In Defense of a Second Pelosi Speakership

Throughout the course of the primary season, speculation of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s ouster from leadership has run rampant. Each and every time an upstart wins their way into the general election dance, they’re asked if they’d be inclined to support Pelosi’s candidacy for Speaker of the House, should Democrats manage to flip “the people’s chamber” in November.

At this moment, the odds seems pretty favorable that the pendulum of power in the House will swing leftward, undoubtedly raising the distinct prospect that Pelosi will pursue her second speakership. Even amid the turmoil that a rising blue wave can carry with it, Pelosi has made it abundantly clear that she harbors no intentions of stepping down, much less stepping back.

To be sure, Pelosi has long been maligned as among the ranks of the “coastal elites”, and impugned as a franchise player for the “establishment”, two sloppily-applied designations undoubtedly unpopular with numerous members of the Democratic wellspring. However, if safeguarding the core liberal agenda is the top priority, she’s the best choice to lead the troops.

While the passionate and reformative visions of youthful House hopefuls are both applauded and needed, now unfortunately is not the time for the inexperience of largely untamed exuberance to grab the reins. The unsavory reality is that when the 116th Congress is sworn-in on January 3rd, 2019, the Democratic Party’s exercisable-influence will not extend beyond the lower chamber’s walls.

On that January day, Republicans will still control the White House, the Senate, and at least ideologically, the Supreme Court. So while ushering in a changing of the guard may be alluring, the agenda-imperiling loss of continuity caused by the excision of veteran leadership may result in devastating setbacks. Setbacks at a time when they can hardly be afforded.

If one truly believes that the congressional GOP represents an existential threat to the continued existence of liberal principles, or that a Trump presidency—or perhaps even a more cunning Pence presidency—endangers American values, the open embrace of novice ought to be avoided. And while idealism is a commendable virtue, the current climate in Washington demands stone-faced pragmatism.

The truth is that come January, Democrats won’t have the requisite strength to launch a determined political counteroffensive. Instead, controlling only a single governmental body, they’ll be limited to holding the proverbial line, and when possible, inflicting losses on the Republican opposition in furtherance of 2020 ambitions.

While it may be unsettling to some, now is the time for reliability to step toward the fore and assume the mantle. To that end, a premium ought to be placed on selecting an individual to serve as speaker that is not only fluent in the language of congressional politics, but possesses the demonstrated ability to hold an unwieldy coalition together in the face of pronounced adversity.

And whether everyone likes it or not, the individual best positioned to navigate the treacherous short-term, while maintaining a downfield gaze, is Nancy Pelosi.


(Featured image “Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in 2007“, by unknown congressional photographer, as the work of a federal employee, image is within the public domain/cropped from original.)