Meet Nancy

MEET NANCY….It’d be a mistake to think that the loyalties some women feel to Hillary Clinton are immediately transferrable to other female politicians. We’ve seen all sorts of misogyny thrown at Hillary over the last 16 years, and that’s the sort of thing that bonds you to a particular individual.

But when this primary is far behind us, I hope that people looking for awesome female leaders will start paying more attention to Nancy Pelosi.
In 2005, Pelosi inherited a House Democratic Caucus in shambles. Her predecessor, Dick Gephardt, was probably the Democrat most responsible for the Iraq War. Bush had been re-elected, and Democrats were completely demoralized.

That’s when Pelosi pulled the Democratic Party together and saved Social Security. Atrios remembers this awesome anecdote about Pelosi refusing to even dignify Bush’s privatization attempt with an alternative plan. She knew that if Democrats were bullied into pretending Social Security was a problem (it’s actually the most secure part of the federal budget), Bush would probably get what he wanted. She imposed so much party discipline that a united Democratic Caucus stared Bush down, rejecting the entire idea of monkeying with Social Security, until his plan crashed and burned.

Under her leadership, Democrats won a resounding victory in 2006, elevating her from Minority Leader to Speaker. And as dday argues below, we’re headed for another great year in 2008.

[Update: How could I forget to mention her essential role in making firm opposition to the Iraq War a fundamental part of the Democratic agenda? The moment in 2006 when she showcased ex-Marine Jack Murtha introducing his withdrawal resolution was absolutely tremendous for the party.

People should remember this telling clip from December 2005:

Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking House Democratic leader, have told colleagues that Pelosi’s recent endorsement of a speedy withdrawal, combined with her claim that more than half of House Democrats support her position, could backfire on the party, congressional sources said.

Despite Emanuel and Hoyer’s backbiting and timidity, Pelosi got her way, and the Republicans got crushed.]

I was thinking about this as I read the dialogue between two of my favorite feminist writers, Katha Pollitt and Amanda Marcotte, in the LA Times. While it’s definitely bad that only 16% of Congress is female, I take exception to Pollitt’s line that “This dismal picture is masked by the high profile of a few stars who are “firsts” — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.”

Pelosi isn’t just some ‘first’ — she’s the most powerful legislator in America! This is the office that Newt Gingrich held at the height of his power. So much depends on the way she sets priorities and enforces unity among the fractious House Democratic caucus, and she does it masterfully. Pelosi may be the single Democrat most responsible for our Party’s resurgence over the past 3 years. When the next Democratic President introduces domestic legislation, I’ll feel absolutely confident to have it in her hands.

I’ve heard some Democrats complain that she isn’t doing enough to push for things like impeachment. I’d like to note that the median vote in the House is that of a very conservative Democrat, and turn you over to Kansas science blogger Josh Rosenau:

I wish that those people would spend a few years living in Kansas, or even in Bakersfield, CA. They’d realize that what’s holding Pelosi back is not her own political desires. If we had 290 Nancy Pelosis in the House, and 67 in the Senate, we’d have all of those policies. With 218 in the House, 60 in the Senate and one in the White House, we’d have them also. The thing is, we don’t have a few hundred Nancy Pelosis in Congress. If Cindy Sheehan and Shirley Golub want to enact their policies, they should be doing everything they can to replace Todd Tiahrt with Donald Betts, Pat Roberts with Jim Slattery, and ensuring that obstructionist congresscritters in every other district face challenges.

Running against Nancy Pelosi, however, is stupid and naive, and makes these candidates and their supporters look stupid and naive. Does anyone believe that a dollar spent on Golub’s primary campaign couldn’t be better spent electing Charlie Brown in the open congressional seat just in northeastern California? Or in a primary campaign against incumbents who voted for the war in Iraq, for the bankruptcy bill, CAFTA, a police state, and the rest of the Bush agenda?

In large part because of Pelosi’s leadership, we’re now in position for a second landslide victory in which we defeat some of the Republican incumbents Rosenau is talking about. This is a presidential election year, so even with a huge win, it won’t be her face on the covers of the newsmagazines at the end of the year. But when the night of November 4 rolls around, those of us who know how things really work in America will be drinking a toast to her.