Sunday, July 02, 2017

A San Francisco angle on Nancy Pelosi's House leadership

Matt Yglesias wrote an interesting article at Vox about whether House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, head of the Democratic caucus since 2004, has become a liability or remains an asset to Democratic hopes for an electoral comeback.

Earlier this year, newer members got behind Rep. Tim Ryan’s challenge to Pelosi’s leadership, and it’s clear they’re not mollified by anything they’ve seen since. At the same time, progressive activists have grown increasingly frustrated with some of Pelosi’s priority to maintain caucus unity by keeping left-wing ideas like a public option or Medicare expansion off the table during the debate over Affordable Care Act appeal.

Yet despite these new developments, the dominant story of Pelosi’s standing vis-à-vis the caucus remains exactly what it’s been for the past 15 years. She’s a prodigious fundraiser to whom many members owe favors, and her main antagonists are white men with voting records that are at least somewhat more conservative than hers. That’s not a formula for success in today’s Democratic Party, and unless the rebels manage to recruit a more formidable challenger, Pelosi’s position will be secure for about as long as she wants it.

I thought it would be interesting to look at Pelosi from the perspective of one of her leftist constituents.

From where I sit, my Congresswoman is often a frustrating impediment to feeling I'm represented in Congress. By the standards of Congress, she's certainly a liberal, but by the norms of San Francisco, she's a moderate centrist. Given the chance, we might have elected a flaming socialist anti-imperialist from this town (at least until so many folks got priced out) but since 1987, we haven't had a chance to try.

Now to be fair to Pelosi, she did vote against the Iraq war (118 Democrats voted against the measure authorizing use of military force in 2002). Heck, she even voted against Iraq War I in 1991. She was instrumental in assuring that we enjoy the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a remarkable urban while still wild park surrounding our city. She never supported the US embargo of Cuba. She (along with the former occupant of the White House) deserves credit for insisting that dilatory Dems grow spines and push through Obamacare in 2009 when this was a tough vote. She occasionally turns up in public among her constituents; the photo shows her speaking at my church to a beyond skeptical audience of Latinx locals seeking a better deal on immigration policy. We could do much worse.

But from the perspective of a San Franciscan, having Pelosi in office is a lot like not having a Congressperson. There's no point in calling her to ask for this measure or that: her actions will be rooted in holding her caucus together, not doing what we ask from her. I call anyway, sometimes thanking her for holding her caucus on the right side of votes. These people are human after all, and should be thanked when they do something good.

Citizenship atrophies when it seems that our votes and our opinions don't matter. Pelosi's long tenure has, I think, turned many San Franciscans' attention away from the House of Representatives. Our woman in Washington is embedded there; she's powerful; House doings are not worth our attention. That goes for many long-serving reps, but perhaps particularly for the Leader.

Ed Kilgore, a seasoned operative and commentator on Democratic Party gyrations, thinks Pelosi's long leadership tenure is having a similar effect within Congress itself and with the public. He makes the case that all occupants of Congressional leadership positions, of both parties, gradually become more unpopular the longer they stay in their roles. The more visibility they accumulate, the more citizens accumulate grievances. He thinks Pelosi has been a necessary, path breaking figure but

... the most compelling case for a change in leadership has nothing to do with Pelosi’s actual performance or perceptions of her ideology: She’s just been there too long.

If Dems can manage to take back the House in 2018, perhaps it will be time to replace Pelosi. This would be an earthshaking event, not only in Washington but also in San Francisco.

I think we'll miss her a lot -- but change has got to come.


Hattie said...

I'm sure she would like to retire!

joared said...

If the Dems go too far to the left they'll lose all chance of getting in IMHO -- the numbers aren't there.

janinsanfran said...

Hattie: she sure doesn't admit to wanting to retire, though I could imagine she'd be tired of it. But I think she feels a vocation to what she is doing -- a good thing for someone in any role, so long as what they are doing is a good ...

Joared: quite agree. Candidates need to be good matches for the people they ask to vote for them. Seems elementary. Only in very exceptional cases can candidates lead strongly. I really do believe that, if the people lead, our leaders will follow. ...

Brandon said...

"But I think she feels a vocation to what she is doing"

Likewise, our late Senator Daniel Inouye apparently felt a calling. He was always re-elected and died in office. (As a conservative friend of mine said, "They're going to carry him out.") The post-Inouye era has been dominated by Mazie Hirono, who might or might not be forced to retire for health reasons, Brian Schatz, who could have a long career ahead of him, and Tulsi Gabbard, who could become governor or senator, as some say she aspires to be.

Anonymous said...

Nitwits think Social security is "too far left". F U to all neoliberals who are Reagan Democrats. Pelosi must go!

Hattie said...

I don't understand the hostility toward Nancy Pelosi. I guess if she would stop being a woman it would help.
And I would like a definition of "neoliberal."

Related Posts with Thumbnails