I’m sticking with Nancy Pelosi. I remember a time, some years ago, getting a guest pass to the Democratic State Convention in Sacramento. At the time Lyndon LaRouche advocates had formed a well-rehearsed, very loud choral group. There were about twelve to fifteen of them, shiny-eyed and confident. They gathered by doors inside the convention center and delivered a noisy chorus of sarcastic songs accusing Democrats of multiple offenses.
It happened that Nancy Pelosi was appearing that day and was going to meet the public. We formed a long double line that wound down a hall and into the room where she sat, shaking hands, autographing her book. Our group stood out in the hall waiting. The LaRouche singers came from around the corner, posed themselves and burst horribly into song. It was, of course, a parody song featuring Pelosi’s many imagined crimes against freedom. Some of the Democrats got mad and hurled inelegant comments at the singers. But the La Rouche choir kept on, loud and proud. They overwhelmed. Democrats muttered.
My friend Richard, my sister and I got a brilliant idea: Why don’t we sing, to throw them off? We started with Jingle Bells because everyone knows the words. All the Democrats waiting in the long double line joined in. We roared Jingle Bells at the La Rouche singers, drowning them out. After that we sang, This Land is Our Land. Okay, we bellowed This Land is Our Land. The La Rouche singers scowled and bunched together. You could tell it pained them to have their clever and insulting lyrics engulfed by our off-key thundering. They tried to sing louder, but what is louder than sixty irate Democrats booming out This Land is Our Land?
Finally our part of the line moved into a large, quiet room. We saw Pelosi at a table at the far end, smiling up at a couple. Though she’d addressed the delegates and been in myriad meetings, she betrayed not an iota of fatigue. Finally, our turn. I told her we had a mutual friend, Kathy Bowler. It was fun to have a brief chat with her about Kathy. Then the far door opened. Heads turned as we heard a faint but hearty rendition of Row, Row, Row your Boat. Nancy Pelosi looked surprised. Why were all those waiting Democrats singing Row Your Boat? I didn’t want to tell her it was because they were drowning out a bunch of libertarian nerds singing snotty songs about her. But the people next in line told her. She peered at the door, listened intently for a moment, then laughed with delight.
We re-entered the hallway and the Row Your Boat crowd now stood face to face with the La Rouche choir in a deafening sing-off. We joined the Row Your Boat chorus, then went downstairs to tell other friends that we’d met Nancy Pelosi. “If you want to sing, go upstairs,” we said. Later that night some La Rouche stragglers saw us heading to the door. “There they go with their rich Democrat facelifts,” one of the La Rouche singers sneered. This was strange since we’d had no lifts and weren’t particularly rich. But the La Rouche singer was bitter. He had probably worked hard making his Pelosi attacks rhyme.
Today Nancy Pelosi is fighting to keep a woman seated at the head table. In a Frank Bruni, New York Times piece she declared, “If Hillary Clinton had won and sat at the head of the table, it’d be different. But I’m not yielding. I’m not yielding that.”
She wants to keep an experienced woman in a commanding position. Many of us agree. We like this achieving and successful negotiator who knows how to play hardball, did so much heavy lifting for Obamacare, and ably led her team through loss and triumph.
Others argue that the conservative right and its media puppets will continue to paint her as demonically liberal. But what makes them think a centrist Speaker would be depicted any differently? Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, center-left Democrats both, were pilloried by Fox and other conservative media as purveyors of socialist giveaway policies. Anyone who replaces Pelosi will get the same, and more. It’s deluded to expect otherwise.
That includes Democrat Conor Lamb who famously said, “I’d like to see her (Pelosi) replaced.” John Nichols, writing in The Nation, said, “Lamb’s digs at Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi were political gimmickry at its most drab.” He attributed Lamb’s comments to commonplace positioning. Lamb, competing in a red district Trump handily carried, sought to distance himself from the GOP-branded Pelosi. But another young Congressman, Ro Khanna, 41, from the 17th district in California, stated that it would be “wrong to deprive one of the most consequential progressive leaders of the Speakership.” Khanna’s description Pelosi as a “consequential, progressive leader” was spot on.
I think that age and gender bias plays a part in the stirrings against Pelosi. Reminded by reporters of Pelosi’s many contributions, Lamb acknowledged them but said, “people are ready for a new day.”
There is a fair amount of fatuous blather about people wanting a new day, people being “tired” of the same old faces. This shallow attention span enters into political considerations as if the office sought were part of Fashion Week or a reality show. But it’s not a reality show. It’s reality itself, and experienced, successful leaders ought not to be discarded because some easily bored people pine for a new day.
Chris Potter of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted that Pelosi is “a prodigious fundraiser and a skilled field marshal.” He’s right. She’s also an articulate proponent of humane policy, a gifted organizer, and according to people who have worked closely with her, a warm and gracious colleague.
She speaks frankly about being targeted by the right wing. “The Republicans are spending millions—tens of millions against me because they’re afraid of me, because I outraise them in the political arena, because I outsmart them at the negotiating table.” There is no doubt about this. She’s the one the GOP wants gone. So I believe we should fight ten times harder to keep her. As she said, “I do not think our opponents should select the leaders of our party.” (NY Times)
We who so long ago disrupted the La Rouche singers agree. We’re sticking with Pelosi. The more the GOP traduces her, the harder we stick. The more some Democrats equivocate, the more staunchly we stick. Republicans don’t tell us whom to like, and neither does anybody else. We like Nancy Pelosi. She persists. So we stick. This land is our land.