The Speaker Thing
A friend wrote me this morning, asking what my thoughts were about stories of Democratic challenges to her for Speaker of the House. What I said is that my thoughts on Nancy Pelosi is that until there is someone else actually running against her, I pay the subject very little attention.
He replied that he specifically asked because of a Washington Post article today on Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio who is said is running against Pelosi.
Actually, no, there isn’t a challenge yet. The sub-headline notes “as she weighs bid” and the article says, “as she mulls a speaker run” and refers to her “possible entry.” And says that she told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that she "is considering a speaker bid."
She may run. It sounds like she will run. But until she determines that she has more than “30 people” who the article says support her privately, which can change once they decide whether they want to make that public, or if more supporters join in – or if she loses support because someone else announces -- she isn’t a challenger yet.
I’m very aware that there are several people who are considering running. And I expect that some of them, or at least one of them, will. But right now, it’s just a talking game. And until people actually announce that they really are running, it’s one-person race. And until others publicly say they are actually challenging her, and why, and how they’ll be better, it’s nothing I pay much attention to before then. It's like deciding who I’m going to vote for in the Democratic primary before there any candidates.
Right now, Nancy Peloosi is the only person in contention, so I can’t spend any time analyzing the situation until there’s actually a situation. I’m fine with her if she’s kept at the head of House Democrats. I like her. And admire her. And I think in many ways she's done a terrific job, and stood strong against Trump. But I don’t think she’s without flaws. I sense she’s at her best at the inside politics of the job, which is not only critical, but probably the most critical part of the job – getting people in line, forming coalitions, vote counting and such. And I think she's excellent at that. But I don’t think she’s great in public and find her a bit unfocused in getting her points across. As the face of the party in the House, that's sometimes a detriment. I find her at her best in short, pointed spurts, and she can be vibrant on those occasions. And while, as I said, I think she's terrific at the politics of the "big picture," I question some of her public agenda strategies. But I think she’s very smart and very tough, and does a solid and at times excellent. But honestly, if someone wonderful decided to challenge her, who knows?, maybe that person would be even better. It’s not that I think she’s bad – I don’t, not even remotely – I think she’s very good. But if Democrats can find someone even better, great.
(There are other people I think could do an excellent job, I just don’t think they have any plans of challenging her, so it’s moot. People like Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell and Elijah Cummings. And who knows, maybe Marcia Fudge when I know more about her.)
Further, I think that challenge within a party is a good thing, if it's handled properly and not out-of-control rancor. Having challenges allows other voices to be heard and allows a party to determine what is most important. And in the best of circumstances can make a party stronger. Keep in mind, too, that this isn't the first time Ms. Pelosi has been challenged for leadership, so it isn't inherently a case of going against her on the heels of the party's success. There are some representatives who prefer other leadership. And it's worth adding that those challenges not only failed, but didn't come close to succeeding. If others do challenge her again this time, perhaps conditions will be different. Or not.
What I do NOT want is to see Democrats appear to be caving to right-wing demonizing of Pelosi. That said, I don’t get the sense that that’s even remotely behind the chatter about new leadership. I think it’s more a case of some wanting a change in direction. (I’m not defending that, just describing it.) But for all the defenders who say that it's bizarre to change leadership after the great Democratic victories in Congress, I don’t have the sense of Democrats having taken back the House because of Ms. Pelosi. While I know Democratic leadership worked on campaign strategy, the wins seem largely a rejection of Trump, aversion of the enabling Republicans, recognition that the "tax cuts" mostly benefitted the wealthy, and a desire to protect Obamacare. And local candidates running good, local campaigns. The only reason Democrats didn’t do better in the Senate is because that’s how the at-risk races broke down this year, heavily favoring Republicans. Yet Democrats may end up doing better in the Senate than expected.
What I’d personally like is for Nancy Pelosi to keep the job by a wide margin (let alone by unanimity if she runs unopposed), and then a year or so in, step down and let a new breed take over. (I’ve heard that mentioned as a possibility, though I have no idea if there’s any reality to it.) That would allow her to go out on top, a winner AND give a sense of new direction and “business as usual.”
Again, though, I’m fine with her staying Speaker. And staying for the next two years. What I don’t like is all the press attention on the game playing because…right now…there’s no game. There’s only her. And until that changes, it borders on a non-story to me.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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