We here at Paste politics have something of an anti-Democratic Party brand. It’s not that we hate the party (well, sometimes), but that as liberals in an increasingly illiberal world, we desperately want the only semi-sane political party in America to work against the pervasive evils of Republican politics, and Congressmen like Mark Warner have been all too willing to compromise with them. Yesterday, Nancy Pelosi was asked about the NFL’s decision to force players to stand or have them stay in the locker room during the national anthem, and she provided a non-answer that powerful politicians like her are famous for.
Pretty much everyone on the left recoiled at this seemingly spineless answer. It's understandable to be upset given how complicit the Democrats have been in the subjugation of America's minorities through policies like the War on Drugs, but I think this is a good strategic move by the woman that the entire Republican Party is going to run against during this fall's midterm elections.
Kneeling for the anthem is a Republican issue. It's an important symbolic discussion in America, but as far as the 2018 elections are concerned, it's useless to Democrats. It's an “issue” that motivates Republicans to go to the polls, not Democrats. Every moment spent arguing over the anthem is one less moment where they can hit Republicans on their unpopular tax cut for the wealthy and their inaction on America's ongoing health care crisis. Senator Schatz from Hawaii put the GOP's position perfectly on Twitter this week.
If Nancy Pelosi had said something like “it was horrible of the NFL to violate their employees' first amendment rights, and we all need to understand this isn't about protesting the military or the anthem,” that reasonable clip would still appear in every GOP commercial across the country. They would play the edited video with sinister overtones, and say something to the effect of “[Congressional candidate] is a Nancy Pelosi liberal who wants to go to Washington to help make it easier to protest the men and women in uniform of this great country.”
This issue doesn't help liberals win elections. We're running on healthcare, taxes, and a litany of tangible policies which have a direct effect on people's lives. The Republicans are running on culture war nonsense because they have precisely zero actual accomplishments to sell to the broader public. Getting caught up in a distraction like the NFL's ridiculous anthem stance is fighting the Republicans on their own turf. We should make this election a referendum on failed Republican governance, not failed Republican culture. You may have heard pundits rip the Democrats for focusing too much on Trump, but that simply doesn't square with reality. Here's the plan for the 2018 midterms.
This is the right thing to do. Take it from someone who has written extensively on the failures of the Democrats under leadership like Nancy Pelosi’s. Yes, her non-answer on the NFL’s protests is emblematic of a larger issue that Democrats have with protecting minorities from state-sanctioned violence, but it’s not a government policy, and things like the Dems’ hyper-focus on health care make it look like they’re learning from their past mistakes. It’s easy to want to challenge Republican hypocrisy given how ubiquitous it is, but we have to pick and choose our battles.
For someone like Pelosi, she must choose her words even more carefully, and on this topic, I believe it was the right thing to do. Nancy Pelosi vociferously coming out as pro-protest can only help the Republican Party. She’s right to try to maintain the focus on failed Republican policies, and not their desired culture wars.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.