A while back I owned a sports car. A legitimate two-seater with room for perhaps a moderately sized flat box (the Dunkin Donuts party pack type) in the back atop the engine and, in the frunk (front trunk) a compartment sized to hold precisely one carry-on sized suitcase. It was, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the least practical car on the planet not named the Lotus Elise (which is like that, but doesn't even have soundproofing).

Occasionally people would point out to me – as though it had not occurred to me independently – that it was not a very practical vehicle. "You can't fit anything in that!" they said, as if my decision to purchase and drive it was driven by cargo capacity. It would be every bit as stupid for me to remind a Honda Odyssey minivan owner that his vehicle couldn't beat anyone in a drag race. One could safely assume that this was not a relevant concern to the Odyssey buyer, nor is it fair to criticize a vehicle designed to carry many passengers safely for being kinda slow.

As you've probably figured out, this post is about Nancy Pelosi.

Wait. What?

It struck me recently that there is one important aspect in which nearly all criticism of Pelosi recently has been unfair, and it's not the simple "Well she's a woman" point that has been made a great many times. It is unfair in a sense to criticize Pelosi on the grounds of not being enough of a fire-and-brimstone leader when in ordinary political time there would be zero expectation that a House minority leader or Speaker would fit that mold. That simply isn't what they're for. Criticizing Pelosi for not leading the charge into the front lines of the GOP with her sword out and her hair on fire is technically accurate – she's not – but misses the point of whether anyone should consider that a realistic thing the House Minority Leader might do. It isn't.

Think of how incredibly, almost painfully, dull most of the people who have occupied House leadership positions for either party have been throughout history. There is a reason Speaker, Majority / Minority Leader, etc are not springboards to higher political office or places to groom future presidential candidates.

Bob Michel? Tip O'Neill? Paul Ryan? Sam Rayburn? Dick Gephardt? All people who had some good qualities and filled their House roles well, but my god can you imagine a more boring dinner party to be at? House leaders are technicians and parliamentarians.
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There's a good reason they make terrible presidential candidates when they try.

So the question is, why does it make sense to hold Pelosi's blandness and rather tepid approach against her? It doesn't. The problem is that there is a leadership (not formally, but Big Picture) void in the Democratic Party. Obama and Hillary Clinton were the two most obvious figureheads and now both are Private Citizens; you can't be the party's focal point when you're on the outside. Sanders is too polarizing and also too old. The Democratic Senate leadership is a joke (and also ancient). The only Democrats generating excitement outside of their own constituencies are people like Beto O'Rourke and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who, it bears noting, haven't won anything yet (Beto has held some lower offices, but the Senate race is anything but a sure thing).

People gravitate toward the names they know, and for better or worse Nancy Pelosi is just about the only recognizable name in a leadership position in the Democratic Party at the national level. With Trump turning the GOP into a cult of personality, it is natural to look for a Democratic counterpart. There isn't one; whether there should be is a separate question. It certainly isn't going to be a congressional lifer, if such a person exists.

In short, expecting Nancy Pelosi or any House leader to be inspiring is a bit like expecting your accountant to be inspiring. It's not only terribly unlikely but also very much beside the point.

Yes, I believe all of the Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate need to find successors under the age of 70 and start fading away. No organization, political or not, should feel comfortable with such an old group of leaders. Imagine any big corporation having nobody under 70 on the Board or in a management role. But in the immortal words of Dennis Green, Nancy Pelosi is what Nancy Pelosi is, and that's OK. It is not reasonable to expect her to fill a void that someone like the House Minority Leader would not, in any remotely reasonable set of expectations, be called upon to fill.

31 thoughts on “THAT'S NOT WHAT THAT'S FOR”

  • My thinking is:
    Nancy Pelosi has a history of being a great Speaker and a great Minority Leader, holding her caucus together in opposition and legislating like nobody in recent history.

    Steny Hoyer is a loaf of aged Wonder Bread given sentience.

    So let's let Nancy keep SMASHing and use Hoyer's spot to start grooming someone younger and less conservative and less bland.

  • "expecting Nancy Pelosi or any House leader to be inspiring is a bit like expecting your accountant to be inspiring"

    Uh…. Maxine Waters, anyone?

  • Yes but also the DCCC is an incompetent lefty-hating shitshow, and Pelosi is 100% in charge of that.

  • "It would be every bit as stupid for me to remind a Honda Odyssey minivan owner that his vehicle couldn't beat anyone in a drag race."

    A V6 Honda Accord will do 0-60 in under six seconds and do the 1/4 mile in 14.2, which puts it ahead of a lot of 1960's muscle cars. Plus it handles better, stops better, gets better mileage, has more features, and is infinitely more reliable. (Trust me, I owned a lot of those old cars.)

    The Odyssey isn't quite as quick but it's still under 7 seconds 0-60.

    Sorry for the thread-jack. We now return to our regularly scheduled political discussion.

  • As Speaker, Nancy Pelosi passed dozens of fairly good bills, but unfortunately Obama and Reid co-operated with the Republican minority so that NONE of those bills made it to the Senate floor (They were saving their "political capital" for important things such as a Health Care Reform which contained little health, little care and little reform.) In the end, Speaker Pelosi had to say "embrace the suck" and take her place as minority leader.

  • Quite so MK. However, if you're running a nitro burning dragster in the 1/4 mile, well, you know, but point taken.
    Nancy Pelosi? She's like some quotidian draft horse or something? Screw that. Bring on the mares.

  • Ed, you went through this with your post on the last VP pick. Yes, boring is the smart, logical move, but only if they *win*.

  • This is incomplete. The same argument that applies to Pelosi applies equally well to every other politician: they're filling a role. No one should ever look to a politician for leadership under any circumstances. There should always be a leadership void.

    The only relevant evaluation to be made of any politician is whether they can be trusted to implement useful policies. Again, the real problem with Pelosi is exactly the same as it is for everyone else in the party. Her actual politics are bad.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    I still can't quite fathom the Democrats' failure to groom any new leaders during the Obama years. The frustration is less with Pelosi per se than it is with the fact that the party is almost nothing but has-been center-right Boomers.

  • Actually, Ms. Pelosi seems to be a very inspirational figure down South here, appearing in right wing political ads as the boogey (wo)man du jour. I dunno what's so scary about an octogenarian Italian grandma, but here we are.

    @MK, my parents (briefly) had a red 2015(ish) V6 Accord Coupe, 6 speed, natch. Also, red. I only drove it a couple times, but it was the fastest thing I've ever driven. They traded it in on a Civic hatchback, and lost their shirts, but I think they're happier not having to tame a wild beast every time they need to get groceries.

  • Nancy Pelosi is a horrible person–as is every other democrat in elected office anywhere in the U.S.

    I get that.


    BTW, they're not "grooming" people because:

    A.) Nobody wants to BE a democrat–just going by what I read on this blog and others.

    B.) Since they don't USE religiosity, racism, mysoginism, xenophobia and other divisive wedge issues to either recruit or promote their candidates they have to show the voters (who are all over the map in terms of wants'n'needs) with something other than, "We're not those assholes") that the people they want the entire city, district, state or nation to elect are not single-issue demagogues.

    The dems have been getting their asses handed to them for 35 years by refucKKKliKKKlansmen who are elected–in no small part–by the natural supporters of the people who claim that they don't want to DESTROY the U.S. but also don't want to pay taxes, hate abortions and love gunz and oxy. What did I miss?


    Is there some GOOD reason for me having to sign in every time I make a comment?

  • @Jason: This may work well if you belong to the hive-mind of the Ant People. But human beings have a psychological need for leadership, which is not the same as bland technocracy.

    Failure to learn this lesson doomed Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, and (Hillary) Clinton among others.

  • My main problem with Pelosi is "Impeachment is off the table". Imagine if we had held an administration to account for lying the country into perpetual war for the benefit of Halliburton. Bush would be painting portraits of prison guards, Cheney would have been executed (and a real human would have gotten a heart transplant), and subsequent Presidential candidates wouldn't seek the office for the purpose of self-pardoning.
    Yes, there's some need for the boring factor in those leadership roles, and it worked out well for Gerald Ford. Technically, we might have President Ryan by the end of the year (never get in the life boat unless it's a step up). But we need politicians whose ethics outweigh their urge for fundraising.
    I'm the proud owner of a "Cindy Sheehan for Congress" button.

  • "But we need politicians whose ethics outweigh their urge for fundraising.
    I'm the proud owner of a "Cindy Sheehan for Congress" button."

    Well, it's the moolah that's the roolah!

    If you don't run a really expensive campaign with a fuckton of pollsters, message-massagers, image enhancers and other solid professionals, you're campaign is DOOOOOOOOOOMED!

    Don't take my word for it. Ask the experts, the guys who run political polling & consulting businesses!

  • Death Panel Truck says:

    The dems have been getting their asses handed to them for 35 years

    And yet have managed to win four of the last seven presidential elections (five if you count Hillary's popular vote win).

  • Half or so of the reason Pelosi gets so much grief from all sides is because she's from San Francisco (so says this old San Franciscan).

  • Too kind to Pelosi by half.

    Pelosi gets criticism from Dems because she is bad. She opposes Medicare for All, hates lefties, laughs scornfully at campaign finance reform, is totally opposed to impeaching Trump or fighting him in any way, and so on. She is, for better or worse, the leader of the Democratic Party (more so than Schumer, more than Clinton (both), much more than Obama, much more than Perez or any of that sort). She is the leader. Not the House minority leader. She's the Party leader. And she's terrible at it. Terrible at both policy and politics.

    She spends most of her time fund-raising from the ultra-wealthy, and the rest of her time spiking progressives who might run for office anywhere in the US. She's not good, she's not boring, she's not mediocre. She's fucking terrible. She's a blight on the party, which cannot change as long as she clings to power.

  • I see a small chance that the .01% might work out the connection between the assault on the working class and disappointing sales, until that happens they're unlikely relinquish their grip on power, they enjoy politicians seeing them as the true constituency. Likely little more chance of "Faux News" fans connecting the dots between Confederate culture and the depth of it's defeat.

  • @Talisker: I didn't say that people don't have a need for inspiration. I said that politics is the wrong place to look for it.

    I'm especially confused by your citation of Clinton, since she obviously tried really, really hard to run a campaign that was as "inspirational" as possible. By contrast, Ocasio-Cortez didn't win by recruiting a bunch of celebrities, she won by convincingly articulating policy positions that people actually wanted.

  • @Jason: Clinton, and Gore, and Kerry tried really, really, ever so very hard to be inspiring, and had plenty of celebrities on their side. They failed. This is not kindergarten, they don't get points for effort, and collecting celebrity endorsements is not a substitute for leadership.

    An essential part of leadership is being seen to stand for something, not because the focus groups say so, but because you believe in it. This is an area where Ocasio-Cortez is strong, and Clinton conspicuously is not.

  • @ Death Panel Truck:

    Yes, they have won the elections and STILL they've had their asses handed to them.

    They have been decent or timid–some of both, maybe?–and they're dealing with the fucking scum that is the current GOP as it morphs into some sort of Nazi-Lite.

    It is irritating, to say the least.

  • Excuse me MK, but I have a distinct feeling that I've read that somewhere before.

    And yeah, what's with the sign-in feature?

  • I can't for the life of me figure out why the right wing uses her as the ultimate boogeyman to scare people into voting for Republicans. I mean, Pelosi hasn't really been all that radical, so exactly WHAT are they afraid of? Oh, wait, I know: Nancy Pelosi does have a long track record of supporting LGBT rights. So there's that…

  • It is difficult to be succinct when commenting about the current moment, there are so many terrible things happening.

    re: Pelosi – There's a 'blue wave' of outrage over the current mess, over the treason of the GOP, the many suggestions that the GOP is involved in stealing elections, that the GOP is gutting the country and consigning millions of Americans to a 'lose everything and die in a ditch' future, destroying the institutions Americans rely on to be 'America', rampant corruption, wanton cruelty, sadistic depravity, endless bad faith, but you wouldn't know that if you were looking at Nancy Pelosi for a compelling response. Is she rallying any young bloods to fight against the sickening traitorous GOP? Who among the Ds is?

    As far as I have heard the D's were pushing a slogan of 'A better deal' which is some weak sauce shit when the GOP has already shredded the safety nets and social contract. Millions of people are going to DIE from this shit and the Ds want to sell us a low energy 'better than the GOP deal' which is what – a more lingering death?

    She's a nice Italian grandma who supports Gay Rights? She has a commendable record of achievements in her role? Wonderful, now get the fuck out of the way and let someone with energy and a sense of existential urgency lead the fight to save Amercia. Better yet, HELP those new leaders ascend if it isn't too late already.

    Maybe the problem isn't with Pelosi but with the Ds overall. They should have come up with some strong voices and messages and been amplifying the fuck out of them by now. The 'at least we're not Trump/Better Deal' wave might not be enough to take back the House or Senate and if the Ds don't do either it is game over for the USA.

  • Blozar wrote:
    "if the Ds don't do either it is game over for the USA"
    It's much worse:
    one small late October terrorist surprise, one mini-Reichstag fire
    and 538's analysis moves control of the House away from 3 to 1 for the Democrats
    and toward 3 to 1 for continued Trumpist control.
    Trump will turn out his base with stories about illegal immigrant murderers.
    Trump needs a little terrorist boost to bring back wandering sheep to his fold.
    November wil be easy for Trumpism.

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