November 18 2010
Nancy Pelosi is pretty much the irresistible force and immovable object rolled into one.
It came as no surprise yesterday when Democrats voted to keep her as the leader of their vastly-reduced-in-numbers band in the House.
But it was astonishing nevertheless. In the face of the magnitude of the defeat to which she led her party, an ordinary speaker would have bowed out of the leadership. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post has a catty column today, in which Democrats (including "one of Nancy Pelosi's closest friends in the Congress") explain why retaining her was a Bad Idea for their party.
But I think you have to turn to the always astute William Galston in the New Republic to understand why Ms. Pelosi was elected as minority leader, despite electoral disaster and terrible poll numbers with the country at-large. Quoting from a Politico piece by John Harris and Jonathan Allen on why Democrats don't "dump" Pelosi, Galston says:
If Allen and Harris's reporting is correct, the Democrats have convinced themselves that their agenda during the past two years is the moral equivalent of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which may have cost their party dearly at the polls but was the right thing to do and was of such transcendent, transformational significance as to justify any degree of unpopularity.
Yes, there's the Fear Factor (can you imagine the nerve it would take to oppose Pelosi?), but this, I think, is the explanation: the American people don't know what's best, but the Democratic leaders in Congress believe that they do. During the health care debate, it was clear that members were listening more to Pelosi and their Washington leadership than to the people. This vote to retain Pelosi indicates that this trend is likely to continue.