OK, so, I never get anything right, my predictions are worth jack, and my analysis is generally deficient. Yes, fine, OK. Don’t you think I know that? The problem with maintaining a written record of all your little thoughts about things is how easy it is later to compare and contrast your confident musings with the way events actually unfolded. Oh, it sounded good when you wrote it, coming on all sage and well-informed. Perfectly plausible, insightful even. Dead wrong though, sorry to say. When I go back over it, there’s no escaping the sinking feeling that I’m probably about as prescient as some guy frantically shaking his magic 8-Ball.
This is what I wrote before the midterms:
The Democrats may also fall on their faces, appearing hapless and disorganized – that’s their thing, after all – and if they appoint Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, they’ll have installed every Republican strategist’s favourite punching bag in the top slot, where she’ll be demonized and serve as a lightning rod for right-wing rage, galvanizing Trump’s horrid base. She’ll have this effect, mind you, despite her history as a thoroughly competent and successful Speaker, whose masterful stick-handling of Obamacare through Congress was crucial, as was her obstacle course maneuvering of Wall street reforms, the economic stimulus, and many other progressive measures that marked one of the most successful tenures in the role since WW II.
That will be the first fight. Pelosi or – who? The infighting may be bitter and divisive. If so, either way the Democrats lose.
Hunh. Well, that didn’t happen. A nascent “Dump Nancy” movement was crushed like a bug. Everybody voted for her, she took charge, and that was that.
Oh boy, did she take charge. Nobody’s doubting the wisdom of handing Nancy the gavel now, no sir, nope. We’re all happy and relieved that somebody with her strength and experience is leading the House, as Trump tries to blackmail Congress with his shutdown to obtain wall funding. We’re glad that his bully boy tactics are failing to impress or intimidate an experienced Speaker who well understands how to wield the power of her office. We’re thrilled to be reminded that she’s tough as nails, and tickled pink as we watch her mop the floor with a stunned and hapless Donald. Dump Nancy? Who, us? You must be thinking of somebody else.
It’s fun to watch, yes? She’s destroying the witless bumbler. She’s exposing his rank idiocy and clumsy inability to wheel and deal, laying waste to his claims that he’s the best negotiator on Earth. She’s making him look like an ineffectual chump, like a two-year-old put back in his crib until his tantrum blows itself out. She’s winning, bigly, and he hasn’t the first clue how to deal with her. She’s his worst nightmare: a woman with power. He can’t push her around, and in that case he doesn’t know what to do.
The beat-down is especially gratifying when you remember how Nancy attempted to avoid this sort of swinging-dick showdown. During the famous televised negotiation session between her, Trump, and Chuck Schumer, back before the new year, she tried repeatedly to coax Donald into taking the meeting somewhere private, away from the cameras, where Trump wouldn’t feel so much pressure to posture and act tough for his Base. As the men argued, she kept suggesting that there was no need to do all this in front of the Press. Trump would have none of it. He didn’t even seem to hear her. While Nancy sat there looking like an increasingly dismayed grown-up watching a couple of kids mud wrestle, Donald locked horns with Schumer until he was bragging about how he, The Mighty Trump, would shut down the government, and be proud to “assume the mantle” for having done so. Nancy, bless her heart, actually tried to save him from himself, but of course he was beyond salvation. He painted himself into a corner.
The die thus cast, he now finds that Ms. Pelosi may not have wanted this fight, but that’s not because she’s weak. Strangely, she’s utterly implacable, despite being female. He took the government hostage, just like he said, only to find out that she’s not impressed, she’s not afraid, she’s not wavering, and she’s not kidding. She really won’t negotiate with terrorists.
The scuffle over the State of the Union shows just how badly The Donald is overmatched here. She notified him that the traditional address would not take place in her chamber, not so long as the government was shut down. He wrote a nice formal letter in response, informing her that he’d be showing up anyway to give the speech in the House, attempting the sort of power play that probably worked for him back in his heyday as a sketchy real estate maven, bullying lenders and unpaid contractors. Within hours, she returned a similarly nice formal letter informing him that no, actually, without her say so he would do no such thing. Full stop. Piss off.
So, he pissed off:
Not his usual tone, is it? He doesn’t even try to come up with a derisive schoolyard nickname for his nemesis. Schumer may be “Cryin’ Chuck”, but Nancy is, well, “Nancy Pelosi”.
As Nancy stands fast, polling puts Donald’s sagging approval rating at between 32 and 35 per cent, with upwards of 70 per cent of Americans agreeing that the stupid wall doesn’t merit the shutdown. Almost nobody thinks this is the fault of the Democrats. The overwhelming majority thinks Trump is being a man-baby, casting Pelosi in the role of an exasperated mom forced to impose discipline on the wailing toddler. After all, he bragged he’d be proud to own this mess, didn’t he? He puffed out his chest and boasted, right in front of the cameras that wouldn’t have been there, had he listened to her.
She’s whipping his ass. She’s beating him like a rented mule. Nobody’s talking now about how Nancy has to move over and let somebody else, somebody younger maybe, have a go. Screw that. Who ever thought that? Never crossed our minds. Anyway, we don’t have time to talk about such nonsense. We’re all too busy sitting on our couches munching popcorn while she works The Donald over, and Mitch starts thinking about throwing in the towel.
Update: things develop faster than I can write about them. The news today, just as I posted this, is that she’s going to offer Trump a way out, some sort of funding for border security that doesn’t involve a wall. I wish she wouldn’t. He’s on the ropes, and she should stick to the principle that there’ll be no negotiation until he caves on the shutdown. I suppose empathy for the furloughed federal workers weighs heavily on her and her whole party, but she still shouldn’t budge.
It’s possible, of course, that Trump will be stupid enough to reject this offer, and maybe that’s what Pelosi is hoping. Pelosi might also characterize her latest move as not so much of an olive branch as a message: even when you reopen government, we still wont give you a wall, only this. Even at that, I wish she’d extract something more, if she’s going to offer Trump an escape: DACA, say, or GOP agreement to support a bill that provides for an automatic continuing resolution if agreement on funding can’t be reached, thus preventing further shutdowns, and removing extortion from the political process.
See? I really do suck at predictions.