Politics

Nancy Pelosi Responds to Roe’s Destruction by Reading Inspirational Poetry (Really)

If the poem seems familiar, it’s because she used it after Jan. 6, too.

Pelosi, wearing an orange blazer, glances downward at her lectern with a defeated expression.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on Friday. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

Internal critics of the Democratic Party often say that its current leaders—who are for the most part in their 80s—believe too strongly in the value of political comity and the potential for bipartisan consensus. Tactically, strategically, and emotionally, this argument goes, Democrats have failed to realize that appeals to shared values and common purpose are no longer the most effective way to achieve tangible legislative results in the United States’ political system. (Some background on related trends can be found here and here.)

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If ever there was a time to abandon these dated beliefs and respond with urgency, anger, and the exercise of the limited power the party has left, the critics suggest, surely it is in the summer of 2022, when Americans are seeing rights being stripped from them on a near-daily basis, and an approaching election seems likely to put Republicans in power, possibly—depending on various voter-suppression and election-subversion plans—forever.

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The argument may or may not be correct. But it seems germane to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s response, at a Capitol press conference, to the Friday Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade:

I am personally overwhelmed by this decision.

From time to time I quote this poem by Ehud Manor. He’s an Israeli poet. I’ve met his wife when I’ve been in Israel.

He says, “I have no other country, even though my land is burning. Only a word in Hebrew penetrates my veins, my soul, with an aching body and with a hungry heart. Here is my home. I will not be silent, for my country has changed her face.”

My country has changed her face.

“I shall not give up on her. I shall remind her, and sing into her ears, until she opens her eyes.”

Clearly, we hope that the Supreme Court would open its eyes.

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Video here.

If this poem seems familiar, perhaps that’s because Pelosi also read it one week after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol during the second impeachment of Donald Trump, concluding it then by expressing the wish that her “Republican colleagues” would “finally open their eyes and hold this president accountable.” As it happened, Trump was acquitted by the Senate on the strength of Republican votes.

Later on Friday, House Democrats sang “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps.

Incidentally, here is a post Slate published in 2019 called “Biden Says Republicans Will Start Working With Democrats After the Election, Which Is Also What He Said in 2012 (Whoops).”

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