A chorus of criticism over House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's dismissive comments about progressive members of her own caucus in an interview with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd intensified over the weekend and exposed the rift between the Democratic Party's old guard and new blood.
The Times interview, which was published online on Saturday, featured Pelosi, a California Democrat, disparaging freshman members of the party for their public refusal to support an immigration bill that delivered billions to President Donald Trump's war on immigrants with no strings attached. Pelosi targeted Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), and Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) for their refusal to vote for the bill, despite the fact that the quartet were part of 102 Democrats that bucked the party line in the final vote, as the Times reported on June 27.
"All these people have their public whatever and their Twitter world," Pelosi told Dowd. "But they didn't have any following. They're four people and that's how many votes they got."
That reference to "whatever" set Ocasio-Cortez off. In a Saturday evening tweet, the New York congresswoman tied her social media following to her work in the House.
"That public 'whatever' is called public sentiment," said Ocasio-Cortez. "And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country."
That public “whatever” is called public sentiment.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 7, 2019
And wielding the power to shift it is how we actually achieve meaningful change in this country. https://t.co/u6JtgwwRsk
Omar responded to Ocasio-Cortez by tweeting on Sunday afternoon that the real issue was the Democratic establishment watching their control over the party ideology slip away.
"You know they're just salty about WHO is wielding the power to shift 'public sentiment' these days, sis," said Omar. "Sorry not sorry."
Patetico!— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) July 7, 2019
You know they’re just salty about WHO is wielding the power to shift “public sentiment” these days, sis.
Sorry not sorry. https://t.co/GYiiP1YJT1
Earlier on Sunday, Tlaib, in an appearance on ABC's "Face the Nation," told anchor Martha Raddatz that Pelosi should respect the fact "that 650,000 people are represented by each and every single one of us." Tlaib added that she and her allies on the left in Congress would continue to push back against the actions of the administration, no matter the position of party leadership.
"I'll tell you right now," said Tlaib, "we're not going to stand by and sit idly by and allow brown and dark-skinned children to be ripped away from their parents to be dehumanized."
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Reactions across the progressive spectrum to Pelosi's comments made a clear distinction between Pelosi and the freshmen she attacked.
"The world Pelosi describes is completely amoral and based entirely on transactional politics," Slate reporter Ashley Feinberg said on Twitter Saturday. "It's depressing and actively harmful and I cannot imagine a more efficient way of killing whatever momentum might have been left from 2018."
CNN's Dean Obeidallah, in a column Sunday, bemoaned Pelosi's focus on members of her own caucus instead of the president.
"Call me old fashioned, but I thought the Democratic speaker of the House was supposed to bolster House Democrats and hold a Republican president accountable," wrote Obeidallah. "As of late we are seeing just the opposite from Speaker Nancy Pelosi."
The contrast between the old guard and the new, tweeted Rolling Stone writer Jamil Smith, was made clear over the congressional break.
"While @AOC used her break time to inspect the immigrant concentration camps," said Smith, "Pelosi used some of hers to have chocolates with Dowd during a national interview in which she dumped, again, on the four congresswomen who made the bold and correct stand against the administration."
Former Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton aide Brian Fallon, now the head of progressive group We Demand Justice, argued that Pelosi's targets represent the party better than she does.
"The four House freshmen whom Pelosi dismisses in the Dowd column have done more to define the vision and moral center of today's Democratic Party than all of the message bills pushed by the party leadership combined," said Fallon.
In a lengthy column Sunday morning decrying Pelosi's record of party leadership during the Trump years, The Intercept's Medhi Hasan pointed to the speaker's refusal to take the latest rape allegations against the president seriously or entertain impeachment, combined with the ongoing crisis at the border, as evidence that Pelosi is complicit in Trump's crimes.
"So forget the 'you-go-girl memes for literally clapping back at Trump' that Dowd fawns over in her interview with the speaker," wrote Hasan. "It is time for liberals and leftists who lambast Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to admit to themselves that the hippie-punching Pelosi has become a Trump enabler too."