Nancy Pelosi’s Tantrum is Going to Backfire on Her
Nancy Pelosi’s tantrum just about upstaged the president’s speech at last night’s State of the Union address. Or at least I suspect that’s what she wanted it to do. Either that or she was simply unable to contain herself. The latter seems unlikely, given her political skill. I think she was performing, playing to the Democrats’ base.
Which tells you something about their base. It’s a foul mood-infected bunch.
I doubt any Democrat is any more alarmed over Trump’s Ukraine phone call, or his border policies than conservatives were over Benghazi or Fast and Furious. But we never expressed it the way they do. Conservatives didn’t riot in Portland — or anywhere — when Obama got elected or re-elected. We kept our cool; we kept perspective.
Hillary Clinton reportedly exploded in rage after she lost in 2016. Her side has been frantically trying to undo that loss ever since. Pelosi’s just lost a big one there, and she’s taking it very sorely. Her performance last night might play to her base, but overall I expect it’s going to backfire on her.
They Don’t Know How to Lose
Mature character means knowing how to lose. Two of the greatest men of the past two centuries, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, both lost multiple elections on their way to attaining their countries’ leadership, and guiding their nations to crucial victories in brutally difficult wars.
Democrats don’t appear to know how to lose. Pelosi’s ripping up the president’s speech was a virtual temper tantrum, as close as one could possibly come to the real thing in the Capitol and on national television.
For all a person could complain about President Trump’s Twitter feed, he’s never lost his cool, not even his sense of humor, despite unimaginable political pressures being brought against him these past three years. He’s shown unusual character in that. A lesser man or woman would have crumbled.
Last night Pelosi crumbled. If ripping up Trump’s speech was political theater, she played it poorly. She could have set it up as an act of strength, but she’d already given up that opportunity by lowering herself to contempt. She played the sore loser instead.
Shaming the Winners
Trump spoke his vision last night for a nation where everyone can win. The Democrats’ vision is for a nation where no one can lose; no one, that is except the Dems’ political opponents, and anyone who’s “privileged,” that is, anyone who’s won previously. Everyone else comes out ahead, where “ahead” means “equal”; and if that makes no sense, I’m sorry, it’s not my fault.
Everyone who plays gets a trophy; or maybe you don’t even have to play. Everyone who actually wins is liable to get shamed for it.
Maybe that’s part of the Democrats’ problem: You don’t learn how to lose that way.
Politics has losers. Hillary was not supposed to lose. Her team has never gotten over it. They’ve never quit trying to undo it. Last night’s upstaging maneuver was Pelosi’s way of trying to shame Trump for winning — even though most of the victories he touted were the same victories her side has always wanted.
Mature Character Not on Display
My first career was in music, which may be the last remaining place where even young people have permission both to win and to lose. Every player knows their rank in the section by the chairs the band director assigns them. You could give every young musician a trophy, but that wouldn’t make anyone want to come listen to them play. More likely it would do the opposite, because even the music practice room is a place of constant failure. It has to be — except musicians don’t look at it that way. Rather, we see it as a place of constantly trying to play harder things and play them better than we’re capable of, in hopes we’ll be able to play them tomorrow.
That’s how young players grow up to be musicians people will listen to. It’s also a picture of what it takes to grow to full maturity in any field. You have to let yourself fail in a way you can feel it. You have to handle those losses in a way that spurs you on toward greatness. You have to know how to lose.
Otherwise, you lose. You lose the way Nancy Pelosi lost last night. Greatness? No, sadly, she showed contempt. It was a failure of character on her part, and I expect her side will feel the effect of it, all the way through November. A foul mood captures few hearts.
Tom Gilson (@TomGilsonAuthor) is a senior editor with The Stream, and the author of A Christian Mind: Thoughts on Life and Truth in Jesus Christ and Critical Conversations: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens, and the lead editor of True Reason: Confronting the Irrationality of the New Atheism.