Nancy Pelosi is Without Equal

There is lots of chatter on the intertubes about five white guys in the Democratic caucus raising all kinds of hell to try to make sure Democrats do not pick Nancy Pelosi as the next Speaker of the House of Representatives.

The five white guys - who as usual get play as Serious Players (TM) on every channel - are CongressMEN Tim Ryan (OH-13), Seth Moulton (MA-6), Ed Perlmutter (CO-7), Kurt Shcrader (OR-5), and Bill Foster (IL-11). While there are a little over a dozen incoming Democratic members of the House who have said they will not vote for Pelosi to be Speaker either, the difference between them and these five white guys is both inside politics and intriguing: now that Democrats will control the House, the new Democratic majority will vote twice on Speaker: first, within the Democratic caucus to
determine who the party will nominate for Speaker. There is absolutely no doubt that Pelosi will win this vote.

Once the party sends her nomination to the floor of the House, however, the entire House will vote on the choice of Speaker, and Pelosi will need 218 votes to become Speaker. At the current election projections, that means she can afford to lose fewer than 20 or so Democratic votes, assuming that no Republican will vote for her (although Donald Trump of all people opened the door to that possibility). It is fairly common for caucus members to vote for their first choice in the caucus vote but still back the party’s candidate on the floor of the House.

This is where these five white guys are creating an insidious trail. They are promising to, and pushing their colleagues to, vote against Pelosi on the floor of the House even if she wins the support of her caucus in a vote. They lack an alternative to Pelosi, but are promising to throw the process into chaos, demanding that they, as a small, fringe minority within the party be allowed to dictate its leadership, and create a dysfunctional House that cannot save health care or conduct the oversight so badly needed.

Let’s be clear. They cannot come up with a challenger against Nancy Pelosi for one simple reason.

Nancy Pelosi has no equal.

Pelosi got her start in politics late by today’s standards, because she is a testament to women’s perseverance. She ran for office after her children were grown, and some may dismiss that as showing her age, in truth, Pelosi is living testimony of what women who wanted to run for office had to once endure. That today 100 women are getting ready to serve in the House is only possible because of trailblazers like Nancy Pelosi. That today women run and win at a younger age is only possible because women like Nancy Pelosi refused to sit down and shut up. It is often said that we stand on the shoulders of giants. Nancy Pelosi is the giant on whose shoulders today’s history and presence stand.

Pelosi won at politics not simply by doing what men did before her. She won by working twice as hard, accomplishing many times as much, and doing it backwards and in high heels. Before Pelosi’s arrival atop the Democratic caucus in the House, Democrats spent a long 12 years out of power in the House after the Republican victories of 1994. Pelosi became Democratic Leader in 2003, and in four short years, Democrats had won back control of the House.

Pelosi got to work as soon as she became Speaker. She led the House to pass a resolution rebuking George W. Bush’s war in Iraq, stopped the Bush plan to privatize Social Security, and conducted the first real oversight of the Bush administration. When President Obama was elected and Democrats expanded their majorities in 2008, she held the Democratic ship steady.

It was Nancy Pelosi who held steadfast for the Affordable Care Act even as many Democrats urged a piecemeal approach to health care, facing fever-pitch right wing protest. She led the House to pass a version of the ACA with a public option, and then when the Senate could not get one in its bill, she was the one who held together the House Democratic Caucus to pass the Senate version (plus a reconciliation package) so that after 70 years of promises, the paradigm of health care in America could finally shift to a social responsibility from an individual privilege. No one - except perhaps President Obama himself - was more responsible for the ACA becoming law than Nancy Pelosi.

It’s no coincidence that the ACA’s protection for pre-existing conditions was the rallying cry among Democrats for this year’s election, as well as the thing that slayed nearly 40 House Republican seats.

But Speaker Pelosi did not stop at the ACA. With President Obama, she charted the course for unprecedented banking reform, student loan reform, and equal pay legislation.

It was Nancy Pelosi who, in a lame-duck session of Congress after her party lost the 2010 elections, ensured that once and for all, legal discrimination against gay service members became a thing of the past.

Nancy Pelosi is the epitome of what Democrats can do with power, what progressives should do with power. She advanced policy, shifted paradigms and changed things for the better when she had the chance because she held true to the core notion of a progressive: putting power on the line to do the right things, because those are the right things to do.

And that is what makes Pelosi the ultimate candidate for the Speakership. She knows not only how to gain power, but she knows what is worth losing political power over. America should only be so lucky to have as Speaker someone who can do both.

This is to speak nothing of Pelosi’s organizational prowess that have held together the Democratic caucus faithfully against the Right’s destructive instincts of destroying health care, uprooting financial regulations, and legalizing discrimination. And she worked, quietly but powerfully, to rebuild a House majority that was taken away as a result of Democrats doing the right thing.

This cycle alone, Pelosi has raised $100 million, some of which surely went to elect the people who are now sucking their thumbs and breathing at the mouth about how she is obsolete and how she is not good enough. In the 15 years she has led the Democratic caucus, she has raised $728 million to elect Democrats. None of Pelosi’s detractors can even dream about doing as much on policy, on organizing, and on money (let’s face it, you need money to get elected) as Pelosi has.

The Democrats’ victory last week is owed in large part to Nancy Pelosi. It is owed to Nancy Pelosi for being the giant on whose shoulders we all stand. It is owed to Nancy Pelosi for yielding power to benefit people, unafraid of losing that power. It is owed to Nancy Pelosi for leading Democrats back to the majority. It is owed to Nancy Pelosi.

The Speaker’s gavel is owed to Nancy Pelosi.

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