Pelosi and Dems played voters for chumps — again

When I was in grade school in Chicago, I ran home excitedly one day after making the deal of my life.

It was 1969, the Cubs were still in first place in the division, and I snared a seat behind the Cubs dugout for Sunday’s game against the Mets for just $1 from a fellow student. My father looked at the ticket, which clearly was handmade, and explained delicately that I had been taken. There was not even a game to be played that Sunday at Wrigley. 

He suggested, however, that I keep the ticket as a reminder of one of life’s greatest lessons: Don’t be a chump.   

ADVERTISEMENT

In the aftermath of the midterm elections, millions of voters are about to discover the same thing: We’ve become a nation of chumps, and both parties just sold us $1 premium seats to a game that will not be held.

What is fascinating — even inspiring — about American elections is that the two parties that make up our duopoly of power score every two years on the same scam, with the same chumps. Politicians constantly convince citizens to vote against the other party, as opposed to making a positive case for their own reelections; polls show citizens despise both parties’ establishments and hate our rigged political system. 

Both parties again ran the blue state/red state scam in which voters are convinced to choose the lesser of two unchanging evils. It is designed to prevent the rise of a credible third party, allowing the two parties to regularly trade off control between their respective leaderships.

The election is over, and Washington is about to return to the status quo. The Senate has re-elected the same leaders. Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)  — who many members kept at arm’s length during the campaign — walked into a closed-door caucus and reportedly received a standing ovation.  

Right on cue, reports indicate that even new members who campaigned against Pelosi are joining the rest of the Democratic members in assuring their support on the floor, as opposed to a symbolic caucus vote. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who called for a “generation of new people” in Congress, now appears to support her.

The key to running a scam is to use a mark’s greed, weakness or anger to blind him to an obvious swindle. In our age of rage, we were all marks in this election and got played beautifully.

Pelosi has long been one of the most unpopular U.S. politicians. Before the election — with many races viewed as being within 1 or 2 percentage points — voters listed Pelosi as one of their reasons for voting against Democrats. Polls indicate that roughly 7 percent of voters said Pelosi was one of the two top reasons for their voting — almost exclusively against the Democrats.  

It is not clear how many seats might have flipped if Pelosi had pledged that new leadership would take over the party if Democrats prevailed in the House. Even if only 2 percent of voters had been impacted, it could have been enough to change the outcomes of a number of key races. Yet, Pelosi put herself before her party’s interests.

Of course, the first step in a confidence game is the “convincer” promising a big pay-off. In this case, it was the impeachment of Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpPentagon update to missile defense doctrine will explore space-base technologies, lasers to counter threats Giuliani: 'I never said there was no collusion' between the Trump campaign and Russia Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles MORE, a pledge now being brushed to the side by Democrats as (to quote Democratic District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes NortonEleanor Holmes NortonDC and Puerto Rico share the long-ignored dream of statehood Dems struggling to help low-wage contractors harmed by shutdown The Hill's Morning Report — Groundhog Day: Negotiations implode as shutdown reaches 20 days MORE) “a thankless, useless waste of energy” amid assurances that this would be a new Democratic Party, including opposition to Pelosi.

ADVERTISEMENT

Voters were fed assurances that the many new members would insist on new leadership. Those pledges would seem easy to fulfill, with post-election polls showing that 56 percent of Democrats oppose Pelosi as Speaker. When Republican and independent voters are factored in, Pelosi may be the least popular candidate for Speaker in history.

So why are Democrats again pushing her to be the face of their party leading to the 2020 election? Because these elections are about them — certainly not about the marks who vote. Pelosi will deliver committee positions, campaign money and other benefits that some new leadership is unlikely to guarantee. She has spent months directing millions toward these members. Voters simply give them votes; Pelosi gives them cold-hard cash and other perks.

Given polls showing Pelosi at less than 40 percent popularity, she and the Democratic establishment are redefining the election, and not for the first time. Leading up to the 2016 election, every poll showed that voters were looking for non-establishment candidates and that Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTexas man indicted over allegations he created fraudulent campaign PACs FISA shocker: DOJ official warned Steele dossier was connected to Clinton, might be biased Pompeo’s Cairo speech more ‘back to the future’ than break with past MORE remained one of the least popular establishment candidates ever to run for the presidency. Yet, Democratic leaders rigged the primaries for Clinton — and lost to the most unpopular Republican presidential candidate ever.  

Given Pelosi’s support for Clinton and the huge losses in the prior election when Pelosi was Speaker, many again called for her to step aside. However, Pelosi declared that voters really did not want change and that she would remain as the party’s face. It was that easy. After the most anti-establishment election in U.S. history, Pelosi declared that voters wanted her and the establishment to stay in power.

Now, Pelosi and Democratic leaders are saying that polls showing overwhelming opposition to her are uniformly wrong. She told CNN that she has “a broad base of support in the country” and voters want her as Speaker because she’s a woman. She described her opposition as being sexist, a betrayal of voters who wanted a “pink wave.” When asked about a letter with 17 members pledging to oppose her, Pelosi told reporters that "You'd have to ask those people what their motivation is. I think of the 17, it's mostly, like, 14 men who are on that letter." She added that “any misogyny involved in it, it's their problem, not mine." That’s not Trump but fellow Democrats who Pelosi charges as being misogynistic. Identity politics, it seems, is like the god Saturn: It devours its young.

Even though recent polls show only 39 percent of Democratic voters support Pelosi’s return, she is likely to prevail in a vote later this month.

So the establishment will continue in both parties, despite overwhelming unpopularity. And, just like the Cubs ticket, there never was a game to be played.  

Usually it is tough to play a mark twice on the same scam; when a mark opens an envelope to find a wad of paper instead of cash, it leaves an indelible mark. American voters, however, fall for the same scam over and over. It is really not that the two parties are that good at it — it is us. 

That standing ovation for Pelosi was well earned. Any flimflam artist can take a mark, but it takes a real genius to fool the same chumps twice.

Jonathan Turley is the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University. You can follow him on Twitter @JonathanTurley.