Mistermix covered the kerfuffle between Speaker Pelosi and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez earlier today. As I’ve read the coverage around it, the thing that stood out for me was something other than issues between the different ideological wings of the caucus or whether Speaker Pelosi is doing a better job handling the Squad of four very outspoken, very left of center first year women members of the Democratic Caucus or if AOC’s Chief of Staff, who used to run the Justice Democrats, is himself a problem, or even the recent dust up by Congressman Lacy of Missouri from earlier today. I instead want to focus on something that jumped out to me that didn’t get a lot of coverage except in the attempt to show the distance between Speaker Pelosi and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez.
One quick note before I dive in: I think Speaker Pelosi is good at wrangling her caucus, though I’m quite concerned about the strategy she seems to be pursuing regarding the President and his administration. I also like Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, as well as the other three members of the Squad (Congresswomen Omar, Tlaib, and Pressley), even if I don’t agree with them on everything. As is the case with so many of the new women members, from Congresswoman Davids of KS to Congresswoman Porter of CA and about another dozen in between, simply having the diversity of life experiences makes the current Democratic Caucus in the House better than almost any one before. And from what I can tell they’re all plugging away hard, bring those diverse experiences and views to bear, even if they’re not getting a lot of attention because the media is like meth addict on a three day bender in what it covers.
What stood out to me in the various contretemps around Speaker Pelosi and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is from an interview the latter gave to The New Yorker Radio Hour on Tuesday. While a lot of focus went to AOC, during a discussion of her relationship with Speaker Pelosi that begins at the 11:12 mark of the interview, stating she doesn’t really have much of a relationship with Speaker Pelosi, what really struck me is what AOC said at the 13:41 mark. I’m starting the quotation partially into the end of her answer as to why she turned down Speaker Pelosi’s offer to serve on the Select Committee for Climate Change.
…given the committee assignments I was ultimately given. Which were very intense and very rigorous. I was assigned to two of the busiest committees and four subcommittees, so my hands are full. And sometimes I wonder if they’re trying to keep my busy.
Both the interviewer and Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez then laugh at her answer. Here’s the embed in case you don’t want to clip over. And please, don’t take my word for the transcription, listen for yourselves from the 11:12 mark or from the 13:41 mark.
I think this answer is telling. Specifically, I think Speaker Pelosi wants to know just how good Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez is. So she gave her a lot of responsibility for a first term member of Congress. This is a test. It is a test to see if she can handle the work. It is a test to see how she reacts, responds, and what she produces when she has to work on a team that isn’t ideologically focused or politically concerned with the same things she is. It is a test to see if she is a workhorse or a show pony. And it is a test to see if Speaker Pelosi should spend precious time grooming her for ever increasing responsibility as Speaker Pelosi winds down her career in Congress rather than Congresswomen Porter or Davids or Haaland or Underwood or Hayes or Garcia or Escobar or Finkenauer or Axne or McBath or at least half a dozen others. AOC’s answer tells me she both doesn’t realize that this is a test and that she is also failing it because she doesn’t understand she is being tested. She just thinks – wink, wink, nudge, nudge – that they’re trying to keep her too busy to cause trouble for leadership.