When House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke before progressive activists at the Netroots Nation recently, she became a symbol of a split lurking within the Democratic and Republican parties that could impact the 2016 presidential race.
The reason: Pelosi was booed in a seeming throwback to the 1960s, when the Democratic Party’s left wing perceived the government run by its party as an almost evil, dangerous force, pitting anti-war Democrats against the more professional politician types. Democrats have battled each other over military related issues under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and during the primaries for the 2008 Democratic Party presidential nomination.
Pelosi’s sin? She had dared to diss a person who has become a hero to many in the Democratic Party’s left wing grassroots and in the Republican Party’s non-establishment right wing grassroots: Edward Snowden, the former NSA contract worker who leaked information that NSA collects data from millions of Americans with the cooperation of several large Internet and telecom companies, and that Great Britain’s intelligence agency GCHQ monitored delegates’ phones. He’s the latest to join the ranks of what writer Robert Levine calls “the transparency Messiahs,” who “saw themselves as above the law, self-appointed messiahs able to make policy decisions over and above the elected officials of these nations.”
Pelosi sin was to say there’s a need to balance privacy and security and noting that Snowden “did violate the law in terms of releasing those documents.” For stating this fact Pelosi was booed and someone even yelled “You suck!” — providing yet more evidence of how (uh, oh here come the False Equivalency Police) the left and right often in their tendency to somehow consider insult-hurling and name-calling the same as thoughtful political comment.
The split among Democratic liberals on Snowden runs deep. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) has called for Snowden to be prosecuted “because he violated the law, he violated America’s trust, he jeopardized millions of Americans.” Liberal talker Ed Schultz riled his listeners by saying Snowden is no hero or typical whistleblower, and if he was a patriot he’d come home and face the music since he has so many supporting him in the United States.