- Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Whenever I write a column about Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who has served in Congress for decades and became the only woman ever elected speaker, I always point out that it is admirable that she has spent her life in public service.

Of course, I also point out that she got filthy rich doing it (she’s worth more than $120 million, partly through trading on inside information you can get only in the halls of the Capitol). And I point out that the 84-year-old should have retired years ago, so addled is her brain.

Anyway, last month, Mrs. Pelosi popped off to jolly old England (on your dime, of course, and you better believe she stayed in the best hotel there). She dropped in at Oxford University for the Union Debate, where she declared that populist Americans are just “poor souls who are looking for some answers.”

“We’ve given [answers] to them, but they’re blocked by some of their views on guns. They have the three G’s: guns, gays, God,” spat the bitter old woman. “That would be a woman’s right to choose — and the cultural issues cloud some of their reception of an argument that really is in their interest,” said the pro-abortion “devout” Catholic.

For the record, populism is a political approach that seeks to appeal to ordinary people who feel their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups. But not to Mrs. Pelosi — or other elite Democrats.

Thankfully, squaring off against the angry old lady was Winston Marshall, a musician who was once a part of Mumford and Sons and now hosts the “Marshall Matters” podcast for The Spectator. He took the floor to speak in opposition to the Oxford Union motion that “This House Believes Populism Is a Threat to Democracy.”

Mr. Marshall started slowly, stating that the meaning of the word “populist” has been slowly altered by “elites [who] have failed” to align populism with their own narrative.

“’Populism’ has become a word used synonymously with ‘racist.’ We’ve heard ‘ethno-nationalist,’ we have ‘bigot,’ we have ‘hillbilly,’ ‘redneck,’ we have ‘deplorable,’” Mr. Marshall said. “Elites use it to show their contempt for ordinary people.”

The use of the word “deplorable” was a reference to Democratic then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s 2016 declaration that supporters of her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, are a “basket of deplorables … they’re racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.”

Mrs. Pelosi’s definition also brings to mind that wonderful characterization by former President Barack Obama, who as a candidate in 2008 said that half of Americans who voted against him “get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

This is what Democrats truly — and deeply — believe. You are “poor souls” or “deplorable” or “bitter” gun- or religion-clingers if you don’t toe the line and parrot liberal talking points at every turn.

President Biden most certainly shares this viewpoint. Despite his populist, everyman facade as “Scranton Joe,” he’s just like Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Obama — a multimillionaire who got rich in service of America through nefarious and dishonest dealings.

But back to Mr. Marshall, who quickly got fired up.

Aiming directly at Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Marshall declared: “Populism is not a threat to democracy. Populism is democracy. And why else have universal suffrage if not to keep elites in check?”

He also said he was “rather surprised” that Mrs. Pelosi — a Democrat — was arguing in favor of the motion since he thought “the left was supposed to be anti-elite” and “anti-establishment.”

“Populism,” he said, “is the voice of the voiceless” and the “real threat to democracy is from the elites.”

“Today, particularly in America, the globalist left have become the establishment,” he said. “I suppose for Mrs. Pelosi to have taken this side of the argument, she’d be arguing herself out of a job.”

And that’s exactly the point. Maybe Mrs. Pelosi, Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden all got into politics as “populists” — striving to help ordinary people who feel their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups. But they have certainly all become the worst examples of elitism that can be conjured.

The 36-year-old guitarist for a folk rock band saved the best for last, roasting Mrs. Pelosi and Democrats who abhor “populism.”

“The threat to democracy comes from those who write off ordinary people as deplorable. The threat to democracy comes from those who smear working people as racist. The threat to democracy comes from those who write off working people as populists,” Mr. Marshall said.

• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on X @josephcurl.

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