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Flanked by other House Democrats, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) speaks as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) listens during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol January 4, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Flanked by other House Democrats, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) speaks as Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) listens during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol January 4, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Why on Earth Is Nancy Pelosi Protecting Donald Trump?

The House Speaker is directly, and personally, undermining the role of Congress as the sole institution of government designed to hold to account a corrupt, inept, and destructive executive. 

Robert Freeman

Why is Nancy Pelosi protecting Donald Trump?

There’s no point burbling about whether she is.  From felony campaign finance violations, to collaborating with the Russians in the 2016 election, to multiple counts of obstructing justice, to emoluments-related self-dealing, to now extorting Ukraine to help take down Joe Biden, Trump is the most manifestly corrupt, conspicuously impeachable president in the history of the country.

Nancy Pelosi’s decision to not confront Trump on his rampant destruction of American institutions is not an accident.  It is intentional, and purposeful.  It amounts to actively protecting Trump as he carries out his reign of terror against America.

So, again, the question is, “Why is Nancy Pelosi protecting Donald Trump?”

She’s doing so because she represents many of the same economic interests that Trump does, and serves the same economic masters.  And beyond simply economics, Trump is dismantling the capacity of democracy to stand up to capitalism, to hold capitalism accountable for its inflictions on the body politic and the planet. That is the foremost agenda of those self-same economic masters, and they are the ones that Pelosi serves. 

In protecting Trump, Pelosi is protecting Trump’s devastation of the liberal economic and Constitutional orders that are the intrinsic essence of America.  Her purpose is to let Trump get as much of the wrecking done under his watch as he can, so it will be all but impossible to reconstitute it later.

"In protecting Trump, Pelosi is protecting Trump’s devastation of the liberal economic and Constitutional orders that are the intrinsic essence of America.  Her purpose is to let Trump get as much of the wrecking done under his watch as he can, so it will be all but impossible to reconstitute it later."

Both Trump and Pelosi are stewards—caretakers—of neoliberalism.  That is the ideology begun under Ronald Reagan and carried out by every administration since.  Neoliberalism promotes the interests of Great Wealth, the Ruling Elite, those that own and run the country.  For neoliberalism to be fully realized, it must free capitalism from the constraints of democracy, because democracy is the only institution in society with the authority to stand up to capitalism.  Neoliberalism manifests as policy in very specific ways.

In the economic sphere, it includes reducing the taxes imposed on Great Wealth so it can grow, unfettered, deregulating of all facets of the economy, fostering monopolization, and privatizing what had once been public commons, such as education.  In political terms, neoliberalism achieves its agenda by packing the courts with right-wing ideologues who summarily disallow challenges to property, gerrymandering to reduce the voice of liberal or progressive votes, vote suppression such as by illegally purging voting rolls or removing voting stations from poor districts, and other artifices intended to impede the will of the people in favor of the prerogatives of the rich. 

Neoliberalism is an encompassing ideology intended do destroy liberal democracy in favor of authoritarian oligarchy.  When it is finished, neoliberalism will leave us with neo-feudalism, a retrograde, reactionary system where very few own everything and government exists only to protect the interests of those few.  It will be a return to the days of the Bourbons, the Tudors, and the Hapsburgs, that is to the time before the political and philosophical revolutions of the 1600s and 1700s that we now call The Enlightenment.  We are almost there, and Nancy Pelosi has been instrumental, in fact, essential, in shepherding that new neo-feudal order into being.

She is the single most influential steward of neoliberalism in the world.  That’s why she occupies the office that she does:  to look over and defend the interests of Great Wealth, the exclusive club of which she is a member.  As so many commentators have observed, Pelosi is one of the shrewdest and most effective Speakers in the history of the House of Representatives.  But you don’t get to that position unless you have repeatedly, convincingly, effectively proven your bonafides in promoting and protecting the interests of Great Wealth.  Pelosi has.

She has served 17 terms in Congress.  She has led the Democratic party in the House of Representatives since 2003.  Pelosi’s genius is that she adroitly masks her neoliberal agenda under the façade of traditional liberalism. This has been possible because of the fissures within the Democratic party itself.

The Democratic party is, in fact, a party of two branches that happen to share a common social ideology.  The Corporate (neoliberal) and Progressive branches of the Democratic party hold common values about access to abortion, support for LGBT rights, responsible gun control, race relations, etc.  This is the penumbra under which the two branches nestle in a common, albeit uncomfortable, embrace.

But on economic matters, on foreign policy, and especially on the sanctity of democracy, the Corporate wing of the Democratic party has much more in common with Republicans, including Trump, than it does with real Democrats.  Those are neoliberal values:  passing national wealth to the already wealthy, and debilitating democracy from being able to regulate capitalism.

It is the values of this branch of her party, the Corporate branch, the neoliberal branch, that Pelosi is honoring as she resolutely impedes the impeachment of Trump.  Her track record reveals her leadership as a Corporate Democrat, as a neoliberal, and as a political consigliere to Great Wealth.

Pelosi helped Bill Clinton, the original and archetypal Corporate Democrat, push through NAFTA so corporations could profit by transferring manufacturing jobs from the Midwest to Mexico.  She helped Clinton create the suffocating media monopoly we live under today, end welfare as we know it, criminalize black-only crimes, and, most importantly, deregulate banking by abolishing Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era law that separated commercial from investment banking.  The result was the Great Recession, begun in 2008.

Pelosi was there and silent when, in 2000, the Supreme Court carried out a judicial coup d’etat to install George W. Bush as president.  She voiced “unequivocal support and appreciation” to the same George W. Bush for his illegal and catastrophic invasion of Iraq in 2003.  She promised to “stand shoulder to shoulder with the president,” on the Patriot Act, the most sweeping rescission of civil liberties in the country’s history.

She helped Barrack Obama betray his campaign promise to create a public option on health care, installing, instead, a gutless program—Obamacare—that doubled the stock prices of healthcare providers by having the government underwrite private provisioning of services while doing nothing to control the costs.  She helped Obama shaft the five million families who lost their homes to foreclosure in the Great Recession, while the government shifted trillions of dollars to the same banks that caused the crash.

The economy that Pelosi, over her 32 years in Congress, helped create has failed to raise the inflation-adjusted wages of the average working American even a penny.  It has dismantled more than 50,000 factories, shipping them to China so that American corporations could make greater profits by paying Chinese workers one tenth what they paid American workers.  Then, when the devastated incomes of downsized workers were not enough to keep the economy afloat, Pelosi helped the government run up over $18 trillion in debts to pump things up, while keeping a restive, downwardly-mobile population pacified.

More than any person active in American politics today, it is Nancy Pelosi who midwifed the anemic economic recovery from the Great Recession that gave rise to the election of Donald Trump.   And she was central to the Democratic National Committee kneecapping Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries.  Polls indicated that Sanders would have handily defeated Trump.

Today, as the country desperately needs transformational leadership and policies, Pelosi stands “shoulder to shoulder” with Trump against Medicare for All, despite the likelihood that it could reduce annual health care spending by $2 trillion, a staggering 10% of the economy.  She and her Corporate Democrats take tens of millions of dollars a year from fossil fuel companies, even as she blocks the Green New Deal.  It is the only policy construct in play today that would both mitigate some of the apocalyptic damage from climate change, while revitalizing the economy by rebuilding it in a matter befitting twenty-first century needs.

However, immediately on re-ascension to power in January of this year, Pelosi announced a “Pay-Go” policy that will make it impossible to enact progressive legislation that might need deficits for their funding. This, despite her having shepherded in $18 trillion dollars of cumulative deficits since joining Congress in 1987.  Much of that was accomplished by her endless sluicing of funds to the grotesquely gorged military, despite the country having no meaningful security challengers, and the military being unable to win any of its even trivial self-elected “wars.”   

In virtually all of these actions, Pelosi is advancing the same neoliberal agenda as is Trump:  shifting income and wealth to the already-richest, binding the working and middle classes to generations of debt servitude, all while undercutting the capacity of democracy to rein in the predatory excesses of capitalism.  It is at once as looting operation on the accumulated wealth of the country, and a decapitation of Constitutional government.

Bill Barr, as Trump’s Roy Cohn, has effectively decreed that there will be no prosecution, or even investigation, of presidential transgressions, no matter how egregious or destructive.  That leaves only a political remedy for Trump’s depredations against the Republic.  But in disallowing impeachment, Pelosi has assured that that remedy is no longer available.  Pelosi is directly, and personally, undermining the role of Congress as the sole institution of government designed to hold to account a corrupt, inept, and destructive executive.

In other words, Nancy Pelosi has single-handedly decided for the country that Trump will be unaccountable, above the law, and beyond the reach of the only remedy the Framers made available in the Constitution.  By protecting Trump, she has licentiously, peremptorily created an autocrat, a monster, who continues to escalate his violence against the existing order, precisely because he knows that Pelosi provides him immunity from accountability.  In Nancy Pelosi’s obdurate refusal to impeach Trump for his heinous assaults on law and the Constitution, we are witnessing in real time the end of the rule of law, of checks and balances, of Constitutional government.  We are witnessing the end of the very concept of America. 

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Robert Freeman

Robert Freeman

Robert Freeman is Founder and Executive Director of The Global Uplift Project which builds small-scale infrastructure projects in the developing world to improve humanity’s capacity for self-development. Robert taught economics and history at Los Altos High School where he also coached the Speech and Debate team, including producing a national champion in 2006. He has traveled extensively in both the developed and developing world. He is the author of "The Best One Hour History" series which includes "World War I" (2013), "The InterWar Years" (2014), "The Vietnam War" (2013), and other titles.

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