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Pelosi Proves Triangulation Is Really Self-Strangulation

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Since regaining her position as speaker of the House earlier this year, Nancy Pelosi has been fighting a two-front war: Her lackadaisical sparring with Donald Trump has left the speaker with plenty of time and energy to take up arms against her other nemesis, the left wing of her own party. The two struggles are inseparable. Trump’s infamous go-back-to-where-you-came-from tweets targeting four Democratic congresswomen was likely provoked by a Fox & Friends segment about Democratic divisions created by the Squad (consisting of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, and Ayanna Pressley). Trump probably saw a chance to stir up Democratic infighting with his provocative tweets.

Trump’s plan partly backfired, when Democrats united in revulsion against his racism by passing a resolution condemning his words. Yet, even in the face of Trump’s bigotry, the internecine Democratic war continued. On Thursday, the very day Trump supporters chanted “Send her back!” at a rally when the president denounced Omar, a group of moderate Democrats anonymously smeared the Squad in interviews with CNN’s Jake Tapper.

“Other House Democrats are conflicted about having to defend the Squad given things they’ve said and done,” Jake Tapper tweeted. “House Dems cited: talk of supporting challengers to incumbent Dems in primaries, AOC’s use of the term ‘concentration camps,’ anti-Semitic comments by Tlaib & Omar.” The claim that Tlaib and Omar are anti-Semites was a straight-out smear. At worst, they are guilty of inelegant phrasing when discussing the touchy issue of Israel. In making this underhanded and off-the-record accusation, moderate Democrats were giving ammunition to Trump and other right-wing bigots.

To judge by Tapper’s quotes, these moderate Democrats thought that Trump’s attack on the Squad was a smart political play. “What the president has done is politically brilliant,” one of the them said. “Pelosi was trying to marginalize these folks and the president has now identified the entire party with them.”

The moderate Democrats are right to think that Pelosi is on their side in the battle against the Squad. While the moderate Dems merely whisper in Tapper’s ears, Pelosi has made herself the public face of anti-left politics in the Democratic Party. A feud that had been simmering for months became public when members of the Squad broke rank and voted against the immigration bill Pelosi rallied Democrats to accept and which she called “our bill” (which gave the president new funding on the promise of slightly more humane treatment of detained migrants). “All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world,” Pelosi complained to Maureen Dowd of The New York Times. “But they didn’t have any following. They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got.”

A week later, Axios published a story leaked by House Democrats that was clearly designed to damage Ocasio-Cortez. “Top Democrats are circulating a poll showing that one of the House’s most progressive members—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—has become a definitional face for the party with a crucial group of swing voters,” the news site reported. “These Democrats are sounding the alarm that swing voters know and dislike socialism, warning it could cost them the House and the presidency.”

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