Forget for a minute about how terrible the election results were for President Obama. Why isn’t Nancy Pelosi taking more heat for the way Democrats got hammered?
Pelosi won reelection with 80 percent of the vote so she can stay in Congress as long as she wants to, but I can’t think of a single reason why she should stay in a leadership role after the debacle she presided over. If the election results were seen as a repudiation of the President, they were a total rejection of Speaker Pelosi.
Just like Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich, Pelosi has become a left-wing liability and an easy target for right-wing media, a punching bag for Republicans and an anchor around the necks of Democrats. Here in light blue turned blood-red Ohio she was as popular as the Michigan Wolverines. Every Democrat that won election riding Barack Obama’s coattails in ’08 was turned out in 2010. I had to keep my remote nearby so I could click away from yet another in an endless series of commercials of a hapless “Nancy Pelosi Democrat’ being pummeled as her stooge.
Now after presiding over the worst slaughter a majority party has suffered since 1948 and losing over 60 seats, Pelosi is supposed to be the field general who will rally Democrats after a crushing defeat? How? General Patton she ain’t.
While she wasn’t a terrible Speaker of the House, Pelosi clearly underestimated the range of dissatisfaction the electorate had with Democrats and she was a liability, not an asset to most of her caucus.
I’m not crying over all the Blue Dog Democrats that got put to sleep, but losing that many moderate-to-conservative Democrats leaves a more liberal and more isolated minority in the wake of the Republican wave. Rightly or wrongly, Pelosi’s highly partisan and bitterly divided House is extremely unpopular with voters and will be blamed by defeated Democrats as contributing to their defeat.
Incoming House Speaker John Boehner will have to ramrod an incoming class of Republican freshmen smelling strongly of tea and in no mood to give an inch to Pelosi or President Obama. Boehner may have the toughest job in Washington trying to get his extremely ideological majority not to overplay their hand and toss the Democrats a road map back to power.
Pelosi’s high negatives as all that’s wrong about “San Francisco values” remains a problem Democrats cannot solve with her in a prominent leadership role. Pelosi may believe Boehner is only keeping her seat warm for the next two years, but while it might be better for her ego to hope this is merely a temporary reversal of fortune, stepping aside so she could be replaced by the blander, but less ideological Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn might be better for her party.
Pelosi’s refusal to step aside is her way of saying she’s not going to go the Sarah Palin route and quit. By staying Pelosi is making it clear she wants to fight for her political legacy even if many Democrats wish she would just go away quietly.
I personally have a lot of admiration for Pelosi’s iron-clad commitment to her liberal values. Unlike Obama, she’s a true believer and an unwavering champion to the causes she believes in. But she is also rigidly ideological and treated the Republican minority with barely concealed contempt when she wasn’t ignoring them completely. No doubt Boehner and company will return the favor tenfold.
To paraphrase the president’s well-worn phrase he used on the campaign trail this year, Nancy Pelosi drove the Democrats into a ditch. Now she wants to be the one to pull them out? As he ponders what the Republican rout of Pelosi’s Democratic majority means to his reelection hopes, President Obama has praised Pelosi, but you have to wonder if he really wants her hanging around making a tough job even tougher. She needs to hand the keys over to somebody else. Probably anybody not named Nancy Pelosi.