In Defense of Nancy Pelosi
It may seem prudent for the Democrats to celebrate after their rout of House Republicans on November 6th. Indeed, there is much cause for celebration -- they flipped 38 districts and the House itself. The election marked the ended of a united GOP government, and it allows the Democrats to establish a foothold to block some of the more odious legislative plans their colleagues across the aisle may put forward. Nevertheless, taking control of the House is not the end of the Democrats’ struggle. If they wish to enact some of the changes they campaigned on, they will need a competent, strategic, experienced leader to guide them. Nancy Pelosi is likely the best person for the job.
While Pelosi starts off with the most support in the Democratic Caucus, it's not clear if she has enough votes to be installed as Speaker. Currently, a group of 20 conservative Democrats are on record opposing the longtime California representative’s bid for Speaker. They represent the right-leaning individuals of the Democratic Caucus, like Tim Ryan (D-OH), and thus view the progressive rhetoric of Pelosi as toxic to their brand. There are even more representatives who either answer vaguely or dodge the question when asked if they support Pelosi. To win the speakership, Pelosi must work hard to mollify the concerns of all but 16 of these representatives.
Despite the concerns of some of the caucus, there are no legitimate challengers to Pelosi. The group of 20 Democrats who oppose Pelosi have not detailed their plans to successfully deny her the position. Despite pointed questions on an alternative, they have not indicated anyone specific as a challenger to Pelosi. The closest is Rep. Marcia Fudge, but she has not even declared herself a candidate yet. If they do not offer up an alternative, the opposition will be forced to vote with the Republicans in the race for Speaker. If they chose to do so, it would be a staggeringly foolish rebuke of Pelosi, who has played a key role in restoring the Democratic majority in the House. The result would likely hand Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) the Speakership and erode a significant portion of Democratic power in the House. That is, short of losing the majority outright, the worst outcome for Democrats. While some of the conservative members of the Democratic caucus may find Pelosi’s San Francisco Liberalism too far left for them, it is far better for their interests than McCarthy’s Tea Party conservativism.
The challenges that the Democrats face will require a deft political strategy to handle appropriately. It’s no secret that Pelosi is comfortable in the backrooms of the Capitol Building. Indeed, this perception is at least partly why she is so disliked. Despite how it may appear, though, her ability to navigate the political landscape of Washington is precisely what Democrats need. This Congress will be faced with some of the most challenging issues of political history, ranging from possibly impeaching the President to investigating his finances to uncovering the truth behind Russian collusion in US elections. The Democrats need a strong and calculating leader to navigate the political thicket. These matters are not as clear-cut as some in the party believe, with issues like impeachment being unpopular among 60% of the voting population. That’s not to say that impeachment is out of the question entirely, but rather that actions and investigations with such gravity and importance should be approached with a skilled hand. Pelosi has the experience necessary for such a task.
Nancy Pelosi is the right leader to handle these challenges. To see her in action, let’s rewind ten years to 2008. The Democrats are coming off a great election year and have captured the Presidency and a nearly filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. The House, controlled by Democrats, is headed by Pelosi, and Obama has big aspirations. With a robust legislative agenda that includes a nearly one trillion dollar stimulus package and a complete overhaul of the nation's healthcare system, this is no easy task for even a united government to undertake. The bungled attempts by the GOP to repeal Obamacare demonstrate as much. Yet, in the face of such an ambitious agenda, Pelosi delivered. She played a key role in passing the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, as well as the Affordable Care Act. That required a level of political skill that an inexperienced Speaker simply would not have been able to produce. The 116th Congress necessitates the same. Democrats must nominate someone who understands the nuances of Washington politics, who understands the rules and procedures of the House, who can utilize public opinion to push for change, who knows when compromise is the best option, and who can organize the Democrats to be a viable force in politics for the first time in several years. That person is Nancy Pelosi.
After producing a fundraising advantage for the Democrats that dwarfed the GOP 2-1 in competitive races, Pelosi is in a strong position to cement the Democratic advantage. She has proven her ability to deliver legislation and money to the party time and time again. While she may appear older and unlike the coming wave of younger, more diverse Democratic representatives, she is still the most qualified and capable person to lead their caucus. She deserves the next tenure as Speaker of the House, and the Democrats would be well-advised to give it to her.