There is a young freshman Democrat who reminds me of Trump, come to think of it. But it ain’t Rashida Tlaib.
There are superficial similarities between her and POTUS, though. Reportedly he dropped the F-bomb a few times yesterday as well, in his shutdown meeting with Chuck ‘n Nancy. And both he and she have shown a knack for getting into their opponents’ heads:
One of these knowledgeable sources told The Daily Beast President Trump kicked off the meeting with a rant lasting roughly 15 minutes that included his $5.6 billion demand for a border wall, and threatened that he was willing to keep the government closed for “years” if that’s what it took to get his wall. He also, unprompted, brought up the Democrats who want him impeached, and even blamed Pelosi for new Democratic congresswoman Rashida Tlaib saying at a party earlier this week that Democrats would impeach the “motherfucker” Trump. (It is unclear why Trump would think Pelosi was responsible for this.)
As the clip below makes clear, Tlaib’s relishing her 15 minutes of political fame. Is it Trump who’s met his match in the form of Tlaib and other lefty young guns like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, though, or is it Pelosi? Trump doesn’t care about having Tlaib as a foil. He probably welcomes it — she’s far left, Palestinian, anti-Israel, a central-casting villain for the modern GOP. Her profanity in service to impeachment will be used as Exhibit A in the Republican messaging about “Trump Derangement Syndrome” if and when Dems get serious about trying to oust him. She’s no threat to Trump.
But is she a threat to Pelosi’s control of the caucus?
Some incoming progressive Democrats are repeatedly disregarding norms and breaking with their party in order to criticize the president and speak to their passionate base. Curiously, it’s an approach to politics that mirrors the tactics of the man they’re up against. Tlaib’s comments could foreshadow an intensifying drumbeat of norm-breaking on the left similar to the one that Trump has already imposed on the GOP…
Tlaib, then, on her first day in office, didn’t just violate the convention that members of Congress speak respectfully of the president. Her push for impeachment flew directly in the face of Democratic leadership’s strategy for the next two years. Newly elected House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have made it clear that they believe the best way for their party to win back the Senate and the White House in 2020 is to avoid talk of impeachment, and instead lean into bread-and-butter policy issues like health care and taxes.
John Boehner’s Speakership disintegrated because he couldn’t manage the fire-breathing ideological purists in his caucus. Those purists had few incentives to play nice with him; they came from safely red districts and knew that the key to retaining their seats was to fiercely oppose a president whom voters in their districts loathed. Granted, Pelosi’s much more respected among her own base than Boehner was by the right, and the Tlaib/Ocasio-Cortez young guns are a minority within the progressive wing of the Dem caucus. But Pelosi’s limited to two terms as Speaker (or so she claims) and newbies like Tlaib and AOC are eager to put their stamp on Congress. They might be harder for her to control than she expects, and there may be more Dems in the next Congress who think like they do, especially after two more years of Trump. This isn’t the lefty version of the Freedom Caucus yet. But maybe it’s the beginning of it.
Although I doubt Tlaib scripted her remark beforehand, it has the perverse virtue of probably making her more electable in 2020. She was just elected to her first term in Congress in November, winning the seat formerly held by John Conyers. Her district, MI-13, is majority-black. Tlaib actually lost the special election held after Conyers stepped down to Brenda Jones, president of the Detroit City Council and an African-American, before very narrowly defeating Jones in the primary for the 2019-2020 congressional term. Thanks to a field splintered among multiple Democratic candidates, Tlaib squeaked to victory with just 31.2 percent of the vote before going on to win the general election easily. All of which is to say, she’s not a natural match demographically for her district and might be facing a formidable rematch with Jones in 2020. Anything she can do in the meantime to make herself better known back home and to endear herself to the district’s many Trump-hating Dems will help her with the rematch. Is it a coincidence that she picked a public fight with the president literally on day one of her term in Congress? Maybe. But I bet she’ll pick more, and other Dems from safely blue districts might follow her example eyeing their own potential primary challengers next year. Good luck with her, Nancy.