The Decision to Keep Pelosi

AKIE BERMISS: I won’t attempt to wax poetic about all the things that make Nancy Pelosi a great leader.  Its all be said and said again.  Even Pelosi herself said last week that they reason the GOP hates her so much is because she’s effective.  That wasn’t her tooting her own horn.  That was just solid fact. Pelosi has been one of the most effective Speakers of the House in years.  Certainly the most effective in my generation.  I really think both parties would hard pressed to find a better Speaker than Pelosi.  Whether you agree with her policies or not — she does her job better than anyone else.

And so, while it should come as no surprise to me, its still very upsetting that there are House Democrats who are still making noises about Pelosi stepping down as the leader of the party in the House.  As if to lend weight to the idea that this past elections was indeed a rebuke of the policies of Pelosi and Obama.  Well, I suppose, in a sense, that it was.  And new numbers from a recent survey do show that it was the HCR bill that seems to have really given the Republican Party the advantage in this last election.  Still, one has to ask oneself: are we in this to look good or to do the right things?  That is, having lost ground in 2010 (but not been utterly defeated) should we turn over a new leaf and try to court back independents by caving on our core principles?  Or do we continue to fight the good fight for the Democratic party?

It seems to me there’s no real choice there.

So I’ll keep it short: With the Tea-Party on the rise, with Boehner et al about to take over the House and start cutting taxes and reducing Government, and with stuffed shirts from Scott Brown to Chris Christie to Sarah Palin being talked about for 2012 — I just don’t think we have the luxury of rolling over and playing dead.  This is the time, more than ever, to be fully dedicated to extending services to the under-privileged, to controlling corporate power in America, and to making comprehensive immigration reform.  This is the time to fight harder than ever for funding for Green Energy technologies, repealing DADT, reforming Education.  I mean, what kind of coward loses a battle and gives up the entire war?

And, observationally speaking, how did the GOP come back from their losses in ’06 and ’08?  Did they bend over backwards for us?!  Did they cannibalize their leadership (well, sort of, yes)?  This is precisely what I’ve been writing about these last few weeks — we cannot take this opportunity to assume the position of reasonable placaters. Being a liberal — being a Democrat — should mean something.  And if we’re not willing to back up meaning something with doing something, then we are not worthy of ourselves.

In my last piece I concluded with the question: Are we fools or are we patriots?  We would be fools try and throw Nancy Pelosi under the bus.  Just because she lead this congress through four years of ground-breaking legislation?  Because she held it together under intense scrutiny and pressure?  Not only as the first female Speaker of the House in our nation’s history, but pivotal in altering the downward spiral of the Democratic party which had been the trend at the change of the Millenium.  Just who do we think is responsible for standing up in the face of the Bush administration’s “permanent majority” tactics to — almost literally — set the very stage upon which Obama was soon to walk?

It would be a huge mistake to get rid of Pelosi now.  She is one of the few beacons in the Democratic party.  She is one of the very few courageous politicians who is not afraid of the legislation she makes.  I’d rather we go down swinging, if we must go down.  Than survive as some ghost of a party.  Pelosi is sure to be one of the triumphant leaders of our time.  History need not bear her out if we can simply avoid abandoning her now.

JESSICA BADER: I’m pretty much on board with every point that Akie is making here. It’s not exactly surprising that someone like me, a proud liberal who believes in taking what you can get but only after fighting for as much of “what you can get” as you can, deeply admires and looks up to Nancy Pelosi. What is surprising is one of the arguments made by some who wanted Pelosi to step down.

There are the understandable calls for a different leader. For the likes of Dan Boren and Jim Matheson, Democrats who hold conservative political views and represent districts where President Obama got less than 40% of the vote in 2008, it’s reasonable to want a party leadership that had priorities more in line with their own, even if the odds are strongly against them getting it. Far less reasonable are the mainstream Democrats fretting about how, sure, Pelosi is effective and led the way on accomplishments that we’re proud of, but the Republicans have succeeded in demonizing her and making her the star of their attack ads across the country, and we can’t win back the House if she’s still our leader.

The truth is, whoever is leading the Democratic Party will be the target of Republican attacks, every utterance and action magnified and distorted. That’s how politics works in a two-party system, and it’s baffling that some Democrats seem to have forgotten this. It’s also baffling that someone like Heath Shuler would not only declare that he was against Pelosi staying on as minority leader but that he would challenge her for the post. Shuler represents a district that Obama lost by about 5 points. If he were to become part of the House Democratic leadership and subject of the attacks that went along with it, he would be in serious danger of losing his next election. There’s a reason that parties tend to draw their leadership from members representing safe seats – it is a lot harder to lead effectively when seriously concerned about your own re-election prospects.

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