Posted Friday, Nov. 5, 2010, at 2:40 PM
Republicans are pinata-izing the news that Nancy Pelosi wants to hang on as the Democrats' minority leader. As well they should! But I'm not clear on what the case for dumping Pelosi is right now. Consider:
- The Blue Dog caucus is on life support, with a majority of its members -- even long-safe members like Gene Taylor -- out, never to return. Three members -- Jim Matheson, Heath Shuler, Dan Boren -- have warned the party not to renominate Pelosi. Three is less than the 160 or so progressives left in the House, and all Pelosi needs is a majority of Democrats.
- Those progressives are angry at the Senate for, in their view, bumbling the legislation Democrats passed in the House, and making it less popular. They have polling proving that the public option was more popular than the health care mandate. This is yet another reason that the "listen to the Blue Dogs" argument falls flat with them -- if they'd listened to the Blue Dogs, they'd have had even less to show voters. In terms of progressive legislation, Pelosi was the most successful Democratic speaker since Sam Rayburn.
- Pelosi, unlike the defeated Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert, has no real scandal dragging her down. I am dimly aware of the "scandals" over her plane being expensive and her being critical of the CIA. Big deal. She was a generally tolerated public figure until the country got angry about Congress's lack of progress, and then she became unpopular -- but John Boehner never became popular in comparison to her.
- Will Republicans run anti-Pelosi ads in 2012? Of course they will. If the Democrats put someone else in charge, the Republicans would run ads against them. Hoping to make your party's leader invulnerable to public attacks is a sucker's bet; it was three short years ago when Barack Obama was the moderate-looking, post-partisan alternative to the damaged Hillary Clinton, remember.
- The 2012 election will be determined not by the leader of the House Democrats, but by redistricting and the economy. Unless unemployment starts falling, a superhuman combining the most telegenic traits of Harold Ford, Dick Durbin, and Zac Efron could not save the Democrats.