The Democratic Party’s worst problem raised its ugly head once again during its mishandling of the Rep. John Conyers saga.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi appeared on television a week ago Sunday and called for calm and due process for Conyers, the dean of Congress, while the House completed an ethics probe.
She seemed to question the credibility of some women accusing him of sexual harassment, saying she didn’t know them and that it was up to the House Ethics Committee to judge them. She called Conyers an icon who had earned due process.
Meanwhile, behind closed doors, negotiations with Conyers and his family had been nearing a compromise, according to sources familiar with the process: That he would enter the hospital, step down for health reasons - and hopefully, take the Conyers story off the front pages of the nation’s newspapers.
Conyers announced on the radio Tuesday that he would retire, ending a 53-year career and endorsing his son, John Conyers III, to run for his seat.
Rep. Conyers could protect his legacy, leaving at least two House Dems jockeying to replace him as ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. (By the way, no one campaigning for a committee seat on the backs of alleged sexual assault victims should get it.)
But sadly, all hell broke loose. Pelosi was skewered for her remarks, so she did an abrupt about-face and called on Conyers to resign. And some Democrats - and Republicans - piled on.
Four members of the Michigan delegation - Democratic Reps. Dan Kildee of Flint, Debbie Dingell of Dearborn, Sandy Levin of Royal Oak and Republican Rep. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland - were among them.
“Zero tolerance means consequences for everyone,” Pelosi said. “No matter how great, the legacy is no license to harass or discriminate.”
No one ever said it was, Nancy. And the problem she ignored in her 180-degree spin was that Conyers has not admitted to wrongdoing. But you know who has?
Democratic Sen. Al Franken. And President Donald Trump.
And while Franken has apologized numerous times - and Trump did once - Pelosi has called on neither to resign.
So zero tolerance didn’t apply.
Pelosi, in an effort to govern by Instagram poll, missed an opportunity to show real leadership. She missed it again when Rep. Joe Crowley of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, became the highest-ranking Democrat to call for Franken’s resignation, and she remained silent.
This, despite Franken apologizing after revelations that he put tongue down a woman’s throat without her permission and allowed himself to be photographed appearing to grope that sleeping woman.
When the spotlight turned to Texas Rep. Blake Farenthold, who used $84,000 in taxpayer funds to pay off a woman who accused him of sexual assault, Pelosi missed another opportunity to call for zero tolerance. She missed another one when she didn’t join Republican Rep. Barbara Comstock of Virginia in calling for the confidentiality agreement in the Farenthold case to be set aside so America could learn what happened.
But it is the Democratic Party that has the bigger problem - again - because it begs three questions:
Are the party, Pelosi, and Democratic leaders, treating the cases of Conyers and Franken differently because of race?
Where is Democratic resolve when it comes to Donald Trump and sexual harassment?
Is it time for Pelosi to step aside, making way for bolder, stronger leader rather than reactionary leadership?
“We have one commonality today and it is called due process,” the Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit chapter of the NAACP, said Monday at a rally for Conyers attended by more than 200 people. “Why is it that John Conyers is the only individual to be denied due process?
“It is apparent that if we’re going to raise this unholy and unlawful guillotine, calling for the head of John Conyers, then in fairness we must begin with the president of the United States. Mr. Trump currently has 15 women who have accused him of sexual harassment. He has told the world and embarrassed the nation by telling how he treats women.”
In an interview Tuesday morning, Anthony continued the point and questioned Pelosi’s leadership:
“She flipped on him and that was in response to politics, not in response to due process and doing what’s right,” Anthony said of Pelosi. “I think it’s time for her take a serious look at her future and I also think that to be consistent, if we’re talking about a leadership change. There needs to be a real clear in-depth analysis of the entire party. They need to do an autopsy relative to where we are. We cannot continue to continue to go forward like this.
“There will never ever be another John Conyers the kind of individual who has the fighting spirit, who has the stamina, who will stand alone even when others are not with him. He spent 15 years bringing the King holiday to fruition when people laughed at him. He stood against Nixon, Reagan, Bush and Trump. The kind of person who will stand in the gap in relation to nomination of Supreme Court justices who will do harm to the nation, who will stand for workers and women and folks regardless of their race or station or sexual orientation. That’s who John Conyers is and has been for 53 and a half years. Not excusing any kind of behavior or abuse, that position is vital for the continuing protection of a generation of civil rights and human rights and dignity and respect, and we must be very careful to make sure that whatever happens in that district will be for the benefit of the people and not for the advancement of an individual.”
If the Democratic Party thinks that people aren’t upset about this, it is not spending enough time talking with black and women voters, an apparent misstep that helped cost the party the presidential election last year.
And if the party thinks that black and female voters won’t remember this period during the 2018 and 2020 elections, they are wrong.
It will play. It will play big.
Don’t believe me? Just watch.