Alexandria in Pelosistan

Those of us who live in San Francisco are often accused of inhabiting an alternative reality. I’m starting to think that maybe those SF bashers are right, but not for the reasons they think.

No, lately I have the feeling that I’m slipping down the rabbit hole because of the curious behavior of my representative in Congress, Nancy Pelosi.

Maybe I ate the wrong mushrooms with my avocado toast, but whether I shrink my perspective or expand it to tree top level, nothing quite makes sense here anymore. I thought I was living in the most progressive realm in the USA, but Pelosi, the Queen of Hearts in these parts, still thinks the smart move is playing 1990’s, Clintonite, triangulating, political power games rather than pushing for the real changes we desperately need to improve our lives today and secure a livable future for the generations to come.

I struggle to find a name for this strange place, where the great and urgent issues of our time are treated as if they have no substance, where our nearly octogenarian Queen is unwittingly in league with a grinning Cheshire cat with his orange comb over in resisting substantive change. Out of loyalty, let’s call it Pelosistan (with apologies to Lewis Carroll).

For just one upside down example here in this whimsical realm, our Queen appears to believe that only the most fortunate among us are entitled to quality, affordable health care. Our Queen is on the record as being opposed to Medicare for all (or anything like it) – despite the fact that a substantial majority of people in the nation favor it and our current health care system costs twice as much as that of any other advanced nation, yet the World Health Organization ranks us as the 37thbest health care system in the world, while by other measures we rank 40thin child mortality rate, 62ndin maternity mortality rate, 36thin access to essential health services and 35thin life expectancy at age 60. Hmmmmm. Curioser and curioser.

For another brain teaser, our Queen thinks it’s a clever idea to adopt a pay-go rule for the House of Representatives, meaning you can’t spend any money on new programs without offsetting tax hikes or budget cuts. She thinks it will appeal to voters if the Democrats adopt a Republican austerity strategy, although Republicans themselves refuse to follow such a strategy even as they drone on about its dire necessity. Not only does that seem like she might be taking her advice from a hookah smoking caterpillar, but it makes me wonder what voters she thinks this strategy appeals to. Certainly not her own constituency here in San Francisco.

What makes this all even more perplexing, she has been and will soon be again Speaker of the House of Representatives, one of only a handful of people in Washington D.C. in a position where she can actually make good things happen almost of her own volition. Of course, she can also stop them from happening. It’s within her reach to be a world hero, or a huge impediment to progress.

So, what does our Queen plan to do with her restored power? She has chosen to oppose a novel plan called the Green New Deal, brought within her view, oddly enough, by the latest ingénue unfortunate to fall into her domain. Appropriately for our times, our new Alice has morphed into a darker skinned version of her former self – Alexandria – who uncannily possesses a sorcerer’s command of the arcane rituals of our era, social media.

Our new Alice sees through the croquet game the Queen and her friends are playing, hustling for the best positions and angles in their dangerously insulated, out-of-touch, make-believe world but never accomplishing anything that matters. Our Queen of Hearts does her best to keep us thinking that she really wants to change things by yelling OFF WITH HIS HEAD at the grinning orange beast, but she never follows up on her threats.

So, Alice proposes that our Queen with her new power establish a select committee to hold hearings and create a comprehensive national plan that actually addresses directly the biggest real-world problem we face, and have ever faced, climate change. Our Alice even wants to draft actual legislation to carry out the plan, and stranger still, she wants Democrats to run on the plan as a major plank of the party platform in the 2020 elections. “It’s inevitable that we can use the transition to 100-percent renewable energy as the vehicle to truly deliver and establish economic, social and racial justice in the United States of America. … This is going to be the great society, the moon shot, the civil rights movement of our generation. That is the scale of the ambition that this movement is going to require,” she exhorts our Queen.

But our Queen, a savvy political pro of the first insider order, knows a utopian fable when she sees one. She’s been around for a very, very long time (78 years, mostly during the last century), and apparently expects that the business as usual she helped to create will continue on well into the foreseeable future. Unconcerned with her legacy or how she will be perceived by those outside her realm, she’s obsessed with re-arranging the wickets on the croquet pitch and maintaining her own power. She tells Alice the same thing she’s been saying since the 90’s to all young people who stumble naively into her realm: we’d like to change things but, under the current circumstances, we have to be realistic because there’s only so much we can do.

Besides, our Queen feels that the only platform she and her party need is to go around shouting OFF WITH HIS HEAD, despite her friend Hillary’s failure with the same strategy. Our Queen appears completely oblivious to the fact that Alice was swept into her domain in the first place on a rising sea of her own tears that also carried in its torment a multitude of birds and animals.

So, our Queen, rather than listen to Alice, but not wanting to completely drive her away from playing the croquet game, offers to create a new committee, with a similar sounding name but minus the words Green New Deal. She appoints one of her pretend pinko flamingo cronies to head up the committee. That Alice will have a nearly impossible time knocking any hedgehogs through the wickets she envisions is confirmed when the new committee head immediately proclaims that although the Green New Deal proposal has “some terrific ideas,” those ideas will not be the “sole focus” of the committee’s efforts.

Of course, the last thing our Queen wants is for Alice to grow any larger and stronger, because that would threaten the fragile illusion that she presides over in Pelosistan.

I want to wake from this trippy nightmare dream before the Queen shouts OFF WITH HER HEAD at Alice, but I linger in that space between my dreams and wakefulness, where I still believe that anything can happen, not knowing quite what to do. I’m afraid that when I wake, that orange apparition with his slightly deranged smile and indecipherable pronouncements will still be hovering over me.



Jeff Sher is a journalist specializing in the health care industry. He lives in San Francisco.