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Was Nancy Pelosi’s ironic clap actually just a clap? An investigation

There is a danger in confusing actual people with the memes they spawn.

Was Nancy Pelosi’s ironic clap actually just a clap? An investigation
[Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images]

Milkshake Duck is a descriptor that proves all too useful all too often. Stemming from a viral tweet by @PixelatedBoat, the term comes in handy when a person is suddenly celebrated for some reason, only to quickly incur the internet’s wrath based on further revelations. (Think: the Plane Bae tweeter.)

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Nancy Pelosi has been in politics for so long that anyone who reads the news already knows who she is, but the meme version of Pelosi may have just Milkshake Duck’d herself.

Ever since taking the Speaker of the House gavel from Paul Ryan last November, Pelosi has generated a lot of positive attention. Some of it has been for standing up to Donald Trump with a titanium backbone, and some of it has been people gleefully over-celebrating her facial expressions and fashion choices because we desperately need things to feel good about. That Pelosi deserves some credit for her refusal to budge on her position around “The Wall” during the recent government shutdown should be beyond debate. However, there is a danger in viewing her (or anyone) through meme-colored glasses as a Jessica Jones-style avenging angel of D.C. The more we elevate our politicians into mythic figures, the more we refuse to see their very human flaws.

Case in point: During Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Speaker Pelosi clapped weirdly at Donald Trump. As an isolated image or GIF, it looks like she was being sarcastic.

Perhaps, however, we were just seeing what we wanted to be seeing: Pelosi mocking Donald Trump to his face. (Disclaimer: I personally would love to see that.) Enough with the charade where we pretend to forget that this man made his political bones with a five-year-long racist conspiracy theory about Barack Obama, or that his campaign staff was comprised of literal criminals, or that he once tweeted a GIF of himself body slamming the general concept of CNN, or any of the other stuff. It’s amazing how few politicians just flat-out acknowledge that this is someone deeply deserving of mockery, shame, and worse.

However, the evidence suggests that this is not what Nancy Pelosi was doing when she clapped with a cryptic look on her face the other night.

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The first piece of evidence? Because she said so. According to TIME, “As Pelosi told reporters on Wednesday, it was not actually meant as a sarcastic gesture. Rather, she was showing genuine support for one of Trump’s statements. Trump had just delivered this line: ‘We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise, and the common good.'”

Obviously, there’s a chance Pelosi just told reporters as much as a Cover Your Ass initiative. Part of the art of throwing shade involves plausible deniability. However, what if Pelosi just legitimately has enough of a centrist streak to be happy to hear this deeply divisive president evoke the concept of harmonious bipartisanship, no matter how ridiculous it would be to accept it at face value? A further clue has come to light to suggest that might be the case.

According to Politico, Pelosi on Wednesday brushed off the top initiative from her freshmen Democratic colleagues as a mere suggestion: “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it, right?”

Pelosi’s now infamous clap leaves room for misinterpretation; the above statement does not. It is definitely mocking and belittling. Hey, at least it’s not about anything important, like a global crisis or whatever.

It’s important to applaud Pelosi when she makes the right moves as House Speaker, which she often does, but anyone who thinks of her only as a walking reaction GIF deserves a genuine sarcastic clap.

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