Nancy Pelosi’s demand to keep the top job in the House Democratic caucus despite leading it to the biggest electoral disaster in 72 years has run into some unexpected headwinds at the progressive editorial section of the New York Times. Don’t get them wrong — they love Pelosi and put the blame for her inability to defend the agenda on the “ludicrous caricature” of Pelosi as a “fur-hatted commissar.” But really, they’d just love Pelosi to move on now:
But is she really the best the Democrats can come up with as their leader as they slip into the minority?
Ms. Pelosi announced on Friday that she would seek the post of House minority leader. That job is not a good match for her abilities in maneuvering legislation and trading votes, since Democrats will no longer be passing bills in the House. What they need is what Ms. Pelosi has been unable to provide: a clear and convincing voice to help Americans understand that Democratic policies are not bankrupting the country, advancing socialism or destroying freedom.
If Ms. Pelosi had been a more persuasive communicator, she could have batted away the ludicrous caricature of her painted by Republicans across the country as some kind of fur-hatted commissar jamming her diktats down the public’s throat.
Pelosi’s backers made the case for her continued leadership to Congressional Quarterly the week prior to the election. Care to guess how they framed the damage her departure would create?
Pelosi’s predecessor, former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), opted not to run for Minority Leader when Republicans lost the House in 2006; he resigned from Congress slightly more than a year later, on Nov. 26, 2007, after fading into obscurity.
But Pelosi’s backers think that while Republicans could get by without Hastert at the helm, Democrats would have a harder time functioning without Pelosi: They point to her hands-on leadership style and her near-unmatched fundraising ability.
They didn’t exactly call her a “fur-hatted commissar,” but “hands-on” in this context clearly means something other than “consensus builder.” The implication from the article was that it was her diktats that drove the caucus, and that a sudden loss of that kind of control would be jarring and damaging to their ability to compete in the minority. Without her top-down, “hands on” management style, her allies wondered if the caucus could function at all.
Besides, Pelosi did in fact shove two major pieces of legislation down the throats of Republicans and the electorate. The first, Porkulus, turned into a political albatross with its utter failure to buffer unemployment, and Democrats wound up owning all of the political liability because of Pelosi’s decision to lock Republicans out of the process of writing the bill. The second, ObamaCare, got passed despite angry protests for nine months over the equally top-down ObamaCare bill largely due to the machinations of Pelosi and Harry Reid, and again while ignoring Republican alternative proposals.
Nancy Pelosi couldn’t defend herself against a “ludicrous caricature” because of poor salesmanship; it was because it was no caricature at all.
The Times recommends someone with better sales ability as the mouthpiece of the House Democratic caucus, especially since the Times isn’t too pleased with Obama’s own track record on the stump, calling him a “surprisingly diffident salesman of his own work.” But voters didn’t kick more than 60 Democrats out of the House because they missed their sales quotas. They voted them out because Democrats promised moderation and fiscal prudence in 2006 and 2008 and then pushed a radical agenda and spent money wildly and to little effect. Nancy Pelosi was the author of that deception, and if Democrats want to regain voter trust, it’s going to take something other than a new sales pitch with the same old leadership to do it.