Feehery: Trump inspires temporary House Democratic unity

Feehery: Trump inspires temporary House Democratic unity
© Greg Nash

Archie Bunker couldn’t have said it better himself.

When President TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial MORE tweeted that his most bitter congressional critics should go back to where they came from, he was channeling the most infamous blue-collar grouch in sitcom history. 

I have long chosen to ignore what the president tweets, spending my time focusing on what his administration actually does, most of which I find to be agreeable.

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But the media and his political opposition can’t help themselves. They focus on the president’s rhetoric, not his results.

Trump’s tweets about members of “the squad” came at a particularly interesting moment for the House Democratic Caucus. 

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiSekulow indicates White House not interested in motion to dismiss impeachment articles Overnight Health Care: Trump restores funding for Texas program that bars Planned Parenthood | Trump to attend March for Life | PhRMA spent record on 2019 lobbying Key House committee chairman to meet with Mnuchin on infrastructure next week MORE (D-Calif.) was engaged with her own battle with four of the most outspoken and controversial of the newly elected class of the 116th Congress. 

One could make the case that Trump was violating the old Napoleon dictum about interfering with your enemy when they are engaged in self-destructive behavior. 

But what if the president’s end goal of his tweets was to inspire Democratic unity? What if the president didn’t want Pelosi succeed in her drive to make AOC and her friends irrelevant? If that was the case, mission accomplished. 

Pelosi’s battle with the mod “squad” promised to be her most dramatic fight yet. But that war has been put on hold, at least temporarily, perhaps permanently, thanks to the Trump tweet.

“The squad” — four women of color, Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezSanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden Impeachment trial forces senators to scrap fundraisers Ocasio-Cortez knocks Biden: He 'helped sell the invasion of Iraq' and 'spent years working to cut Social Security' MORE of New York, Ilhan OmarIlhan OmarSanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Donald Trump' if the US doesn't elect a progressive Media's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle MORE of Minnesota, Rashida TlaibRashida Harbi TlaibSanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden Democrats press Trump administration to stop DNA collection from detained migrants Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Donald Trump' if the US doesn't elect a progressive MORE of Michigan and Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyMassachusetts governor apologizes after calling Pressley speech a 'rant' Jayapal: 'We will end up with another Donald Trump' if the US doesn't elect a progressive Congressional Progressive Caucus co-chair Jayapal endorses Sanders MORE of Massachusetts – are the personification of the new Democratic majority. They are all talented politicians, gifted at the sound bite, experts at the selfie, troubadours of Twitter, who communicate at a level rarely seen in the House of Representatives.

Sadly for “the squad,” while they may have been the face of the 2018 revolution, they don’t have the power to achieve their revolutionary goals. 

In 1994, Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE was the heart and soul of the Republican revolution. He was the one who inspired the base, he was the communications innovator, he was the face of the insurrection. But he also was the one calling the shots and he could put his legislative strategy where his revolutionary rhetoric was. Hence, the Contract with America.

Nancy Pelosi has no Contract with America.

She is notably short of any kind of legislative accomplishments, or of any kind of legislative agenda. Pelosi has been playing the long game in this session of the 116th Congress.

And as Pelosi has rightfully concluded, “the squad’s” political impulses are toxic to the long-term survival of the House Democratic majority. 

But that strategy is coming to an end, because if she wants to preserve her majority, she has to give her majority-makers some solid accomplishments that they can tout back home. 

Pelosi knows that AOC, as talented as she is, doesn’t play well in the 30 Democratically-held districts that Trump won in 2016.  

If Ocasio-Cortez, Tlaib, Omar and Pressley are the face of the Democratic Party in, let’s say the 14th District of Illinois, Republicans take that seat back, along with 29 others of a similar ilk.

So Pelosi, to be successful, has to make the Mod Squad irrelevant. She cannot allow them to dictate the terms of the debate. They are just four lonely votes, out in the wilderness, an annoyance, not an impediment to legislation.  

But they have a huge Twitter following, and the potential to make trouble with the progressive base that is not only woke but not particularly interested in giving moderates in the Democratic Party the time of day, let alone the ability to shape the legislative agenda. 

Nancy Pelosi is good at internal knife-fights. Ask House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules House revives agenda after impeachment storm House poised to hand impeachment articles to Senate MORE (D-Md.) if you don’t believe me. But this is not just a knife-fight. It is a generational battle between the old and the new.  

Donald Trump has temporarily unified House Democrats. But I don’t think that unity can or will last very long.

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker Dennis HastertJohn (Dennis) Dennis HastertFeehery: Republicans need to get on the same page on health care Feehery: Trump is holding all the cards this November Feehery: Losing faith in the people and the Constitution MORE (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).