Controversial opinion: I like House minority leader Nancy Pelosi. She’s smart, she’s liberal, she’s forward-thinking, she’s tough and she can take anything that people throw at her. If there’s a discussion about how Pelosi needs to step down, it’s a conversation that should be about her age (she’s 77) and how there’s a need to empower younger Democrats within the party caucus. The conversation should NOT be about how some Democratic bros have bought into this idea that Pelosi is the Hillary Clinton-esque “problematic” mommy-figure at the head of the party.
All of this Pelosi discussion is coming after Jon Ossoff’s electoral failure in the Georgia special election this week, a special election in which Republicans spent millions of dollars on ads tying Ossoff to Pelosi. As in, “why would Georgia vote for Jon Ossoff when he’ll be just like San Francisco Democrat Nancy Pelosi??” The GOP has been doing that for (literally) decades: tying candidates to Pelosi, making Pelosi a short-hand for “liberal/gay/tax-happy/whatever.” In the wake of Ossoff’s failure, the Democratic bros are running to Politico to complain about how mommy lost them the election! Because it’s easier to blame Pelosi than to blame: sh-tty voters in Georgia, the GOP, Donald Trump, Jon Ossoff himself, a baked-in culture of patriarchy and white supremacy, etc.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and other top Democrats put a brave face on Wednesday morning after a disappointing loss in the Georgia special election, yet there is no disguising the unhappiness in the party ranks. There is no challenge to Pelosi’s leadership, and none is going to happen at this point, said numerous Democrats. But it’s clear frustration is growing with the longtime Democratic leader following the extensive losses Democrats have suffered over the past half-decade.
And the fact that Republicans spent millions of dollars on TV ads tying Democratic hopeful Jon Ossoff to Pelosi — and the brand of progressive policies she represents — shows that she will once again be an issue for Democratic challengers in the very districts that the party needs to win to make her speaker again. Some Democrats want to replace Pelosi atop their caucus, as they have since last November’s poor showing at the polls; they say there is no way to get back in the majority with her as their leader. And others who backed her in last year’s leadership challenge have now flipped their stance.
“I think you’d have to be an idiot to think we could win the House with Pelosi at the top,” said Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Texas), who supported Pelosi in her last leadership race. “Nancy Pelosi is not the only reason that Ossoff lost. But she certainly is one of the reasons.”
Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), who backed a challenge to Pelosi last year, said the results of the Ossoff race further underscore that Pelosi should let someone else take the reins.
“There comes a time when every leader has to say, ‘For the good of the order and for the betterment of the party, it’s time for me to step aside.’ And I wish that that would happen right now,” Rice said in an interview. “This is not a personal thing. I want to get back in the majority.”
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), who challenged Pelosi for minority leader in November, wouldn’t comment directly whether she should step down, saying only, “My position hasn’t changed.”
“I think it’s very concerning that that tactic still has some punch,” Ryan said. “Again, it’s part of the broader national brand that average people don’t feel connected to the Democratic Party. Walk up the street and ask 10 people what the Democrats stand for, you’ll get 10 different answers. That’s no way to build a national party.”
If and when the Dems replace Pelosi, the GOP will just make the new leader into a liberal caricature, so why all the breast-beating? This is a disturbing trend within the Democratic party though, and it’s been filtering more and more into the mainstream conversations of the party, and I tend to think it’s connected to Bernie Sanders and his movement. I think the Democratic party – my party, by the way – has to contend with their own caucus of “angry white men” who behave like the He-Man Woman-Haters Club. They think Bernie’s angry-white-working-class economic populism is the way forward for the party. They don’t think women’s rights and women’s leadership are the future of the party.
My take on the Democratic primary for the Virginia governorship is one example I’ll use: the Bernie caucus – economic populism over speaking directly to and for women – was represented in Tom Perriello. Ralph Northam was a more standard Democrat, endorsed by all other Virginia Democrats, and he was endorsed by NARAL because he had a history of standing up for women and reproductive rights across the board. NARAL VA made calls on his behalf to get out the vote and I tend to believe that’s why Northam won. But in the after-action analysis of the primary, all of the bros totally ignored the part where women made a huge difference in the primary. This is happening writ large across the nation, where too many Democratic dudes think they don’t have to speak to women or women’s issues, nor acknowledge the role women’s rights play in these state and local elections. Just my take.
Photos courtesy of Getty.