticized Israel, voiced support for Palestine, and been vocal about the United States’ support of Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu (though the latter appears to be waning thanks to Netanyahu’s growing legal troubles).
Israel itself is a controversial subject within the Democratic Party, and whereas older, more experienced Democrats used to be able to walk a fine line between criticizing Israeli policies (and America’s support of them) and supporting their existence, this newer wave of Democrats has no qualms about taking to Twitter themselves and openly using some of the blatantly anti-Israel and anti-semitic tropes.
Pelosi and these older Democrats are no longer the ones in charge. Much like Boehner, they are simply trying to stay afloat, but the water is rising too quickly. They are the minority voice in the House’s majority party, and if they think it’s tough now to keep the party on message, just imagine what happens when they are forced to deal with actual legislation on the Green New Deal, single-payer health care, huge tax hikes on the rich, or any other issue they can talk a good game about but have no interest in truly voting on.