Let's Take Back the Speaker Along with the House

Becky O'Malley
Tuesday August 28, 2018 - 11:53:00 AM

The only time I ever saw Nancy Pelosi in person was at a 2012 fundraiser for Ami Bera, the second time he ran for Congress in a Sacramento-area district which was at best on the edge. He’d lost a previous run, as I recall, but it was a close race and he was trying again, benefited by a re-drawn district.

This was not an event for the big-time donors, not held in a Pacific Heights mansion, but in a routine San Francisco restaurant with admission price about on a par with a ticket to a San Francisco Symphony concert. I went out of curiosity, wondering where the middle of the road, not my usual hangout, was going. Bera was of interest in particular because he’s a physician, and health care was and is a crucial need, not just a lefty’s dream.

Nancy Pelosi (then House Minority Leader) was a surprise guest, dropping in towards the end of the party to make a very brief speech before she worked the room on Bera’s behalf. When she got to my corner, for some reason I chose to ask her an arcane question about an obscure Ohio race that I’d been wondering about.

To my genuine amazement she gave me a detailed specific answer, with all the facts at her fingertips and cleverly analyzed to boot. She’s usually been depicted in the media as charming, shrewd and a terrific fundraiser, but smart as a whip on fine points of issues? Not often mentioned, but clearly her ace in the hole.

So what’s this cryto-campaign by some smart-ass young-uns who think saying they won’t vote for Pelosi to be Speaker of the House will help them get elected to Congress? Exactly what’s that all about?

Most of these wannabes are running as Republicans-lite in districts where Clinton did relatively well against Trump. One special election Democratic winner, Colin Lamb, even ran commercials showing himself with his guns, presumably angling for the NRA vote. Ugh. 

There was a recent rundown on this trend in the St. Louis Post Dispatch, with a link to a Vox list of Democrats trying to run against Pelosi. Just FYI, in California one of them is Andrew Janz, the person running against the hated Trump surrogate Devin Nunes. He will be asking you for money sometime soon: let your conscience be your guide. 

There was an excellent interview with Congresswoman Pelosi on KQED’s Political Breakdown show last week: Nancy Pelosi on Running Against a 'Culture of Corruption,' Challenges to Her Leadership, and Dark Chocolate. She pointed out that the main reason Republicans want to run against her is that she’s effective, and that’s true. But I think there’s more when ambitious Dems try the same trick.. 

Any woman who’s been in a position of power after the age of about 45 is familiar with what might be called the Baba Yaga factor. There’s a reason that witches, including the Russian ones who live in the forest, are most often depicted as old women. When a woman has been around for close to a half century she knows where the bodies are buried, and that’s bound to scare the young folks, male and even female.  

It’s sometimes said that older people can’t understand the point of view of younger ones. But old people have been both young and old, though young people have never been old, which gives the old an information edge. 

Pelosi’s detractors like to suggest that younger leadership is needed because ________________. Fill in the blank yourself.  

It’s true that younger people are sometimes more energetic that older people, but in the radio interview Nancy Pelosi amusingly pointed out that she’d had five children (all aged six and younger at one point) but had more than enough energy left over after they’d mostly grown up to take on Congress. 

With seemingly boundless energy, she can still out-organize, not to mention out-orate, most of her younger colleagues. Remember her eight-hour marathon attempt to bring DACA to the floor of the house? 

Her current frustration comes from a problem not of her own devising. While she was busy keeping the federal House in line, Democratic National Commitee functionaries allowed Republican-dominated state legislatures to gerrymander enough congressional districts to capture a phony majority in Congress, just as they captured enough Electoral College votes to defeat a popular vote Democratic majority in 2016. Recent revelations about Russian hacking of DNC files, another cause of the 2016 election defeat, can’t be blamed on Pelosi either. Nevertheless, she’s managed to keep her troops together since them, waiting for this year’s election. 

Now, because Donald Trump’s cronies have managed to turn the Washington swamp into The Alligators’ Ball, the Democrats have a chance to retake the House. Sadly, the usual Democratic circular firing squad is already being assembled.  

The moderates who denounce California’s leftish tendencies are out in force.And right on cure, the right-wing media, the Moony-owned Washington Times and its ilk, is trying to gin up some anti-Pelosi action oni the left, but it doesn’t seem to be getting much traction so far. When cute-as-a-button Socialista Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat out Pelosi’s putative successor as Speaker, she was tempted by interviewers to denounce the mnority leader, but so far she’s resisted the temptation. 

Triumphal press releases from Berniecrats this week celebrate recent changes in DNC rules to reduce the power of superdelegates, office-holders and other dignitaries, to vote in national conventions without being elected as delegates. That might be fine, but be careful what you wish for. The risk of unintended consequences is always present. Opponents of the change expressed apprehension that since local officials are often more heavily African-American and Latinx that might result in a Whiter convention in 2020.  

If the Republicans had allowed superdelegates in 2016, moderates (yes, there were still some moderate Republicans way back then) might have been able to stop Trump. Even the sainted Dems risk having their own Manchurian Candidate in the wrong circumstances. 

All in all, if (knock on wood) the Democrats do take back the House, they would be world-class foolish to dump Nancy Pelosi in favor of one of the several eager young white guys who’d like her job. Just this morning I heard the loudest among them, Tim Ryan from Ohio, on the radio enthusing over Trump’s touted “Mexico-U.S.” trade deal, which is supposed to replace NAFTA. 

Say what? It’s about as much of a deal as that one with North Korea. No way a wise old woman like Nancy Pelosi would be fooled by it, but Ryan seemed to be.  

There’s a sucker born every minute, isn’t there? But there’s no reason to make one Speaker of the House. 

Having said all this, there’s a Young White Guy running in the nearby 10th Congressional District who deserves your support. Josh Harder made an appearance last night at an event sponsored by the Wellstone Democratic Club and Barbara Lee, and he seems to be the real deal. His no-notes speech touched all the right points for a very critical East Bay audience—didn’t get a single hostile question, which is almost unheard of. And also, thank goodness, he didn’t say a word about dumping Nancy Pelosi. If you’d like to help elect him, go to https://www.harderforcongress.com/ for the opportunity;