Bipartisanship, as defined by Merriam-Webster: “marked by or involving cooperation, agreement, and compromise between two major political parties.” Bipartisanship, as defined by Nancy Pelosi: Agreeing to promote Democratic policies. In an appearance at Harvard, Nancy Pelosi told the crowd that she was sure that she and Donald Trump could “find common ground” if her party won control of the House in the midterms. In the very next breath, however, Pelosi flatly ruled out any cooperation on Trump’s agenda, ridiculing the border wall as “a manhood issue”:
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, hoping to once again hold the job of speaker, said Tuesday that she thought Democrats could “find common ground” with President Trump if her party wins the majority in next month’s midterm elections.
Speaking at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics, Pelosi (Calif.) said Democrats would “have to always try” to find opportunities to govern in tandem with Trump. Moments later she said that one of Trump’s key policy demands — construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall — amounted to a “manhood issue” she had no interest in indulging.
A “manhood issue”? For many Americans, it’s not a manhood issue but a nationhood issue, and a bleeding security gap that has been identified as such since the 2005 9/11 Commission report. At that time, the security issue was politically acute enough to get Democrats to authorize building the wall in 2006 — but they have balked at funding it ever since. That sarcastic, dismissive response might sell well within the salons of San Francisco and Beltway cocktail parties, but it’s going to land flat most places in between.
So what would Pelosi consider common ground? The issues commonly held as priorities in Democratic ground, of course:
Pelosi said any opportunities for Democrats to work with Trump would be limited — perhaps on a national infrastructure plan, she offered, where Democrats would push for mass transit, housing and communications spending alongside roads and bridges.
But in other areas, she said, compromise would be impossible. Asked by a Harvard student what Democratic priority she would be willing to trade for Trump’s border wall, Pelosi said, “Nothing.”
Trump has pushed for infrastructure spending too, so that would be common ground, but that’s also not news. Trump’s highest domestic policy priority has been a wall in exchange for immigration reform, perhaps only second to restocking the judiciary with conservative jurists, for which he doesn’t really need Pelosi at all.
Pelosi’s remarks might set some Republicans at ease, however. The Hill reported earlier today that some conservatives worried that Trump might give away the store in immigration-policy negotiations with Pelosi controlling the House:
Conservatives are growing worried that President Trump and GOP leaders will strike a slimmed-down immigration deal during the lame-duck session if Democrats win back the House in November.
Republicans fear that Trump, who relishes in the role of dealmaker, will be eager to provide protections for hundreds of thousands so-called Dreamers in exchange for a $25 billion border wall, and that he might do so without getting any other concessions from Democrats if he thinks it’s his last chance to secure funding for the wall.
But a potential agreement over the hot-button issue of immigration fell apart in June, and it’s highly unlikely that immigration hard-liners like White House senior adviser Stephen Miller would back legislation that trades Dreamers for the wall.
Still, as conservatives start to grapple with the possibility of life as the minority party next year, they are sending up flares about the possibility of a wall-for-Dreamers deal and warning it could backfire with the GOP base.
If Pelosi’s taking the wall off the table, there won’t be any deal, nor any reason to worry about concessions. There has always been a deal available for both parties, and Trump even offered it last year, to the consternation of these same conservatives: formalizing existing DACA clients in exchange for full wall funding and the policies needed to ensure that DACA is a one-time-only affair. That would take actual bipartisanship from Pelosi and Democrats, however, rather than the Michael Corleone version Pelosi’s floating (inspiration via Twitchy).