Those of you who’ve been following the news may feel, like I have, that you woke up on Wednesday or Thursday and found that the resounding Democratic victory had been transformed, in the media narrative, into a debacle of infighting and politicking. This because Nancy Pelosi wanted Murtha to be Majority Leader and he didn’t get to be. Even the paper of record got into the mix, using such restrained language as “tempts disaster” (in the headline!), “acted like some old-time precinct boss,” “skepticism … about her political smarts,” “intramural vendetta.” I can hardly wait to see what the coverage is going to be like once, y’know, the Democrats actually take power.
Now, dear reader, I am capable of admitting that Pelosi made a mistake sticking with Murtha. He’s a controversial public figure who has a bunch of skeletons in his closet. And certainly politicians have power insofar as they convince people to do things, so this betrays some not-quite-sure footing on Pelosi’s part. However, I do think it’s worth noting that:
1)In and of itself, this really doesn’t matter very much. An election was held, a guy won. They held that election two years ago and they’ll hold it two years from now. Therefore,
2)This is only a “disaster” for Pelosi to the degree that the chattering class says it is.
And they’ve decided to say that it really, really is. If you’ve read this far, I really recommend two admittedly longish articles on this topic: one by Digby, and one by Glenn Greenwald. These are two of the smartest, most level-headed left-wing blogs there are—in fact, they are the joint winners of the inaugural Most Level-Headed Left-Wing Blog Award, presented by me. Both of them come to a conclusion that is hard to dispute: that the media treats Democrats differently. I won’t say “worse,” since it’s probable that the Republicans get picked on in their own way, but they sure as hell don’t get the “incompetent party management” label as much as the Democrats do. Consider that the Republicans just completed a Senate leadership election at least as “divisive” (formerly-disgraced Trent Lott won Whip by one vote), plus they lost a Congressional election not so long ago, but you don’t hear about them tearing themselves apart. Nor did you in 1994, when (Digby tells me) Newt Gingrich didn’t get his pick for Majority Leader, either.
One thing I haven’t seen talked about directly, though it has been alluded to, is the element of sexism in all this. Would we be seeing all this talk about catfights, personal vendettas, and power squabbles if this was a male Speaker of the House-Elect? This CNN screenshot, given in the Digby post, makes me think that they’re talking about Pelosi’s suitability as a wife rather than the viability of the Democrats as a party. And I don’t think that Bill Frist has ever been described, as The New Republic’s Marty Peretz described Pelosi, as “rather svelte.”