On Oct. 16, Carolyn Lochhead, Washington correspondent for the San Francisco Chronicle, published an article entitled: “Nancy Pelosi’s leadership style helps her avoid crises like GOP’s.”
In it, Pelosi, who retains her grip on the Democratic caucus despite leading it to historic defeat, is praised for keeping her caucus together in contentious times.
She kept it together, all right–by centralizing power, punishing dissent, and, ultimately, by shrinking it.
Pelosi’s tenure as Speaker was one of the worst in American history. She achieved nothing during the first two years, when President George W. Bush was still in office and her only goal was to oppose him.
She did far more once President Barack Obama took office and gave her free reign to write Obamacare, the stimulus, and other laws. The result was a policy disaster, and a backlash that saw Democrats removed from power for the foreseeable future.
Along the way, Pelosi became a symbol for everything wrong with Washington. She backed corruption-plagued John P. Murtha for House Majority Leader, undermining Democrats’ promises to clean up Capitol Hill. Her caucus defied her by electing Steny Hoyer. It was the last time she would tolerate open dissent within her own party.
Pelosi pushed Obamacare through Congress, defying public concerns about the massive legislation, infamously declaring that “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.” She scoffed at questions about Obamacare’s constitutionality, and taunted the opposition by marching, gavel in hand, with members of the Congressional Black Caucus through a Tea Party protest, as if opponents of the bill were white racists of the Jim Crow era. (Later, members of Congress fabricated a story that the crowd had hurled the N-word at them as they marched through.)
Once Democrats had suffered a crushing defeat in the 2010 Tea Party wave election, Pelosi did not resign to allow new leaders to rejuvenate the party but ran again for the leadership. The sole Democrat who had the courage to challenge her openly was Heath Shuler of North Carolina, operating on the simple principle that failure ought to have consequences. Pelosi won and has only tightened her grip on power even as her party continues to lose.
Lochhead ignores all of that, focusing instead on the disunity within the Republican caucus. Certainly John Boehner struggled to find a way to unify his fractious caucus, but at least there is debate in the Republican ranks, and a sense of accountability for leaders who fail to deliver on their promises.
What is happening on the Republican side looks a lot more like democracy. Pelosi’s authoritarian rule has brought nothing but ruin to her party, and to the country.