It’s not hyperbole to call the healthcare repeal that Republicans in Congress passed today a travesty, ripping away coverage from millions of Americans with “pre-existing conditions” that range from ADD (which I have) to rape and sexual assault survival. House Democrats sang a chorus of “Na na na na/Na na na na/Hey, hey, hey goodbye” to their opposition, indicating that they’re going to do everything in their power to kick their ass in the 2018 midterms. But while the pragmatic Left focuses on how to rally base support and raising money for candidates (which they did in massive sums recently), the Leftier-Than-Thou have focused their collected ire on a new target: former House Speaker and current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Never mind the fact that she helped prevent a government shutdown last week by drafting a budget bill that contained NOTHING in it that the Trump Administration wants, or the fact that just yesterday she told her enemies across the aisle that “you have every provision of this bill tattooed on this forehead,” those on the Far Left want her out. Why? Because in recent comments yesterday, she said she didn’t support single payer as an option for reforming healthcare. When a Facebook friend of mine posted an Observer Article about this, with the words “Primary me, Daddy” written above it (his, not the articles), I cringed.
This has become one of the defining issues for the Purity Left, who seek to build a reverse Left-Wing Tea Party to reject and replace anyone who doesn’t adhere 100% to their agenda. Granted, Pelosi represents San Francisco, the definition of a left-wing city if ever there was one, so whoever runs as a Democrat will most likely win, but it’s discouraging to see people on the Left want to do the same thing Republicans have been doing since 2010. It’s the return of the circular firing squad that we’ve seen since the primary.
And take a look at the candidate who they want to replace Pelosi with: a 71-year-old straight white dude, Stephen Jaffe, a lawyer who argues that he’s more liberal than she is. Yes, this white dude is a better “liberal” than a woman who has funded AIDS research, expanded public transit, was the first female Speaker of the House, and regularly fundraises for Democrats, who by the way, NEED fundraisers in a post-Citizens United world, something we would need another Supreme Court Justice to overturn (I would to take a moment to, once again, thank Susan Sarandon for Justice Not-Merrick-Garland.)
Jaffe, who just announced his candidacy a few days ago, tweeted this yesterday:
This is a perfect illustration of the way the Far Left operates — when something goes wrong, attack the Democrats and not the Republicans. California, my home state, is home to a burgeoning progressive movement that made the government effective and healthy in the wake of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s governorship, and put the Republicans in the bleachers. It’s an inclusive state that’s home to old white progressives like Jerry Brown, and young women of color like Kamala Harris. Sadly, it’s also the home of arch-conservatives like Devin Nunes and Darrell Issa, the latter casting the deciding vote on the bill.
How would Nancy Pelosi, or any House Minority Leader, reach someone like Issa, who regularly avoids hard questions from the press? Beg him to “look into his heart,” like she’s John Turturro in Miller’s Crossing? Jaffe, who describes himself as “a hardcore Bernie Sanders” supporter, has adopted the “magical thinking” rationale that animates many of Bernie’s most hardcore supporters: when something goes wrong, of course it’s the Democrats’ fault for not being more liberal, never mind that they’re facing down a group of conservatives so radical they can’t even be called conservatives by any standard of that word!
People say that we have to stop re-litigating the primaries and find common ground. I have argued for this too, and I am fully aware that by writing this piece, I’m breaking my word and entering the firing squad again. But every time I see the Purity Left begin another witch hunt, I can’t help but roll my eyes and utter an exasperated “REALLY?” hoping that somewhere, Amy Poehler will take notice.
Look, I get that a lot of Americans want single payer healthcare. I want it too. If you want to fight for it, go ahead. But keep this in mind too — before we can get anything that we want done, we have to win. And setting our sights on people who have been our allies through tough times is not the way to do this. Single payer is not a sword we can afford to die on in this precarious moment.
Is it something we should aim for? Yes. Is it something we can have right now? In all likelihood, probably not. In spite of what some polls say, it’s still not a popular position on the ballot or in Congress, given that it’s failed in fairly liberal states like Vermont and Colorado, and that it couldn’t even pass when Obama had substantial majorities in both houses. Obamacare had to be compromised to save it outright — one of countless examples throughout history of legislators sacrificing key parts of their bills to save them for the greater good.
More than any other piece I’ve written so far, I’m expecting to get shit for this one, since I’ve been attacked regularly by people on the Left for attacking Sanders on endorsing candidates opposed to abortion, while not attacking Pelosi for saying we need to welcome pro-life Democrats into the fold, or suggesting that maybe setting our sights on a progressive woman is not the best way to make the case for women being welcomed into the progressive movement, or that since The Resistance is being led by women, is it really in our best interests to…you can see where I’m going with this.
I’m someone who wants more women in the workforce — in any workforce — and I’m going to continue to fight for that. I may be blunt about my beliefs, but that’s because I can’t believe I still have to explain them. Throughout the election, I constantly called out sexism whenever I saw it, and for that I was called “the boy who cried sexism. Just yesterday, for defending Pelosi in a Facebook thread I was called a “white knighter,” implying that my support for women comes from the desire to virtue-shame others rather than my belief that the most effective way to solve our problems is by supporting women wherever we can.
To my attackers who ask why I focus on this, I ask: why aren’t you screaming “sexism” at the top of your lungs? Why do far leftists like Freddie DeBoer keep denying the role sexism played in this election? Why does Josh Barro of Business Insider never resist a moment to attack Chelsea Clinton, or Glenn Thrush of The New York Times refuse to acknowledge the misogyny of his paper’s coverage? It’s for reasons like this that Howard Dean has to tweet:
Yes, I’m fully admitting that I do not attack women with whom I agree on 90% of all the issues simply because I do not believe it’s politically effective to attack women with whom I agree on 90% of the issues. If you want to call me a hypocrite because of this, fine, I’ll take it (I always keep in mind when I raise my voice that women who raise their voices always get criticized harder for it.) But you no longer get to pretend that you’re standing on ideologically pure principles when you reserve your ire for women and not those systemic inequalities that keep so many of them from reaching their full potential.