As the Democratic Party panics about the rise of Bernie Sanders, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is playing it cool.
The party leader said that she would support and “enthusiastically embrace” Sanders if he is the Democratic nominee for president — and she isn’t concerned that he’ll cost her the House majority, The Hill reported. Sanders’ frontrunner status has moderates concerned about a backlash against his socialist policies this November.
Pelosi fine with Sanders
Sanders’ victory in last weekend’s Nevada caucuses has Democratic moderates warning that the socialist would cost Democrats not just the White House, but both houses of Congress as well. But Pelosi, an establishment Democrat who is sensitive to political risks (impeachment being an obvious exception), is keeping her real thoughts closely guarded.
“Yes,” she said Wednesday, asked if she would support Sanders’ candidacy.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), another old-school party hack, has also said that he is fine with Sanders becoming the nominee. “Look, the bottom line is very simple,” Schumer said Tuesday, according to The Hill. “We have a lot of strong nominees. … I’m not supporting one over the other, but I think every one of them will beat President Trump.”
Pelosi’s answer contradicts her own past dismissals of the party’s far-left wing, as well as the concerns of moderates in vulnerable districts. Many of the 42 districts that Democrats won back in 2018 are either ones that Trump carried or narrowly lost in 2016, the Associated Press noted. One Democrat from such a district told the AP anonymously that centrists are desperate for Pelosi to do something about Sanders.
Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA), himself a moderate, also attested to a fear that “a Sanders candidacy would sink their reelections.” But Pelosi is staying neutral. At her weekly press conference Thursday, she pointedly declined to weigh in on the presidential race.
“Our responsibility is to win the House,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol. “My responsibility is to make sure that those we elected last time return to Congress, keep the majority and add to our numbers. The presidential is its own race.”
Too late to stop the surge?
As is typical with Pelosi, it’s quite possible that she would prefer a moderate alternative, but she is holding her cards close to the vest. There aren’t many other options at this point: Sanders is leading the delegate count, and his nomination appears increasingly unstoppable as moderates continue to split the anti-Sanders vote.
Sanders was the top target in Tuesday night’s debate in Charleston, where his competitors grilled him over his recent comments of qualified praise for Fidel Castro, his radical policies and his record on gun control. The debate gave moderates their chance to make closing arguments before South Carolina’s primary on Saturday and the Super Tuesday contests just a few days later, which will likely prove decisive in picking the nominee. It was particularly important for Joe Biden, the one-time hope of the party elite.
Polling in South Carolina shows that Biden, who has long bet on black support in the state, is leading comfortably — and he has secured the endorsement of Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), a longtime black leader in the House, according to the AP.
But it may be too late to stop Bernie at this point, and Pelosi seems to realize that.