The United States just finished an election cycle in which one of its two major political parties bet everything it had on denying minorities the right to vote and making disgusting appeals to white supremacy. Let’s see how current House Minority Leader (and future Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi responded Tuesday night to a well-funded, well-planned, depressingly successful assault on the very idea of a multiracial democracy:
We will strive for bipartisanship, with fairness on all sides. We have a responsibility to find our common ground where we can, stand our ground where we can’t, but we must try. We’ll have a bipartisan marketplace of ideas that makes our democracy strong. A Democratic congress will work for solutions that bring us together, because we have all had enough of division. The American people want peace. They want results. They want us to work for positive results for their lives.
A bipartisan marketplace of ideas—there’s that inspiring Democratic Party messaging we all know and love! Here’s her full victory speech, which, yes, includes a salute to the founders and a meditation on “e pluribus unum”:
Well, give Pelosi her due: It is undeniably true that the Republican Party has some exciting products for sale in their little corner of the “bipartisan marketplace of ideas.” They’re not exactly new and improved, though—it’s more of a McRib-type deal, where they’re only offered for sale occasionally, you’re always a little surprised to see they’re back on the menu, and they’re unbelievably bad for you. Here are a few of the ideas the GOP is currently offering for sale:
• Black people should be kept from voting at all costs.
• White racists should be encouraged to vote at all costs.
• Politicians should communicate with the public through lies, lies, and more lies.
A store offering this product line is not a store you want to lease space to in your marketplace of ideas. It’s not even a store you want to let lease space in the abandoned marketplace of ideas on the other side of town, where they shot Gone Girl. You want a shop that sells these ideas to be forced to operate illegally out of a broken-down food truck that smells strongly of McCormick taco seasoning. You want the store to blow a tire during a high-speed chase with the health department, skid into a hog lagoon, and slowly sink beneath the surface. You want everyone who works there to go to prison for a very long time.
Maybe there’s some polling that has convinced Pelosi or her consultants that voters will be inspired by a leader who responds to a racist attack on democracy with platitudes about the founders. Maybe they’re right! But Pelosi’s idea that positive results for the country can be achieved by working with the current Republican Party is not true, in exactly the same way that Trump’s claims about everything from the size of his inauguration crowd to his phantom tax cut have not been true. It’s closer to the truth to say, as liberal megadonor Tom Steyer did Monday, that Republicans “have shifted the conversation to places that are so crazy that there’s really no other side to the conversation.” It’s even closer to the truth to say, as Seth Meyers did, that the GOP is “hoping racist fearmongering will distract you while they rob you.” The Republican Party is not looking for partners in the bipartisan marketplace of ideas; they are looking for marks, and at this point, it’s political malpractice not to acknowledge that. We’ve already got one political party that routinely demands its followers ignore what’s right in front of their faces. The last thing we need is another one.