Nancy Pelosi is a drag.
That’s the lesson of Conor Lamb’s narrow victory in this week’s special congressional election in Pennsylvania’s eighteenth congressional district, where the Democrat ran explicitly against the House Minority Leader — even though he will end up voting with Pelosi almost 100% of the time.
This was the first special election for a U.S. House seat that Democrats had won since President Donald Trump was elected in November 2016. They lost on five previous occasions — even though the mainstream media had expected them to win in several cases.
Last year, in the special election in Georgia’s sixth congressional district, the media favorite was Democrat Jon Ossoff, who nearly won outright in the primary and ran a star-studded, energetic campaign in the general election.
Republican Karen Handel seemed to have run a lackluster campaign that lacked Ossoff’s sparkle. Nothing she tried seemed to work — not even pointing out that Ossoff lived outside the district, which the media, bizarrely, considered a low blow.
But then the GOP hit upon the winning strategy: tie Ossoff to Pelosi.
Pelosi, who represents far-left San Francisco, is reviled by Republicans because of the memory of how she behaved as Speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011.
She centralized power in the Speaker’s office to an unprecedented degree and excluded the opposition from much of the legislative process. She spent wildly, passing bloated earmarks and omnibus bills targeted at Democrats’ cronies and pet projects.
Most infamously, Pelosi rammed Obamacare through the House in 2010, while declaring that Congress needed “to “pass the bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”
She added a racial flourish to that effort, marching together with civil rights veteran Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) through a crowd of thousands of anti-Obamacare protesters on Capitol Hill while brandishing the Speaker’s gavel.
She intended to portray “free” health care as a civil right, and protesters as the white racist mobs of the segregated South. The media followed her lead, repeating Lewis’s false claim that protesters shouted the “n-word” at him.
Republicans took their revenge that November. Thanks to Pelosi’s arrogance, Democrats went down to historic defeat in the 2010 midterm elections.
Pelosi lost the Speaker’s gavel — but, incredibly, she remained the leader of her party’s caucus. She turned aside a challenge by moderate Rep. Heath Shuler (D-NC) in 2011, just as she would later rebuff Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) in 2017. And as her caucus shrank, paradoxically, her iron grip on her party became even tighter.
But after Ossoff lost in Georgia, the first voices of dissent began to emerge. Quietly, critics speculated about her age and her mental sharpness.
Pelosi fought back, declaring herself a “master legislator” and a “politically astute leader.” Those claims were rather dubious, but one thing is certain: Pelosi is one of the Democrats’ most effective fundraisers. As CNN observed last August: “The simple fact is that without Pelosi, Democrats would be at a massive disadvantage financially.”
She also attempted to deflate concerns about her age when she staged a faux “filibuster” on the floor of the House last month, delivering a record-breaking speech that lasted over eight hours, with no bathroom breaks.
Gender is also a factor in Pelosi’s favor. In the year of “#metoo” and “Time’s Up,” when Democrats are hoping to turn feminine outrage against abusive (and mostly liberal) men into votes, the party is afraid to dump the first female Speaker of the House.
But the results in Georgia and Pennsylvania don’t lie. And aspiring Democratic Party candidates are worried about their own prospects first. They will make their peace with Pelosi, eventually — once they are safely in office.
That is why, for example, not one of the five Democrats running to replace retiring Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) in Southern California would commit to supporting Pelosi when asked to do so in a recent Democratic debate.
So the Democrats have a dilemma. They cannot win with Pelosi, and they cannot win without her.
In Pennsylvania, they reached a kind of accommodation. The party allowed Lamb to trash Pelosi because he is, after all, only one vote.
But that will not work in November, when all 435 seats are up for grabs. Unless Democrats can replace her before then, Pelosi is going to be the target for Republicans, who are desperate to maintain control of the House.
Democrats have a problem in Pelosi. And that means Republicans still have a chance to turn 2018 around.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.