A Woman’s Work is Sometimes Done!

From Steve Kornacki at Salon:

The seeds of Sunday night’s historic House vote were planted not by Barack Obama’s election in 2008, but by a little-noticed internal House leadership contest nearly a decade ago.

Back in the fall of 2001, two Democrats were vying for the vacant position of House minority whip. But the election wasn’t really for the caucus’ No. 2 leadership spot. It was for the top job.

Richard Gephardt, then the Democrats’ House leader, would be stepping down after the next election, so the winner of the whip’s race would be in line to replace him – and to become the House Democrats’ public face for the next decade, at least. Which is why there was trepidation – to put it mildly – among more than a few Democratic members about the race’s front-runner: Nancy Pelosi.

Original DVD cover

The knock on Pelosi was simple: To anoint a “San Francisco liberal” as a party icon would simply affirm the caricature of Democratic leaders that Republicans had been peddling for years – to devastating effect. Better to pick her less strident, more pragmatic rival, Maryland’s Steny Hoyer, their thinking went. But Pelosi had the votes and won what remains the longest leadership campaign in House history (more than three years of starts and stops) by a 118-95 count.

That verdict led directly to Sunday night. Because the ideological ambition that separated Pelosi from Hoyer is probably what saved the concept of wholesale healthcare reform when it seemed destined for the trash heap just two months ago.

Pelosi, we have learned in recent days, was instrumental in prodding the White House to press ahead with its push for large-scale reform after January’s special Senate election in Massachusetts – even as Rahm Emanuel, once a House man himself, urged the president to radically pare back his vision. And it was Pelosi who then somehow struck a deal with the Senate and found a way to convince 219 of her fellow Democrats to vote “yes” on a bill they hated.


Fittingly, just minutes after the final vote, Hoyer himself hailed Pelosi as “the single most responsible person for this night’s success.”

The passage of healthcare reform is not just a triumph of Pelosi’s liberal idealism, though it is partly that. It’s just as much a triumph of her underappreciated legislative savvy – mastery, really. In the ’01 leadership race, Hoyer was supposed to be the skilled tactician. Pelosi was supposed to be the clueless ideologue. But as speaker, she’s adeptly mixed her idealism with the deft touch of a seasoned congressional insider.


Who else could have pulled off what Pelosi just did? For more than a year, she carefully balanced the wildly disparate interests of her caucus’ various coalitions – the progressives who demanded a “robust” public option, the Blue Dogs who cared mainly about deficits, the pro-lifers who made abortion their make-or-break issue, and on and on. She gave away just enough to each group to keep reform alive – without sacrificing her own bottom line of near-universal coverage.

She also went to war with the Senate after the Massachusetts special election – and won, forcing that chamber’s leaders to embrace the reconciliation process they’d been shunning.


She pushed the stimulus bill through, then cap-and-trade, and now healthcare. And those are just the headline items. For a woman who supposedly hails from her party’s left-wing fringe, she sure has a knack for winning over moderates when it matters.


Politicians like to tell voters that they believe in always doing the right thing – no matter how unpopular it is. But they rarely mean it. As speaker, though, Pelosi has lived it.

For the last three years, Republicans have done exactly what all of those centrist House Democrats worried about in 2001, wasting no opportunity to portray Pelosi as Jane Fonda with a gavel.


And mostly, Pelosi has shrugged it off. A different speaker looking at the same poll numbers might have been tempted to go along with Emanuel’s scaled-back healthcare vision in January. But Pelosi ridiculed it as “kiddie care.” She knew what was right (at least in her mind), she knew how to make it a reality, and on Sunday night she did just that.

Public opinion is a funny thing. By any standard, Pelosi’s healthcare achievement is significant. But it might not alter her poll numbers at all. She’ll probably still be a Republican punching bag this fall. Republicans, for instance, will probably torment the embattled Harry Reid over the praise he heaped on Pelosi this weekend – when he called her “the greatest speaker the House has ever had.”

Those words just might do Reid in with Nevada’s electorate in 2010. But history just might smile on them.


Filed under 2008 election, abortion, Barack Obama, Congress, Democrats, Harry Reid, humor, movies, Nancy Pelosi, parody, politics, Rahm Emanuel, Republicans, Senate, snark, Wordpress Political Blogs

14 responses to “A Woman’s Work is Sometimes Done!

  1. writechic

    I’m writing on Nancy, too! She has kicked ass on this. She’s a tenacious child advocate, too. She is being vilified by nancy boys on the right in a way that might give SoS Clinton PTSD flashbacks, but Pelosi isn’t withered by it.

    It’s so awesome that her name is such a feminine, girly, fru-fru name, too. Bet it feels natural on GOP tongues.

    • i loved the theater of nancy and her posse marching arm-in-arm through the hostile crowd on their way to voting for the bill. the giant gavel that was used to punctuate the passing of medicare back in 1965 was the perfect accessory.

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  3. Ok that gavel looked like a croquet mallet!
    Was Nancy going to bonk heads, if need be?

    I’m into giving credit where credit is due…. this was a hellish scenario, and she pulled it off. The arm in arm walk up was totally cool- reminiscent of MLK marches, back in the day.

    So I have to say this write up almost has her walking on water…. but I will not forget that she insisted on keeping impeachment off the table in the Bush era, which I viewed as obstruction of justice.

    In comparison, Nixon looked like a choir boy compared to the deadly crimes of the Bush2 regime, but he skated. Nixon knew he had to resign (and keep his pension), or be impeached & go to jail. Bush2 had such a long list of violations…., and never so much as got a legal hand slap.

    So I’ll join you in cheering Nancy’s current efforts… lots of grace under fire, but I consider her to have aided and abetted one of the most murderous presidents in US history.

    just sayin’

    • i don’t think she made the decision not to pursue chimpy & co. by herself. i’m sure that the white house had a big say in that. did i agree with that decision? hell no! i would have loved to have been behind the scenes to see how that whole scenario played out.

  4. Glad they’re wrapping it up as all this talk was beginning to affect my health. Nancy did good. Some fool was carrying on today about the ghost of JS hovering about. I’m rather comforted by the idea of a dead Stalin myself. Strange things going on like the Stupak remarks last night. And now Billo is defending parts of the bill in an interview with Princess (transcript at Mudflats) that is a benchmark of a thickhead ignorami. He asks at one point, defending provisions he thinks make sense, if she would cede any of the points. dead space She doesn’t know what cede means! (seeds?)

    • i’m glad they’re wrapping it up, too, but i’m also glad that the ugly side of the rethugs is being displayed for all to see. pledging to repeal a bill that will be popular with a lot of people and that they know they can’t repeal is just stupid. it’s downright palignorant. of course, it’s just a ploy to try to collect some money for their campaigns, because they don’t have any actual ideas to campaign on. princess is just a palignoramus, and i think her 15 minutes has been extended too long. the other rethugs are out-doing her in the stupid statements department, so there won’t be much use for her soon. billO is trying a new strategery. i read an article the other day that i found very interesting. let me see if i can find it. it’s about billO mellowing out and becoming one of the more reasonable voices at faux news (yeah, i know, it’s like being the thinnest kid at fat camp). i think that maybe billO senses that faux news screamers are looking more and more ridiculous, and the impact is fading. billO is nothing if not a survivor. he may be softening his rhetoric, because he suspects he might lose a big chunk of his audience if he doesn’t. here’s the article.

  5. JaxDem

    Wow nonnie!!! Perfect kick ass poster for a perfect kick ass speaker!!!!

    Ok, now I’m getting facinated with this line of accessories you’re putting together. The stuff you did for princess sarah was great and funny, then you showed your man bling the other day with Stevie’s money jesus and today the gavel and donkey on Nancy’s lapel…priceless. This could prove to be a lucrative sideline…hummmmm.

    • i love “shopping” on teh google for accessories! i loved the donkey pin and the gavel, and i thought they’d look perfect on the dark jacket as well as symbolize the day. i was worried that people wouldn’t be able to see what they were, so i am very glad you commented on them, jaxdem. 😀

  6. Love the poster. Go Nancy!

    • thanks neon vincent! when i found the poster, i knew it was the perfect one to use for the occasion. interestingly enough, the movie was about jeanette rankin, the first female member of congress and a suffragette. here are a few interesting (and ironic) snippets from wiki:

      On April 6, 1917, only four days into her term, the House voted on the resolution to enter World War I. Rankin cast one of 50 votes against the resolution, earning her immediate vilification by the press. Suffrage groups canceled her speaking engagements. Despite her vote against entering the war, she devoted herself to selling Liberty Bonds and voted for the military draft.

      In 1918, she ran an unsuccessful campaign for the Republican nomination to represent Montana in the United States Senate. She then ran an independent candidacy, which also failed. Her term as Representative ended early in 1919. For the next two decades, she worked as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. for various causes.

      In 1918, and again in 1919, she introduced legislation to provide state and federal funds for health clinics, midwife education, and visiting nurse programs in an effort to reduce the nation’s infant mortality. While serving as a field secretary for the National Consumers’ League, she campaigned for legislation to promote maternal and child health care. As a lobbyist, Rankin argued for passage of the Sheppard-Towner Act, an infant and maternal health bill which was the first federal social welfare program created explicitly for women and children.


      She was founding Vice-President of the American Civil Liberties Union and a founding member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

      and get this, she was a republican!

  7. You gotta love these half-assed websites springing up like “Fire Nancy Pelosi.com.”
    Yep, send us your money and we’ll be sure she gets fired. Because we know if you’re ignorant enough to send us money, you’re ignorant enough not to know that anyone who’s actually in a position to fire Nancy Pelosi LIKES her.
    Nancy Pelosi is not only an elegantly dressed, articulate, influential politician, she’s also 70 fucking years old.
    The old gal has a bigger set on her than any of those mealy mouthed weasels on the right. They hate her not because she’s bad; they hate her because she has kicked their asses and outwitted them time and again.
    Yay Nancy!

    • i bet it burns them that they got their asses handed to them by a female! so what if she’s 70 years old. she should still be at home, barefoot and pregnant.