At her weekly news conference on Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) recounted her conversation with George Floyd’s brother who had come to Capitol Hill to testify. In response to his question, concerning whether something would pass to address systemic racism in policing, Pelosi told reporters: “It’s a question many of you have asked, but coming from him . . . it had power. And I had an answer for him. ‘Yes,’ I told him, ‘because the public insists upon it.’ ” With polls showing that significant majorities are sympathetic to protests and believe there is systemic racism in law enforcement, Pelosi can confidently vow: “We will not rest until it becomes law.” Public sentiment is everything, she likes to say, and it gives her immense power.

As expected, Pelosi also made a pitch for the Heroes Act, citing the concern about long-term, high unemployment coming from Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome H. Powell and the “disparity in deaths” among African Americans resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. Pelosi also stressed that the bill has $3.6 billion to support states use of voting by mail — an urgent need made all the more obvious by the debacle in Georgia on Tuesday, when many African Americans had to wait upwards of five hours to vote.

“Shameful” is how Pelosi described the election, adding, “It was either a disgrace of incompetence or a disgrace of intent to suppress the vote.” Pelosi openly mused that this “looks like part of a pattern to suppress the vote . . . [and] a prelude of what could happen in November.” Citing bipartisan support from secretaries of state and the public to expand mail-in voting, the speaker again made clear that public sentiment is with her. She practically sneered at the insistence from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) that Congress take a “pause” before passing a bill so critical to so many people.

When she turned to the issue of Confederate statues in Statuary Hall of the Capitol (where 11 such statues still stand) and changing the names of military bases honoring Confederate figures, she knew perfectly well the Republicans have painted themselves into a corner. Confederacy figures Jefferson Davis and Alexander Stephens, Pelosi said, were “traitors," adding that they "admitted treason against the United States. And their statues are here because their state sent them.” If it were up to her, she’d have sent them packing (having relegated Robert E. Lee’s statue to the crypt), but she acknowledged legislation may be necessary.

As for the military bases, Pelosi was just as incredulous: “The American people know these names have to go . . . These names were white supremacists who said terrible things.” However it is accomplished, she reiterated, “These names have to go from these bases. The statues need to go from the Capitol.”

Pelosi and her Democratic colleagues in both chambers know this is a unique moment when bipartisan consensus has rapidly coalesced in favor of policies and positions that months ago would have been politically divisive and unlikely to gain credence (e.g., renaming bases, taking down statues, police reform to combat systemic racism). That all changed with George Floyd’s death. And Pelosi is supremely aware that Republicans, and Trump specifically, are on the wrong side of a significant majority of Americans. Do they really want Jefferson Davis’s statue in the Capitol? Do they really want to go to the mat to keep honoring traitorous Civil War generals (losers, by the way) at a time like this?

Whether it is largely symbolic actions or major policy proposals (curtailing qualified immunity for police, for example), Republicans can either get on board (facing Trump’s wrath) or face the wrath of the voters at the polls. Either way, they aren’t “winning,” which was foreseeable to anyone who understood they had tied themselves to the mast of a racist, unhinged narcissist.

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