In Pelosi attacks, misogyny is bipartisan
© Greg Nash

What’s more pathetic — Republicans using a scary Nancy Pelosi meme to boost their congressional candidates or Democrats exploiting this meme for personal gain?

A recent article in Politico details the tepid hope of Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, that the well-worn path of anti-Pelosi rhetoric will once again be successful as the GOP gears up to defend their House majority. 

“I think we’ll see if it works. I believe it still works,” says Stivers, referring to the efficacy of attacks on Pelosi.

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While Stivers’ “belief” is a weak hook upon which to hang a strategy, attacking Pelosi has indeed yielded benefits for the GOP over the years. Pelosi, or more correctly, the GOP caricature of her that has been rolled out every two years, is an icon of coastal liberalism who strikes a discordant chord with some voters in conservative-leaning districts.

 

The subtext of the anti-Pelosi message, however, is also clear: a powerful woman is threatening your way of life. She is an archetype, in the Jungian sense, of disruption. She represents the promise (for some) and the peril (to others) of the evolution of America over the last 50 years. 

Case in point, some months back people across the political spectrum scratched their heads at the sight of an all-male group of GOP representatives meeting to discuss women’s health needs. It stretches credulity to think that the organizers of that meeting were not consciously sending a message to their base: the boys are back in charge, including controlling women’s healthcare.

Not unlike the unprintable insults against former First Lady Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaMichelle Obama on 'Becoming': 'Sasha still hasn't read it' Michelle Obama seeks volunteers for local campaigns: There are 'no "off" years' Obama condemns 'hatred in all its forms' after New Zealand shooting MORE snaking their way across the extreme rightwing social media sphere, attacking Pelosi is an atavistic exercise in reclaiming these men’s sense of masculinity. 

“Make America Great Again,” a slogan used by Presidents Nixon and Reagan, too, is a time-traveling journey back to an idealized version of Eisenhower’s America, where men worked, while women were largely barred from positions of power in the home, at the workplace, and certainly at the upper reaches of government.

And more recently, while it’s impossible to ascribe a single cause for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Dem strategist says Donna Brazile is joining Fox News 'for the money' CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina MORE’s defeat, it’s instructive how then-candidate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification MORE constantly hit Clinton for “low stamina,” not too subtle code for weak and incapable of the burdens of leadership.

Clinton’s fainting after an event became ultra-potent catnip in the alt-right media, who howled at her unfitness for office, feeding bizarre conspiracy theories and disqualifying her in the same way that Trump tried to trash Megyn Kelly after her take of Trump’s myriad statements denigrating women during a Fox News debate.

And yet, misogyny is a bipartisan defect; some Democrats sure seem to be affected by it as well. 

Per Politico, “There’s a real widespread sense if the Republicans’ only attack on us is Nancy Pelosi, why are we leading with our chin?” said one unidentified House Democrat. “There’s a greater and greater sense that it’s time for a change in leadership.”

Is it really true that the GOP’s sole attack on Democrats is centered on Nancy Pelosi? 

Of course not. But these attacks are feeding cynical, opportunistic Dems’ desire for “change,” i.e., decapitating the leader and opening spots in congressional leadership.

But the very act of using the GOP’s arguments as a justification for a coup against Pelosi smacks of sexism by association. 

If this anonymous congressman’s logic holds, Pelosi is a liability precisely because Republicans see her as one of the most powerful symbols of a changed America, where women and other previously disadvantaged groups advance economically and politically.

To smug Democrats who think themselves more evolved because of their supposedly modern view of women in power, these machinations against Pelosi should cause alarm. 

Changing leaders and causing chaos before a midterm election which, based on polling, seems like a generational opportunity to recapture the House majority, is folly defined.

Moreover, this kind of sloppy plotting played out in national media reinforces the perception that both parties are the same — craven, power-mad and amateurishly Machiavellian.

It should, therefore, surprise no one that Congress and most of its leaders are held in stunning contempt by the American electorate.

Fernando Espuelas is a Washington-based political journalist working in digital, broadcast and print media. He hosts the popular podcast "Espuelas." He is a contributor at CBS News, CNN.com, C-SPAN, FoxNews, France 24, Hearst Television & Radio, The Hill, The Huffington Post, iHeart, NPR News, La Opinión, Sky News, Spotify, Univision TV & Radio. Follow him on Twitter @EspuelasVox.


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