Nancy Pelosi was just as bad as you’ve heard on Meet The Press . There was her determined denial of the obvious (that Obamacare had led to the cancellation of insurance policies for millions). There was her declaration of utter ruthlessness in pursuit of the passage of Obamacare (“If we go up to the gate and the gate is locked we’ll unlock the gate. If we can’t do that we’ll climb the fence . . . ) She didn’t quite say “If we have to lie to you we’ll lie”, but she got that point across despite herself. She even had weird archaisms as she dismissed concerns about Obamacare as “Hoop-dee-doo” and “ah-doo” while also calling those sound effects “very appropriate”. Maybe more important than the Pelosi interview itself, is what the interview says about the broader media environment.
If Pelosi had been a junior Republican backbencher rather than Democratic leader, her performance would have turned her into an entertainment media punch line. The point isn’t that Pelosi is stupid. She is no such thing. She picked a bad rhetorical strategy and did not prepare pithy comebacks to easily foreseeable questions. But Pelosi also knew that, even if she sounds like a flustered and shifty idiot, the worst case scenario is that she convinces no one. A junior Republican backbencher would face not only widespread mockery, but would also become a symbol of the party’s dysfunction. Pelosi knew that most criticism of her performance will be limited to right-leaning news outlets whose audience is already hostile to her. Those outlets don’t reach the perusaudables. She didn’t gain anything by her performance (and in that sense it is a loss), but she didn’t lose much either.
Obama won 60% of voters 18-29. Give the ghettoization of the right-leaning media, the declining utility of thirty second ads, and the low quality of right-leaning ads in recent years, it is a miracle that anyone under thirty would vote Republican who did not grow up in a politically conservative household and had good relations with parents who made an effort to pass on their political identity. That doesn’t mean that some of those young voters don’t find themselves supportive of incremental abortion restrictions and skeptical about tax increases. It does mean they can’t imagine voting Republican. Republicans are always the ones saying stupid things on television.
We can laugh at Pelosi, but until conservatives develop a media strategy for talking to that majority of the public that does not consume right-leaning media, the median voter won’t be laughing with us.
We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.
Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on firstthings.com.
Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.
Will you give today?