Since Nancy Pelosi announced over the weekend that she'll be seeking to retain her leadership of House Democrats, we've seen multiple articles quoting anonymous Democrats saying it's a bad idea. We've even had the reasonably liberal New York Times editorial page call for her to step aside. Republicans are saying much the same thing. Among the reasons are that Democrats need new blood, Democrats need to compromise with Republicans and she's a serious partisan, and if she stays around, she'll continue to be vilified by the right.
All of this is just silly. The fact is that Nancy Pelosi is the toughest and most skilled pol on either end of Pennsylvania Avenue. She just engineered the most productive session of Congress in memory, delivering health-care reform, financial reform, student-loan reform, a stimulus bill, and a whole lot of other things to boot. One thing you can say about her is that she understands governing -- she knew that the Democrats had the best opportunity they might ever get to pass progressive legislation, and she took full advantage of it. Dealing with an unruly caucus, many of whom weren't inclined to support that agenda, she got win after win after win, where a lesser speaker would have faltered. And as Greg Sargent points out, the minority leader's job in the next two years is going to be largely to engage in procedural warfare against the Republicans in order to keep them from rolling back the accomplishments of the last two years, something she's demonstrated herself to be pretty good at.
Yeah, Republicans will run against her. But let's get serious -- they'll run against whoever leads the Democrats. That's what they do. And while it's true that people who listen to Rush Limbaugh and watch Fox News really, really don't like her, I have yet to see any evidence that the attacks against her persuade anyone who isn't already a die-hard Republican. The Democrats' success in beating back Republican attempts to undo the 111th Congress and winning back the House could depend in substantial part on who the minority leader is, but they will not depend at all on what the minority leader's approval ratings are.
Republicans are now pretending that they're happy to have Pelosi around to criticize. It would be a little more persuasive if she didn't have such a lengthy record of beating them over and over. Of all the things she has demonstrated over the last few years, few are more important than the ability to tune out the Beltway conventional wisdom about what Democrats ought to do, and determine what is really the most strategically advantageous course. It's a quality more Democrats ought to cultivate.
-- Paul Waldman