Saturday, November 06, 2010

Nancy Pelosi: a leader for dazed Democrats

Just want to say, I'm delighted Nancy Pelosi has chosen to return to the fray as leader of the shrunken Democratic House contingent.

She's been my Congresscritter for a long time -- and I haven't always chosen to vote for her, as if that choice mattered. The only time it did matter, her first election, I worked for a more populist alternative. Though Pelosi prevailed, that campaign was one of the milestones on the way to progressive political power in our city.

Since Pelosi won the leadership job, San Franciscans might as well not have had a Congressmember because her constituency is less San Franciscans than her caucus, her fractious herd of Democratic members. I've been bitterly critical at times, distressed when it looked as if she was working the insider game to the detriment of both her constituents and progressives at large. From 2006 to 2008, it looked as if, though Democrats had won the House, she was more concerned with keeping the caucus together than with standing up to the odious President George W.

But, unlike most liberals with good intentions who play an insider game for years, promising they'll do good if they ever accumulate the power to do something, Pelosi spent her political capital over the last two years. Oh, she never was all we might want, wasn't pushing our cautious (dithering?) President to get the hell out of Afghanistan, prosecute the war criminals from the previous administration, or get serious about ensuring all of us health care, not just a chance to buy health insurance. But she reliably stuck up for what liberals could possibly win, never seemed to advocate just giving in to the naysayers, and herded her brood of Congresscritters far further than they wanted to go. It was an admirable performance.

Former Speakers don't always just go away if their party loses the majority. The Republicans who got in after 1994 have set that pattern, but this wasn't always the expectation. The legendary Democrat Sam Rayburn who ruled the House for his party in the 40s and 50s slipped in and out of the chair several times with changing electoral fortunes.

And apparently Pelosi is going to stay the course, rallying her caucus against the current crop of Teabaggers, know-nothings and corrupt fraudsters. The columnist E.J. Dionne summed up her attitude:

Democrats have nothing to apologize for, nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to regret. ...

[Republicans demonize her] "because I'm effective," she answers matter-of-factly. "It's why they had to do it...."

The entire column is worth reading.

If anyone can help dazed Democrats to remember they have spines, I suspect it might be my feisty Congresswoman. I won't let up on asking her to do more, but I think we'll all do better with her around and I'm glad she wants to stick it out a little longer.


Darlene said...

I always thought that the radical right demonized Nancy because she did such a good job. Nancy said it best.

Her win was one of the bright spots in this election.

Anonymous said...

After she took the impeachment of George W. Bush off the table, I filed her under "useless."

janinsanfran said...

@Anonymous -- I'm reduced to trying to use the barely usable these days ... I admit that.

Anonymous said...

If she wants to redeem herself I'll stand up and cheer. I'm just not holding my breath.

For example, just to be concrete: when it came to health care, she had the power to whip the other Democrats in line over the public option. She could have punished the obstructionists in her own party by yanking their committee chairmanships and threatening worse. She didn't.

She also could have kept on a steady diet of Congressional hearings about Bush Administration war crimes, for two years or so. But did not. She could have repealed the P.A.T.R.I.O.T. Act. Nope. You get my point.

janinsanfran said...

Heck -- Pelosi did far worse than not whipping for the public option in health care, something I think the President had negotiated off the table before there was a bill. She sold out women over abortion availability, one of the few issues on which I think one can suspect she has a personal commitment.

I don't look to political figures for principles, though it would be nice if they had some and a few do. I value the ones I value mostly for competence, for generally advancing the openings for a progressive agenda without much expectation that this will be their agenda. You know, the old maxim still goes: "if the people lead, the leaders will follow." But even for that to work, you need pols who know enough to come in out of the rain. And on that level, this lady has it.

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