I got suckered by the headlines implying that this was some kind of standoff between the establishment old guard and the socialist new wave, on what’s basically Ocasio-Cortez’s first day in Washington. “Climate Protest in Pelosi’s Office Shows Challenges to Party Unity,” reads Bloomberg’s headline, to take just one example. Pelosi vs. progressives’ favorite young gun, on day one? Drama! Excitement.
That’s not what happened, but what happened was interesting in its own right. Watch the first 15 seconds here and note her message to the demonstrators.
She walked into the sit-in to cheers from the protesters, the conquering left-wing rebel who slew the neoliberal dragon in her district, and ended up telling them to have Pelosi’s back as she pushes a green agenda in the House. She was there to push party unity, not to undermine it.
Watch her talk Pelosi up in an interview afterward:
Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cozies up to the Democratic establishment on her first day of freshmen orientation, says that she "admires" Nancy Pelosi.
Ocasio-Cortez: "Really what I’m here to do is, uh, is just to support the folks who are here" pic.twitter.com/tExsuSFOeV
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) November 13, 2018
The greens who staged the sit-in weren’t there to show their support for Pelosi. They want to put pressure on her to reboot the climate-change committee that Democrats organized in 2007 but with more teeth this time to move actual legislation. Suddenly the most famous new Democratic congresswoman in America, a star of the Bernie contingent, shows up and encourages them to follow the leader. Hmmmm.
The friendliness between Pelosi and AOC continued on social media:
Thank you, @NancyPelosi.
We have 10 years left to plan and implement a Green New Deal before cataclysmic climate disaster.
Reinstating the Select Committee is exactly what we need to do. https://t.co/Uy5BnrLZcR
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) November 13, 2018
Double hmmmm. Two possibilities. One: She’s starstruck and has already gone native within her first six hours of being in the Capitol. Two: She’s a cannier operator than she seems and is signaling early to Pelosi that she can be useful to her as a liaison to, and firebreak against, the young, perpetually pissy left. What her price is for doing that, no one knows yet. Maybe it’s purely legislative, with AOC calculating that she can catch more flies among the leadership on climate-change policy with honey than with vinegar. If she’s willing to defend Pelosi to progressives, particularly at a moment when Pelosi’s trying to build support among Democrats for another turn as Speaker, maybe Pelosi will make her environmental agenda a bit more left-friendly. Or maybe Ocasio-Cortez wants something more personally oriented, like a junior leadership role or plum committee assignments. Either way, she understands that she has an asset — progressive legitimacy — that’s worth something to party leaders. What will they trade her for it?
If you’re wondering if the greens were annoyed at her for her pro-Pelosi message, by the way, the answer is no. Not at all:
Incredible to have @Ocasio2018 stand in solidarity with hundreds of youth today to collectively voice our generation’s demand that @NancyPelosi and Democratic leadership put forward a plan for a #GreenNewDeal to stop the climate crisis.
We got your back AOC. Stay fighting ✊🏽 pic.twitter.com/qooISA07jz
— Sunrise Movement 🌅 (@sunrisemvmt) November 13, 2018
The whole thing was so slickly done that I wonder if Pelosi and AOC have already quietly reached some sort of understanding and the latter decided to swing by the ol’ protest at Pelosi’s office today at the Speaker-in-waiting’s invitation. Anyway, if you doubt that Pelosi will in fact be the next Speaker, note that her allies are already demagoging House Democrats with identity-based appeals: “I think it would look ridiculous if we win back the House … we have a pink wave with women who have brought back the House, then you’re going to not elect the leader who led the way?” How can the Party Of Women™ deny the most prominent woman in the party her due, never mind that she’s nearly 80, has already held the gavel, and remains sufficiently unpopular that Democrats ran away from her on the trail this year? Are they sexists?