You’d think that Democrats, especially a savvy pol like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, would have internalized a basic rule of campaigning: Don’t hand your opponent a baseball bat to hit you over the head with.
But that’s just what Pelosi did Thursday with her nutty suggestion that her party’s presidential candidate refuses to debate Donald Trump because doing so would “legitimize” any appearance with what she sees as an undeserving president.
Pelosi’s suggestion plays right into the Republican narrative, voiced repeatedly at the GOP convention this week, that the Biden campaign wants to keep its candidate away from the public.
“I don’t think there should be any debate,” Pelosi said at a press conference. “I wouldn’t legitimize a conversation with him, nor a debate in terms of the presidency of the United States.”
Pelosi acknowledged that Joe Biden’s campaign “thinks in a different way about this.”
Thank God for that. Pelosi’s stance is so wrong, on so many levels. It ignores a basic obligation that seekers of the country’s highest office have to the American people — the presentation of their ideas, accomplishments, and programs in a rough-and-tumble format where those ideas and policies can be challenged. And it suggests that the standard-bearers of our party system believe it’s acceptable to shut out the other side rather than engage in exchange — whether civil or uncivil — a notion that only exacerbates our polarized divisions. Let’s not say “civil exchange.”
It isn’t even good politics.
Pelosi’s suggestion plays right into the Republican narrative, voiced repeatedly at the GOP convention this week, that the Biden campaign wants to keep its candidate away from the public because it fears that exposure would show voters he’s not mentally up to the job.
Indeed, it didn’t take the Republicans long to take up that theme. “Odd way to project confidence in your nominee,” Michael Ahrens, the Republican National Committee’s communications director, tweeted less than an hour after Pelosi made her remarks.
Politics aside, there’s a deeper problem with Pelosi’s stance. It reflects the view of too many thought leaders that they are just that — thought leaders, rather than thought enablers. They view themselves as arbiters of what expressions, views, actions are acceptable for the public to encounter.