Why Is Nancy Pelosi Slandering Democrats’ Own Voter Base?

This week, Nancy Pelosi suggested that supporters of a cease-fire in Gaza were foreign government “plants.” But the demand for a cease-fire is wildly popular among Democratic voters — and party leaders are playing a dangerous game by insulting them.

Nancy Pelosi speaks during a dedication ceremony in San Francisco, California, United States, on December 15, 2023. (Tayfun Coskun / Anadolu via Getty Images)

For years now, “Russiagate” has served a function for the Democratic Party somewhat like that QAnon has played for the MAGA base. Both are quasi-participatory true-crime sagas that pit their respective chosen idols against evil cabals. Both have kernels of truth, albeit grossly cherry-picked ones: Vladimir Putin did attempt to influence the 2016 election (though of course so did US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia); Democratic Party leaders like Bill Clinton were close with notorious child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, though of course so was Donald Trump.

Perhaps most important, both conspiracies serve similar political functions, allowing each “team” to absolve itself of its failures. Why didn’t Trump lock Hillary Clinton up? Actually, he did, says QAnon — it’s just a secret. Why did Hillary lose against Trump? It wasn’t her fault, says Russiagate — Putin stole the election.

Yet unlike the establishment-reviled but frighteningly popular QAnon conspiracy, the mainstream media and politicians have for years embraced Russiagate, allowing Democratic politicians to scapegoat foreign interference for the United States’ endemic political crises. Most recently, former speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi invoked the bogeyman of Putin to explain the ongoing protests demanding a cease-fire in Israel’s genocidal war against Palestinians in Gaza. In an interview with CNN’s State of the Union this past Sunday, she said, “I think some of these protesters are spontaneous and organic and sincere. Some, I think, are connected to Russia.”

Pelosi appears unable to believe that many Americans might be genuinely outraged at Joe Biden’s aiding and abetting of Israeli war crimes. What’s particularly remarkable, though — especially given that this is a presidential election year — is that Pelosi is slandering her own party’s base, a supermajority of whom support a cease-fire.

In addition to claiming that opposition to the genocide in Palestine is “Mr Putin’s message,” Pelosi called on the FBI to investigate the pro-cease-fire movement’s financing. The day after, when confronted by pro-cease-fire protesters, she doubled down, telling them to “go back to China where your headquarters is.”

In claiming that cease-fire supporters are agents of the Russian and Chinese states, Pelosi is insulting her own party’s voter base. National polling has shown that a supermajority of Democrats support a cease-fire. A recent poll also showed that 50 percent of Democratic voters believe Israel is carrying out a genocide, compared to 20 percent who say that’s not the case (30 percent aren’t sure).

Besides Democratic voters, more and more of organized labor is endorsing the demand for a cease-fire. This includes major unions like the United Auto Workers (UAW); Communications Workers of America (CWA); Service Employees International Union (SEIU); United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE); the American Postal Workers Union (APWU); and most recently the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), among others. Together these unions represent over 3.6 million active members and retirees.

Other groups that have called for a cease-fire include major Arab and Muslim American organizations and a coalition of over one thousand black pastors. A growing number of city legislators and executives have endorsed a cease-fire as well, including the majority of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and Chicago’s city council and mayor.

If we take Pelosi’s recent comments seriously, the FBI ought indeed to be launching a very wide-ranging investigation of Russian and Chinese meddling in American society, including the bulk of her own party.

Pro-Israel sentiment among the Democratic Party base is quickly fading, while party leadership remains stuck in its multidecade love affair with the apartheid state. Party leaders’ disconnect from their voters is resulting in predictable outcomes — more and more Democrats are saying they won’t vote for Biden, especially young people and Arab Americans. There were already troubling signs for Democrats’ support from crucial parts of their base, including young people, workers, people of color, and immigrants, after the party has spent the past few years instead courting wealthy, highly educated suburbanites.

These trends have accelerated in the past few months as the war grinds on. Recent polling now shows Biden with a 33 percent approval rating, compared to 65 percent of Americans who disapprove of him. Most surprising, more black voters disapprove of Biden than approve, 49 to 48 percent. Weakness with this critical part of his voting base could cost the president the election.

For Pelosi to blame this revolt of her party’s base on Russia and China is a dangerous exercise in complacency. Eventually, the Democrats will have to reckon with the fact that millions of Americans oppose their sycophantic support for Israel’s genocidal war in Gaza. Hopefully they do so before handing the White House over to Donald Trump.