Bidding farewell to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

Bidding farewell to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi
Image via screengrab.

On Tuesday, the biggest show in Washington, D.C., is the Kevin McCarthy roast. It may not have a cavalcade of D-list comedy stars wearing rental tuxes, but it absolutely contains a lot of jokes—most of them preceded by the words “Representative” and followed by an “(R).” But even as we’re all enjoying this showcase of weakness, disorganization, and self-inflicted political wounds, today is absolutely a sad day for what we’re losing.

Today is the end of an era when the House was skillfully operated by someone who was indefatigable in working through issues, consummately skilled in finding the votes necessary to secure support for a bill, and absolutely historic in the role she has played in Congress. Today is the real end of the era of Nancy Pelosi.

She may still be around, but her hand at the wheel—patient, persuasive, and powerful—will definitely be missed.

As The New York Times reports, the first woman to ever lead either chamber of the U.S. Congress will long be remembered, not just for breaking through a giant glass ceiling, but for her ability to organize the House and deliver votes:

Her presence will be felt for years in the climate, health care, public works and social legislation she ushered through to signatures by two Democratic presidents, as well as the big moments of her tenure capped off by the electrifying invitation to Volodymyr Zelensky to address Congress just days before she lost the gavel.

What’s easy to miss, as we watch McCarthy stumble through what may be the opening moments of a “leadership position” for which he has surrendered every ounce of leadership, as well as common decency, is that Pelosi has led a Democratic House that is far more diverse than anything Republicans have dealt with in decades. McCarthy is already failing to hold together a slim majority where everyone is in stark agreement on every major point. Pelosi handled much greater challenges regularly, and did it so easily that it was rarely noticed.

Republicans have a tent that goes all the way from hard-line conservatives to ridiculously hard-line conservatives. Pelosi has been faced with a House where the members of her own party span the whole gamut of the left, the middle, and even a bit of the right. She’s driven through climate change legislation even when members of her party were from states where fossil fuels play a huge role. She’s lifted up health care even when it meant going against both insurance and pharmaceutical industries that funded critical campaigns.

Most of all, she has demonstrated an unmatched organizational skill that persuaded individual members to soften, delay, or even surrender their individual demands in order to build legislation that met the challenge of the day. Nancy Pelosi is the champion of not allowing the perfect to become the enemy of the good. That’s often left people in her own party angry or disappointed. It’s also left America much better off for her efforts.

“The fact of the matter is no other speaker in the modern era, Republican or Democrat, has wielded the gavel with such authority or such consistent results,” said former Republican speaker John Boehner. “Let me just say you are one tough cookie.”

It is a rare thing to see a politician who can wed their moral compass and willingness to seek compromise; someone capable of setting aside personal goals in service to the party and nation; a person so willing to suffer public outrage to obtain benefits for the same people screaming for her defeat. With Pelosi, all of this was so obvious, that it was often simply ignored. She wasn’t just ready to risk everything to get what America needed, she did it reflexively.

Nancy Pelosi was never a great speaker, but she may be the greatest Speaker the nation has ever seen. And it is going to be some time before we see her like again.

If you have some time to spare, give this a watch.

Pelosi's Power (full documentary) |

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