And so not only does Captain Queeg return to the helm of the ship, she does so with overwhelming support from her devastated caucus. 150-43 (on a secret ballot vote, natch), with only Heath Shuler willing to mount a token challenge.

Quoth Slublog, “Pelosi. Murkowski. Good day for politicians that can’t let go of power.”

“There was a lot of unrest in the room for several hours,” Shuler said following the vote, arguing the strength of his challenge “sends a message” that the party needs to change direction…

In a sign of Pelosi’s strength, Democrats voted 129-68 to proceed to a vote earlier in the day over objections from those who sought a delay in order to have more time to mount a viable challenge to Pelosi.

In making his case to the Democratic caucus today, Shuler said the Democratic Party needs to be a “big tent” party. He argued that it can’t take back the majority without a change in leadership, according to a Democratic aide who was in the room. Utah’s Jim Matheson, a Blue Dog who argues “it’s time to shake things up” in the wake of the midterm losses, nominated Shuler.

Pelosi has argued that she should remain in the leadership in part because she knows how to lead Democrats out of the political wilderness, having done so four years ago. She also argues that she is the most effective fundraiser for members of the caucus. She blames the party’s losses on the country’s lingering economic troubles and high unemployment rate, not her leadership.

Yes, truly, the Democratic wave of 2006 was the result of Pelosi’s strategic genius as minority leader, not a backlash to Iraq and Katrina and six years of undivided GOP control of government. Politico, meanwhile, gamely offers a few reasons why this might be a good thing for Democrats, but I can’t quite get past the first one, i.e. that she’s the only liberal in the House with enough national prestige to stand up to Obama if he (giggle) tacks to the center. Even if it were true that there was a meaningful difference between The One’s agenda and Madam Speaker’s, having Pelosi as a counterweight to Obama actually makes it easier for him to tack right, not harder. Sure, the lefty base loves her — just feast your eyes on this — but who cares? They’ll turn out for Obama next cycle anyway, and in the meantime, whenever she challenges him on policy, he can point to her for the benefit of independents and say, “See? How can I be a liberal if Nancy Pelosi’s angry with me?” The One, ironically, may be the only lefty in America who benefits from today’s caucus election, simply because he’s the only one who might be able to turn Pelosi’s bitter political toxicity to his advantage. Had they elected someone else as leader, even someone as far left as Pelosi, then Barney Frank would have been right when he told reporters today that the public doesn’t care about inside baseball stuff like this. As it is, he’s wrong: They will care, but only because it’s Nancy. That’s the ultimate folly of putting her back in charge.

Ah well. This isn’t a moment for righties to point out the left’s strategic errors, it’s a moment to embrace them. If the idea of getting to run against Pelosi again in 2012 isn’t enough to cheer you, here’s a fun item from the Journal about moronic liberals threatening the few surviving Blue Dogs who opposed her; with any luck, that rage will turn into primary challenges, thereby all but ensuring an even bigger GOP majority next cycle. Sounds like a plan. Let the Pelosi attack ads begin!

Update: To grasp the magnitude of what Democrats did today, click here, scroll down, and have a look at Nate Silver’s comparison of various pols’ favorable numbers. Quote: “In fact, Ms. Pelosi is among the least popular politicians in America today — perhaps the single least popular one that maintains an active political role.”