On Aug. 17, 2011, Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi helped kick off the Occupy Movement at Oakland’s Acts Full Gospel Church. The violent protests months later may have given her second thoughts, when the Obama administration inexorably had to pull the trigger on a Homeland Security crackdown on the encampments the following winter. It is hard to believe Pelosi was not consulted.
So how did Pelosi help kick off Occupy weeks before Zucotti Park, Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza and Justin Herman Plaza? With a trademark “town hall tour,” duplicated recently at Balboa High School.
Pelosi is a political rock star, with a narrow, partisan, geographically localized following. At the Balboa High event, mostly older, white and predominantly female acolytes were passionately supportive. Small heart-shaped pink paper cutouts with “Love you Nancy!” and “Happy Birthday Nancy” signs were everywhere. However, nationally Pelosi was polling 49.8 percent negative to 28.2 percent positive last December, no doubt far higher where it counts: in her home town.
At both the 2011 town hall in Oakland and at Balboa High last month, Pelosi worked her crowd. She touted the “greatness of America,” evoking God while gas-lighting her detractors’ “enthusiasm and exuberance” and saying over and over, “It’s about you. We want to fight with you at our side.”
In 2011, though the issue was the intense economic pain three years after the Great Recession and a recalcitrant GOP congress, this time it was the debacle of the 2016 election and the orange GOP monster. However, the crowd was far less respectful.
Three quarters were Pelosi partisans, but the minority was vocal. All of the questions on health care were strongly in support of a single-payer system. But Pelosi ducked and dodged, told rambling anecdotes, changed the subject and never answered with specificity. Those favoring single-payer interrupted, shouting her down several times. But on Russia, there were no opposing speakers. Instead, several leading questions allowed Pelosi and Congressmember Jackie Spier to throw huge chunks of chum to the partisan sharks. This is when it got interesting and — as it did at Acts Full Gospel in 2011 — dangerous.
Spier spoke of the “Putin spider web,” though there has been zero evidence of a Trump connection to date. Pelosi called Putin a “thug, the richest man in the world who gets a piece of all the Russian oligarch action.” When a questioner began to read the Webster’s definition of treason — “punishable by death” — the crowd roared in approval.
The Leader doubled down: “My question every day in Congress is, ‘What do the Russians have on Trump politically, personally or financially? They interfered in our democratic election. They’re doing it with other countries, there’s no question. … We can’t let them get away with it. Public sentiment is everything.” More wild applause followed with shouts from the back of the hall, “Treason! Treason!”
Pelosi, now fully sanctioned by her followers, doubled down further: “This president has said he would eliminate sanctions for aggression in eastern Europe. He put Putin on a pedestal as some great leader, and said that we did similar things. Completely not true. … We cannot let our president be a puppet, so I come back to the question, ‘What do the Russians have politically, personally and financially on Donald Trump?”
While I don’t recall Pelosi’s exact words at the 2011 town hall, I do remember thinking she was stoking outrage. Months later, when the San Francisco Police Department’s Tactical Squad repeatedly attacked Justin Herman Plaza to destroy Occupy, I remember thinking, ‘So this is how The Leader’s call to arms against economic devastation ends.’
Is the process repeating? When will the cries of “Treason!” or the caricatures of Putin as a “thug” end?
It was not difficult to crush the children’s crusade of Occupy, a movement of political naifs. But Pelosi and her Partisans — safe in their sanctuary city — have no idea the consequences of a biased investigation a President beloved by the “deplorables” in a nation where the red states are armed to the teeth, and the blue states are home to gun-loathing pacifists.
And will Pelosi be able to turn off hatred of Putin quickly enough to avoid a shooting war with nuclear-armed Russia? The stakes are high, but it’s not clear if The Leader has considered them.
David Carlos Salaverry is one of the founders of San Franciscans for Police Accountability.