By Michael E. Berumen
A new Speaker of the House will be elected by the incoming Democratic majority soon. Not nearly soon enough for many of us. The Minority Leader and former Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, remains the odds-on favorite to ascend to the role, one that is perhaps more important than it has been in any time since the Civil Rights era of the 1950s and 1960s. She ought to be the next Speaker to my mind. In a hallowed hall that is now ruled by assorted spineless weaklings, child-like sycophants, and acolytes of the gutter-genius, Donald Trump––soon to be replete with more Democrats who owe their positions in no small measure to Pelosi’s gift for fundraising and to her imperturbable focus on the big picture, which is leading her party and progress to victory–– it is about time an adult took over once again.
One hears cries for change among some liberals: which is more often than not simply code for youth. Pelosi is now 78––and we have seen her aging visage on the hustings and on television for a very long time. Well, Donald Trump has been quite enough change for everyone, I think. And Paul Ryan has been enough youth for its own sake (he was 44 when he was elected Speaker). Change and youth neither singly nor in combination exclude competency, of course––which is what we need more than anything else––but they do not necessarily encompass it, either. We would do well, today, to have an experienced, mature, and highly-skilled hand, and not on the mere promise of “change” that comes out of a more youthful voice, but based on the empirical evidence of past performance and demonstrated ability. And no impartial observer can deny that the woman who helped to bring us to this dance in the House, today, is both a supremely competent legislator and a capable leader of a caucus of diverse and independent minds, one which, rather like herding cats, requires a deft managerial talent in order to produce results. The Republicans have shown no real gift for legislation for many years–––and their only real competency is as “un-doers” rather than as creative doers. The few things they’ve managed to shove down everyone’s throats are remarkably destructive, beginning with the Contract against America in the ‘90s under the odious neo-Confederate and adulterous hypocrite, Newt Gingrich, and most recently with the enormously flawed tax legislation under Ayn Rand’s latter-day fanboy, Paul Ryan. It nearly goes without saying: Ryan’s leadership over his fractured caucus of aged white frat boys and the unruly neo-Confederates has been a study in ineptitude. No, Pelosi is not young. But she is certainly a change in this sense: proven competency.
A woman of parts, Pelosi managed to bear and raise five children while she held progressively important party leadership roles in California before she entered the Congress. In 1976 she was elected as a Democratic National Committee member from California. She was elected as party chair for Northern California in 1977, and then as chair of the California Democratic Party from 1981 until 1983. In 1987 she joined the House of Representatives in a special election, and she won again on-cycle in the following year. She has been reelected to office 16 times since then. Pelosi has served on two of the most important congressional committees, namely, the House Appropriations Committee and Intelligence Committee, and she chaired the latter one. She was elected House Minority Whip in 2001, where she learned to count votes, cajole members, and move legislation. When Dick Gephardt stepped aside in 2002 to run for the presidency, she was elected as the first women Minority Leader. Then, of course, she became the first woman Speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011, where, among other important bills, she was masterful in moving the Affordable Care Act into passage, which the Republicans, despite every effort ever since, have failed to destroy.
The Republicans have used every misogynistic meme, unflattering picture, and false portrayal to try and turn the country at large against Pelosi for many years, now. She has replaced Hillary Clinton for their most venomous output, and she has become the new poster-girl for one of the few things that the right dislikes as much as a powerful African American man, namely, a powerful woman. She is often mischaracterized as a wild-eyed San Francisco radical, which is simply untrue. She is far from being a radical, but is a traditional liberal, indeed, a moderate by any reasonable standard, and only slightly left of center––and she is certainly a very pragmatic politician. But this message of being a near-apostle of Marx and Lenin plays well with the fascistic rubeocracy of the Trumpian base (none of whom know anything about Marx or Lenin, much less have read anything by them). And a powerful women making law governing men, well, that is simply beyond the pale for them, especially those who would rule over women’s reproductive organs.
But we know misogyny is not confined to Trumpers; it infects some on the left, too––people whose actions do not always comport with what they profess. And I cannot help but believe, judging by the national polls, that the constant jeremiads and harangues by Pelosi’s most vociferous haters on cable news and in the ads have had a more widespread and deleterious effect on her reputation, even among more moderate and liberal-minded people. I suspect this is sometimes simply because they want someone who they imagine is not going to be so easy to pick on, which is to say, a man (women get a disproportionate amount of attention for looks, voice, and other superficialities), or perhaps another less publicly-exposed woman without a history of drummed-up controversy. This failure of nerve, to my mind, is in and of itself a passive and disguised form of sexism. Moreover, it doesn’t matter who is in that position, the heirs of Lee Atwater and the apotheosis of a mudslinging politician, the vulgarian-in-chief now residing in the White House, will seek to denigrate and vilify him or her. It’s time to step up, I say, and quit looking for the right person when it is obvious that Pelosi is the right person for this time. Now is not a time to experiment. We cannot afford it. What matters in the case of the Speaker is her effectiveness and recognition as a leader in the legislative body and her ability to get things done there, not her national popularity.
While I usually do agree with Pelosi, such as on her vote against the Iraq war in the Bush era, and a number of other domestic issues, I do not always, and I am sometimes frustrated by her pragmatism, moderation, and caution. In the latter case, I am also mindful that those same traits are often essential ingredients to moving the ball along in making progressive legislation a reality rather than a dream. Talk is cheap. Getting things done legislatively is hard. I therefore stand up for her every chance I get with others. I do not shy away from defending her, openly, and I believe others ought to do the same––in part, to counter the misogynistic propaganda of the right about her. She deserves to be Speaker because of her results over many years. She deserves to be Speaker because she is in the best position to guide the Congress in what it must now do: hold Trump’s feet to the fire without tearing the nation apart, and put the brakes on Trumpism and the destruction these reprehensible Republican weaklings in the House and Senate have enabled. This must be done in a way such that the results and actions will stand the test of time, particularly the use of investigative and subpoena powers. Then she must go about the business of reversing the course put in place by her feckless predecessor and Trump’s sycophantic crypto-fascists and neo-Confederate attendants who have co-opted and then destroyed the Party of Lincoln, a party which is no more. So my advice to my fellow liberals is to steel our spines and to promote and defend more vociferously and volubly the virtues of this woman, a woman who has done so much for progress, and who represents our very best chance of becoming the bulwark against the destruction of our institutions, the rule of law, and our moral standing in the world, and bringing this mindless march into a fascistic abyss to an end once and for all.
Michael Berumen is a retired business executive and published author on diverse topics including economics, mathematics, music, and philosophy. He has lectured to civic, academic, and business audiences internationally, and testified before the US Congress and local legislative and regulatory bodies as an expert witness. He has served on various boards of directors. Among other things, he is the author of the book Do No Evil: Ethics with Applications to Economic Theory and Business. A longtime Californian, he and his wife now live happily in retirement in the northern Colorado countryside. He still takes on speaking assignments, but on a limited basis. www.cogitoservices.com