Thoughts On Nancy Pelosi

Love her or hate her, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has dedicated much of her life in service to this nation and has been an effective leader.  Yesterday she, along with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, announced that she is stepping down come January from her leadership position.  In his latest, Dan Rather takes a look back at some of Pelosi’s accomplishments …


Madam Speaker

A record of results

Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner

18 November 2022

Nancy Pelosi has been one of the more consequential politicians in American history. As she leaves her party’s House leadership after years in the spotlight, we should take this moment to recognize the scale of her accomplishments.

In the tumult of the present, it is sometimes challenging to see a bigger picture. As we look back at history, however, we can see that much of the cacophony that preoccupied those living through the eras of the past dissipates. This perspective allows us to understand broader trends and the people who shaped the course of events. One suspects that those in the future trying to make sense of our times will reserve a place of prominence for Pelosi.

We can start with her effectiveness in leading a caucus that has been notorious for its fractiousness. Both as speaker and House minority leader, Pelosi was able to balance the centrifugal forces that would have overwhelmed lesser politicians. She understood the breadth and limits of her power. And more often than not, she was able to play the hand the voters had given her to impressive effect.

Her tenure has been historic. In 2007, she became the first woman speaker of the House. And after the Democrats lost the chamber four years later, she managed her party in the minority until returning to speaker again in 2019. Her pioneering status was clearly a source of pride for Pelosi, but she didn’t stand around admiring her own role in history. For her, achieving the speaker’s gavel was about maximizing the legislation her party could pass with the votes she could wrangle

Most of the country had given up Obamacare for dead after the 2010 special election of Republican Senator Scott Brown in Massachusetts to fill the late Ted Kennedy’s seat. But Pelosi found a way to keep the long-held Democratic dream of expanding health care alive. She willed it into law using every lever of power she could muster, even though she knew it would hurt her party at the ballot box in the subsequent midterms.

Pelosi believed being entrusted with power was more about what you did with it than about keeping it. In intensive legislative sessions in the first two years of the Obama presidency and later with President Biden, she was able to pass a slate of bills that will shape this nation for decades to come. At the end of the George W. Bush administration, she understood the gravity of the financial debacle and passed an unpopular bailout of the banks to keep our economy from complete collapse. During the Trump administration, she stood as a foil to a chief executive out of control.

Pelosi’s pragmatic leadership and eagerness to protect vulnerable members of her caucus, especially in more conservative districts, often led to criticism from the progressive wing of her party that she was too cautious. Many felt she could have pushed for more progressive measures and that the House could have provided greater oversight of the Trump White House. One wonders how future historians will evaluate her balancing acts.

Of course the greatest vitriol for Pelosi has come from the other side of the aisle. She has been consistently demonized by the political right, who have turned her into a caricature upon whom they rained down opprobrium with relentless glee. In fevered segments on Fox News and political attack ads, Pelosi has been depicted as a radical socialist from that modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah, San Francisco.

She (and make no mistake — Pelosi’s gender underpinned the attacks she endured) became a useful shorthand for what her political enemies railed as the antithesis of “real America.” It is not surprising that the violent insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on January 6 were hunting for her. Sadly, her husband was recently badly injured by an assailant who broke into their home after being influenced by this poisonous rhetoric.

That Pelosi was actually an unusually effective politician who occupied the political center of her party and whose actions belied the histrionic characterizations of her Republican opponents probably only fed the bullying. Just as the taunts on schoolyards are often fueled by insecurity, one has a sense that many Republicans were jealous of Pelosi’s political acumen. That she was able to so effectively push a broad Democratic agenda and stymie Republicans on multiple fronts could predictably propel a hatred born from their impotence and frustration.

While presidents sweep into office with a national vote, our system of government allows for individuals to rise to significant power in the legislative branch despite representing a relatively small sliver of our country’s geography. There are no term limits. And the sway of control in Congress means members can find themselves in both the majority and minority, sometimes multiple times, over the course of their tenure in office. And that was the case with Pelosi.

Few have understood the workings of Congress and how to maximize them for the benefit of their agenda more than Pelosi. Nobody outworked her, nobody out-toughed her, and few could match her intellect. Contrary to the claims of her critics, she also understood America well, especially the needs of the members of her caucus who hailed from a diversity of districts. She was able to balance the opportunity of the moment with the needs of the future.

Being the first woman to serve as speaker of the House would alone have made Pelosi a historic figure. But in the end, it is for all the reasons that Pelosi was vilified that she will be remembered as such a consequential leader who shaped her political era. Generations to come will live in the country she helped forge through the force of her will and transformative political skill.

71 thoughts on “Thoughts On Nancy Pelosi

  1. Love Nancy. She is absolutely a role model for me…and yes, part of why I admire her so much is because she could be an ice-cold b***h when she needed to be. And you have to be in politics, if you want to get anything of value done…the halls of power are not a place for the meek! I can only hope to have one-tenth of her toughness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed, she has been tough when she needed to be, but also very skilled at working across the aisle to get things done! I’ve read numerous people — journalists, politicians, and average people — say in the past few days that Nancy Pelosi will go down in history as our most effective Speaker of the House ever! I think that is true, and it is well-deserved! I very much admire her and hope that Hakeem Jeffries, who is likely to replace her in her leadership role, will learn from her!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Not only did she have to put up with the rabid right and associated mentally unbalanced people spurred on by their irresponsibility, she had to put up with sniping from the wing of her party devoid of the reality of your situation.
    One of the few giants of latter days in US politics.
    May she and her husband now be allowed to be left alone and in peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Thoughts On Nancy Pelosi | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

  4. I wish we had a person of power like Nancy in Canadian politics, but the Speaker of the House of Commons is an honorary title given to a party hack the Prime Minister wants to shut up. Way to go, Nancy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • She definitely accomplished much during her many years in House leadership roles! I, for one, will miss her intellect, reason, compassion, humour, and ability to work across the aisle to get things done.

      Like

  5. She will be and is a legend and such a fine example for young women who care about democracy and our country. Robert Hubbell had a nice piece on her this morning.

    I would love to look as good as she does at 82! She has class!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re so right, Mary! I have tremendous respect and admiration for her, for all she’s accomplished. I missed the Hubbell piece … I’ll go find it!

      Heck yes … I’m only 71 and I don’t look that good! And she is for sure a classy woman … a one of a kind!

      Liked by 1 person

    • She certainly has. I think she may go down in history as the single most effective Speaker of the House we’ve ever had. She got things done and didn’t indulge in the political games that others play. Republicans and even many Democrats mock and denigrate her, I think because she is a strong, intelligent woman — qualities that many people think women shouldn’t possess. I hope that Hakeem Jeffries can do as well next year, and that she will help him transition into the role and guide his hand for a time.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

  6. From the other side of the pond I’ve always admired her. The abuse she received from the rabid right proved how effective she was: they have been shouting and name calling since well before 45 made it their trademark, in the absence of policies and vision. I wish her well for her future, and Paul too – hopefully they will enjoy a well-deserved retirement when she finally stands down from the House.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have long admired her, and the day she tore up her copy of Trump’s State of the Union address while he was giving the speech, she won my heart forever! She is an intelligent, capable and strong woman … and that’s why she’s constantly under fire … most people, men and women both, don’t admire those qualities in a woman. We are still very much a misogynistic society. Sigh. I’m glad you appreciated her abilities and her record — she is quite possibly going down in history as the single most effective Speaker of the House we’ve ever had. I wonder if she’ll even run for re-election in 2024? She won this year by a landslide, with some 84% of the vote, but I know she was considering retirement a few years ago. After what happened to Paul, nobody could blame her if she finally said, “I’m done … I’ve given all I can.”

      Liked by 2 people

  7. IMO, Nancy has had her day. Yes, she’s accomplished some very notable deeds, but at 82-years-old, it’s (past) time for her to move on so, personally, I’m very pleased with her decision.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The same could be said of many, starting with Chuck Grassley, age 89, who has been in Congress since 1975 and in government since 1959. Pelosi is still a very strong leader who gets things done. I think Hakeem Jeffries will do well, but I’ll still miss Pelosi. I always admired her, but the day she tore up her copy of Trump’s SOTU speech, she won my heart!

      Like

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