Saturday, April 15, 2017

The House Democrats Would Likely Have Had Much, Much Worse Leadership Without Pelosi-- And When She Finally Goes, They Will


No one's perfect, especially not in politics. I suspect that if you read a steady dose of DWT, especially about the DCCC, you'd think I'm a major Pelosi detractor. I mostly admire her and respect her. (I just wish she never had anything to do with the DCCC, which has been a catastrophe under her hand.) As the Leader of the House Democrats in a more general way, it would be hard to find someone plausible who would be better. And that will become even more apparent when she leaves.

Remember how she became leader? A corrupt relatively conservative establishment Democrat from Missouri, Richard Gephardt, a dull, rotgut careerist with no imagination-- who eventually followed his dreary destiny to become a slimeball lobbyist-- was Leader in 2002 and Pelosi was the Whip. He helped Bush write and pass a resolution to attack Iraq without justification. 81 mostly conservative Democrats joined Gephardt and the Republicans to pass it on October 10, 2002. But 125 Democrats joined Pelosi in opposition. That was, in effect, the end of Gephardt as Leader-- and the beginning of his fabulous new career lobbying against American working families on behalf of Goldman Sachs.

Gephardt never became Speaker. In 2006, Nancy did-- first woman Speaker ever... and one of the most progressive ever. And good at holding the fractious caucus together through he own strength of character and leadership abilities. Lately, though, people wonder when she's going to pack it in and give younger members a chance to move up the ladder. She's like Elizabeth II. She just turned 77 a couple of weeks ago. The problem, though, if she left, it wouldn't be making room for someone younger. It mean mean making room for someone older-- Steny Hoyer, who turns 78 next month. She doesn't think turning the Democratic Caucus over to K Street is a good idea and that what a Hoyer speakership would mean. Crowley-- next in line after Hoyer and Clyburn (turning 77 in July)-- is a relative youngster at 55. And even more corrupt than Hoyer-- but with Wall Street instead of K Street.

Last month US News was asking again-- when's she going to pack it in already? There was almost this time and almost that time, but she's still there, still clinging to power, for better and for worse.
[W]hile she notoriously keeps her cards close to her vest-- "She's never going to let you know; she's never going to let you see it," a former campaign hand assures-- those nearest to the soon-to-be 77-year-old House minority leader never truly believed she'd walk away from an epochal battle with Trump.

If Hillary Clinton had been victorious, "I would've been gone by now," Pelosi recently told reporters, causing eyerolls to ripple through the Capitol's corridors.

"No. She would've said, 'I have to serve with the first woman president,'" says a senior Democratic aide who does not work for her.

A former House staffer who worked for Pelosi for nearly a decade remembers her once musing somewhat fatalistically about colleagues who chose to depart. "Look at those members," she said offhandedly. "They retired-- and they're dead in two years."

Ironically, given Trump's volatility and the scale of the disruptive agenda he was presenting-- including a promise to eviscerate Obamacare, Pelosi's paramount pride and joy-- the decision in the election's aftermath came easier. Pelosi concluded that leaving could create a risky vacuum that would ensure chaos atop the Democratic Party, at a time when steely resolve and solidarity would be imperative.

"Thinking of Nancy Pelosi in a rocking chair as a grandma? That's never going to f--ing happen," the former House staffer says. "I really don't see an exit for her. This is her whole life."

In a way, the narrow prism through which the nation sees Pelosi does not do her justice. Always impeccably dressed, her wide eyes, static smile and stilted delivery can make her seem icy, aloof and even nervous. Standing next to the rhetorically colorful and clever Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, her own presence is dulled and often unmemorable.

Rather, it's the intangibles that are rarely seen in public-- the constant personal maintenance of caucus members, the colossal cash-collecting, the laserlike vote-counting, the lockbox memory and the ceaseless stamina-- that continue to make her a venerable force when most other leaders would concede their expiration dates had passed.

"You put on your armor in Washington, and we eat nails for breakfast, nails for lunch and nails for dinner," she is fond of telling confidantes.

Yet as she navigates her 30th year in Congress and remains not only the lone woman ever to serve as speaker of the House but the highest-ranking female politician in American history, the fate of Pelosi's legacy has taken an unexpected turn. Rather than being wholly defined by what she accomplished in the age of Obama, she is now being tested by what she can preserve and protect in the era of Trump, as Democrats as a whole deal with one of their most disastrous declines in power in decades.

Pelosi's office did not make her available for an interview with U.S. News, but two dozen current and former Hill and campaign staffers and advisers, House colleagues, senators, family members, friends, donors and opponents did provide their perspectives over two and a half months of reporting. Taken together, they portray Pelosi as a true believer who is genuinely troubled about the durability of her legislative legacy under Trump-- and who sees herself as a bulwark no one in the party is imminently prepared to replace.

"In going toe-to-toe with Trump, I want the meanest, toughest, smartest person we have, and I don't believe there's anybody in the current Democratic Party who could be her equal," says former Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, who briefly challenged Pelosi in a leadership race 15 years ago. "She's the one I want in the foxhole fighting Trump."

At the same time, Pelosi has presided over historic losses. Democrats now need a 24-seat gain to return to power, raising the question: Is her survival more an indication of her own personal strength, or of her party's evident weakness?

"Nancy Pelosi is not Hillary Clinton, but she's the closest proxy to her that remains in power," says Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio, who is leading the National Republican Congressional Committee this cycle. "She is a lightning rod among the Republican base. She's not seen as compatible or resonating with mainstream middle America."

"Mean" is part of the stereotype Republicans have cultivated to turn Pelosi into a Cruella de Vil caricature-- an eerily grinning limousine liberal who sports Manolo Blahnik pumps while schmoozing with millionaires in San Francisco, but who appears like a deer in headlights on television.

On top of that, there is a burgeoning tide of younger Democrats who see Pelosi as clinging to power past her prime. During a Democratic caucus meeting in the wake of the 2016 election, one member joked Pelosi could start a lucrative bumper sticker company if she ever leaves Congress. "All she does is speak in slogans," grouses the congressman, requesting anonymity to preserve his standing with the leader. "It's gimmicky."

Nevertheless, she persists, with no signs of abandoning her pedestal anytime soon. She is the oldest congressional leader in either party, and her longevity is a story of sedulous ambition and unshakable perseverance. It's also one of a figure who is largely misunderstood and often underestimated in a mass media age that doesn't augment her internal strengths.

"She's cunning and relentless, and that's a pretty powerful combination in Washington," says former Rep. Steve Israel of New York. "She wears her opponents down. Even when people think she's in the back seat, she's always in the driver's seat."

"I don't think she cares much how people interpret her."
After the Hillary debacle, a pipsqueak from Ohio, Tim Ryan challenged her for the speakership. I would like to see someone else as Democratic Leader-- but someone better than her, not someone best suited to go get her coffee. She beat Ryan 134 (68%) to 63 (32%), her worst reelection showing ever. Imagine if someone with something to offer had run against her!

The counterweight to the story of Pelosi's resilience is that her survival is indicative of the fog of uncertainty permeating a decimated Democratic Party.

Her Democratic detractors, all of whom required anonymity to speak freely, make the case that she's never been more irrelevant and less influential, and therefore can remain in power for now without much ado.

But they also concede she is not the optimal leader poised to help turn the page.

"In this role, in this moment, a Tim Ryan or somebody who represents the next generation would be valuable for Democrats. Nobody can deny that. You want someone out of the heartland who is reasonably charismatic," a longtime Democratic strategist says. "If Hillary were president, Democrats would be harder to wrangle and Pelosi's skill of keeping unruly Democrats aligned would be important. But here's the truth: Donald Trump is all we need to stay aligned."

Given the Trump earthquake, it's often forgotten that Democrats gained six House seats in 2016. Nonetheless, Pelosi still was forced to cede more power than she ever had before, democratizing choices for head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and a newly formed trio of party policy messengers rather than appointing them herself.

By the time 2018 rolls around, when Democrats look for gains in the midterms, there's some feeling that her cache will have ebbed even further, given that she's likely to remain a Republican punching bag. In February, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey measured her national favorability rating at just 19 percent, trailing House Speaker Paul Ryan by 15 points and Trump by 24 points.

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At 5:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And when the Cemocorrupts have leadership worse then Nanci Pelosi, the Party will crash and burn, making room for a new political alliance which will more than likely represent human beings and not fictitious entities who stole rights equal to humans through twisted legal logic in the head notes of the Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Supreme Court case.

Bring it on!

At 5:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

horse shit.
Pelosi is more corrupt (but perhaps more deft) than gephart and maybe because she's a female she's been given the benefit of the doubt?

But she was the one who said "impeachment is off the table". SHE vowed to disavow her oath of office. SHE has refused to support viable progressives by the dozens. SHE has kept some of the very worst Rs in seats that could have been won at least once during her leadershit.

once enough distance is achieved, presuming that historians at that point are objective... and it matters, she'll be regarded as among the most damaging democraps in a very long list of very damaging democraps since 1980.

She had power (without regard to how she got it) and supported only corporations and the wealthy donors with it. She refused to stand up for the people who vote for democrat/ps. And she will have presided over the collapse of that corrupt vestige of what used to be the party of FDR, HST, JFK, MLK, LBJ et al.


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