Friday Morning Open Thread: Where Did She Come From?

Molly Ball is a good writer, even if Time is a less-than-worthy venue:

Nancy Pelosi stopped caring about what people think of her a long time ago, so she has no qualms about eating ice cream for breakfast with a stranger. Dark chocolate, two scoops, waffle cone. It’s a freezing January morning in Baltimore’s Little Italy, where Pelosi grew up in the 1950s. “You know what’s good about ice cream in this weather?” she says. “It doesn’t melt down your arm while you’re eating it.”

We are sitting in an Italian café on Albemarle Street, alone save for the staff and Pelosi’s security detail, to whom she has offered coffee. The Trump era has many Democrats in a panic, but Pelosi inhabits a more cheerful reality. She is convinced that America has hit bottom, has seen the error of its ways and is ready to put her back in charge.

The 78-year-old former House Speaker knows what her critics say about her: that she’s too old, too “toxic,” too polarizing; that after three decades in Congress and 15 years leading her party’s caucus, she has had her turn and needs to get out of the way. But there’s a reason she sticks around. Had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 election, she says, “we’d have a woman at the head of the table.” When that didn’t happen, Pelosi realized that without her, there might not be a woman in the room at all.

Pelosi is one of the most consequential political figures of her generation. It was her creativity, stamina and willpower that drove the defining Democratic accomplishments of the past decade, from universal access to health coverage to saving the U.S. economy from collapse, from reforming Wall Street to allowing gay people to serve openly in the military. Her Republican successors’ ineptitude has thrown her skills into sharp relief. It’s not a stretch to say Pelosi is one of very few legislators in Washington who actually know what they’re doing.

But few people talk about her in those terms. Instead, Pelosi is regarded as a political liability…

The attacks on Pelosi are particularly ironic in this political moment. Since Donald Trump’s election, American women have poured into the streets, signed up to run for office in record numbers and surged to the polls. Many of them look a lot like Pelosi once did. They are brainy, liberal and comfortably situated moms who have looked at the political system with the exasperation of a person who has seen her husband get the laundry wrong and realized that she’s going to have to do it herself. If Democrats regain congressional power in November, as most experts expect, it will be by riding a tidal wave of female rage. But rather than tout their female leader–the first woman Speaker in history, and the odds-on favorite to reclaim the title–many Democratic politicians, both male and female, are running in the opposite direction. In this season of female political empowerment, Pelosi’s power still rankles.

It seems to enrage people that Pelosi feels entitled to things: money, power, respect. Of course it does–a woman is always held responsible for her reputation. Clinton, in her years running for President, was asked over and over again some version of the question, Why do you think people don’t like you? (Despite not being on any ballot, Clinton, too, figures prominently in the Republicans’ fall campaign strategy.) A powerful woman is always defined less by what she has done than by how she makes people feel.

Pelosi isn’t humble. Many women, she thinks, are afraid to show pride and need to see an example of confidence. Besides, making sure you get your due isn’t something you can delegate. One former Pelosi aide told me everything she does is rooted in this combination of obligation and entitlement: the sense that someone ought to do something, and she is the only one who can do it. Pelosi seems to feel no need to apologize for her status in the way women are expected to and men rarely are. Perhaps the assertion of ego by a woman is the most radical act there is: the refusal to submit or be subordinate.

It is not in Pelosi’s nature to cower or grovel. She will be who she is–liberal, privileged, unpopular–and let the chips fall where they may. To some Democrats, Pelosi’s is an attitude of unconscionable selfishness: she’s willing to damage her party to hold on to the position she believes she deserves. The story of Nancy Pelosi is, inevitably, the story of what people think of her. The way she is recognized and remembered, the way she is held to account. And so Pelosi doesn’t have the luxury of not caring about what people think of her: it’s the question on which her future, and the future of American politics, depends…

 
When things get really, really ugly, the Media Villagers and their donors will ‘graciously’, temporarily, allow a woman to leave her proper place and come clean the place up. Or, sometimes, a Black man, as a less-emasculating alternative. Hey, speaking of the cleanup squad:



Friday Morning Open Thread: Readership Capture


 
In before the Friday News Dump, assuming we get another one here in mid-August…

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In support of Marcia Blackburn’s opponent:

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Excellent Read — “Nancy Pelosi: ‘They Come After Me Because I’m Effective’ “

You come at the queen, you best not miss. Tim Dickinson, in Rolling Stone, interviews “the House Minority Leader on the midterms, impeachment, her own party, sexism and the sexist-in-chief”:

Pelosi is one of the most powerful women in global politics. She gets credit for securing passage of much of the legislation in the Obama legacy, including the Recovery Act, Wall Street reform and especially the Affordable Care Act. “Nancy Pelosi has been one of the most transformational figures in the modern Democratic Party,” says Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez. Pelosi also spearheaded the takeover of the House a dozen years ago in 2006 – an achievement that has become fodder for her critics. “Leader Pelosi has talked about how we need to do what we did in 2006,” says Rep. Seth Moulton, an ambitious Massachusetts Democrat who argues for a “new generation” of House leadership. “I mean, we barely had iPhones in 2006 – it was a different world.”

But for all the talk about Nancy Pelosi, less time has been spent actually listening to her. Rolling Stone sat down with Pelosi for an hour on a May evening in Des Moines, Iowa, where she was raising money for the local Democratic Party. At the fundraiser, standing before a wall-sized American flag, Pelosi sought to flatten the difference between President Trump and GOP candidates. “He’s their guy,” she says of Trump. “Make no mistake: This election, it’s not – well it’s about him in certain respects, we can’t ignore that – but it’s about them.”…

I want to dig in on 2018 and understand how you’re thinking about the election and how the angles break.
When Hillary didn’t win, people said, “Can you win the House?” And I said, “I’ll tell you in a year.” Because it matters where the president is a year out. If he’s under 50 [percent approval rating], we can win it. Just to put in a little historical perspective. In ‘05 and ‘06, [former Democratic Senate leader] Harry Reid and I said, “We’re going to win the Congress.” People said, “No way. It’s going to be a permanent Republican majority.” Bush had just won. In January of ‘05, he was at 58 percent in the polls. The war in Iraq; people in the streets; he’s at 58 percent in the polls. We would have to bring his numbers down. And he gave us a gift: He was going to privatize Social Security. [That] helped take his numbers down, into like the 40s. What other difference did we want to emphasize? It was “Drain the swamp.” That was ours. [Trump] stole it from us. “End the culture of cronyism, incompetence and corruption.” That was our thing. They were getting indicted, subpoenaed all over the place. And then Hurricane Katrina: Cronyism and incompetence. Thirty-eight percent in September.

With Trump, he’s done the heavy lifting for you?
We can’t take credit for taking his numbers down, but for taking advantage of the opportunity it presented. To keep [his numbers] down we had to make sure people understood what Republicans were trying to do with the Affordable Care Act, what they were doing in terms of inequality and the disparity of income. Anyway, he was at 38 to 40 percent a year before the [2018] election. So, they get the retirements. I think it’s 46 today. And we get the A-Team on the field. We would like to say we recruited [our candidates]. Trump recruited them for us. [Laughs.] We’re in a very good place now…

We’ve seen consecutive Republican speakers flame out, essentially, because they couldn’t deal with the insurgency on their right flank. What is your secret to keeping Democrats united?
I’m really good at what I do. I’m a legislative virtuoso. I really love legislating. It takes knowledge, and experience, institutional memory. I was forged in the Intelligence Committee and especially the Appropriations Committee. I know how you can reach agreement…
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Russiagate Open Thread: COMPLICIT


 
But it’s not just Trump who’s acting just like someone whose career relies on keeping a foreign oligarch happy…



Thursday Morning Open Thread: Mistaking Tolerance for Weakness


 
There’s a joke going back at least as far as Anthony Trollope about liberals “so determined to be tolerant they won’t defend even their own arguments.” Once-and-hopefully-Future Speaker Pelosi is *not* of that genre…

And she’s not alone, as some more-progressive-than-thou primary candidates just found out…



Wednesday Morning Open Thread: Compare & Contrast

And a dozen Democrats running in ‘red to purple’ districts get to shake their heads sadly, before explaining how they, of course, would never vote for that mean ol’ lady Pelosi. Thereby sparing them from having to make promises that might actually get them into trouble, when (if) they’re elected. (Just as I would never run away with George Clooney for a wild weekend at his Italian villa — it wouldn’t be fair to poor Amal. The certainty that Mr. Clooney is not about to ask me in no way negates my feminist solidarity.)

 
Across the aisle, a million miles away…



Saturday Morning Open Thread: Nancy Pelosi, Warhorse

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*This* bullshit, again. Jonathan Chait, at NYMag, “Nancy Pelosi Is Good at Her Job and She Should Keep It”

Would a different Democratic leader prove less of a liability? Probably for a while, yes. Republicans have spent years building up Pelosi as a hate figure, and a newer and less familiar Democratic leader would take longer for Republicans to promote as a target of fear and loathing. It’s also possible that a Democrat who was either from a less famously progressive locale than San Francisco, or not female, would be less threatening to some socially conservative voters. (The latter point is the most fraught: Do Democrats really want to let irrational fear of powerful women dictate their choice of leaders?) It is true, though, that deposing Pelosi would have at least a temporary messaging benefit in some tough districts this fall.

But the cost of throwing Pelosi over the side would be high. She has been an extraordinarily effective caucus leader. When Democrats last held the majority, she shepherded into law the most aggressive spate of liberal reforms since the Great Society: an $800 billion fiscal stimulus, health-care reform, Dodd-Frank….

Pelosi’s Democratic critics include both the left and right flanks of the party (which is itself a sign that she occupies its center). Attacks on her leadership try to simultaneously attack her as too moderate and too liberal, in an attempt to cobble together both irreconcilable strands. In part to cover up the incoherence of the criticism, the complaint is often expressed in vague generational terms. She is too old, and ought to give way to the new generation. (Whether this new generation will be more moderate or more liberal is a question that can be filled in as one desires.)

Yet there is zero sign Pelosi’s age has impeded her work. She has not lost her persuasive talents: Pelosi effectively rallied the party to unanimously oppose the Trump tax cuts. If some Democrats had supported the measure, Republicans could have touted its bipartisan nature, which would in turn help reduce its unpopularity. Instead the health care and tax cuts have been a millstone around Republican necks. (Republicans initially tried attacking Conor Lamb for opposing the tax cuts, but abandoned that message, a telling concession in a heavily Republican district.) Last month, Pelosi delivered an eight-hour speech defending the Dreamers, standing the entire time, in heels, without a break, a feat of stamina I could not have matched at any point in my life. It may have been a stunt to display her vitality, but it was a convincing one.

Replacing Pelosi as leader would create the ephemeral benefit of forcing Republicans to rotate in a new cast of villains to star in their attack ads — MS-13? hippies? antifa? — until they could build up the name-ID for her successor. It would bring the significant downside of firing an elected official who is extremely good at her extremely important job.