“For our daughters and granddaughters, today we have broken the marble ceiling. To our daughters and our granddaughters, the sky is the limit.”
Thus began the 110th congress, with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco at its helm. The 2006 election was the culmination of a storm that had been long overdue. From districts throughout the East, Northeast, South, and West, democrats came to power in areas that had not seen a democratic congressman in decades. With Speaker Pelosi leading the charge, the 110th and 111th congresses passed literally hundreds of sweeping, progressive reforms needed to keep America moving forward. Had it not been for Republican and Blue dog obstructionism in the Senate, which blocked two-thirds of the legislation from ever reaching a vote, America may have had the push it needed to recovery and to a much longer democratic coalition. And what we thought was a fair majority in 2006 exploded in 2008. With waves of “Hope” and “Change”, 2008 looked like it would be the start of a new decade of democratic power. In the Senate, Ted Kennedy spoke of Health Care reform as if it were certainty, and each day, the power of the Congressional Progressive Caucus seemed to grow. The democratic controlled congress saw the expansion of a bipartisan ethics committee, a robust healthcare reform that INCLUDED public option, and a progressive cap on carbon emissions. Students ability to get grants and loans increased dramatically, and General Motors and many banks were saved from the brink of destruction. The economy, for all its faults, would be non-existent had it not been for the skillful negotiations of House Speaker Pelosi and other leading democrats.
Yet Pelosi was far from a Progressive lapdog. As democrats swept into the House and Senate, she stifled calls from the Left of her party to (rightfully in the opinion of the author) impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney. She empowered Congressional Blue Dogs within the house, and gave moderates far more power than what they had during their tenure in the minority. With each slam of the gavel, new compromise was met, new laws were passed, and the seeds for America’s recovery were sown. What began as retribution for the unpopular and economically devastating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan became an entirely different story in the fall of 2008 during the financial meltdown. The champions of the anti-war movement lowered their banners and donned the garb of a new movement, the one to economic recovery. For me, it was during the darkest hours of the recession that the brightness of Speaker Pelosi really shown. She powered through obstructionism, whipped her conservative partisans into shape, and saved banks that had they failed would’ve dragged the entire economy down with them. She angered liberals within her party by adding tax cuts to the already expensive stimulus, and she showed her independence from Labor unions during the terms of the bailout of GM. Speaker Pelosi was not chummy with Lobbyists and golf certainly was not her thing, but she is still revered in her district and by Progressives everywhere. Boehner may have more base appeal than this “gentle-woman from San Francisco”, but in terms of commitment to this country and the ability to get what needs to get done through, Pelosi is number one on my list each and every day.
The Dark Days Ahead
In one dark night, everything liberals everywhere had worked for during the last 4 years seemed to be for naught. The “new democratic coalition” that was said to last for at least a decade was crushed in one Red Wave. Tea Party extremists everywhere gnaw at the core of the Progress we worked so hard to achieve. Whether it is our job-saving stimulus, our coverage saving health care, or our rights-protecting legislation, Conservatives everywhere have seen 2010 as a new opportunity to move America backwards. And its just for those reasons that having Speaker Pelosi at the top of the party is not just desirable, but an absolute necessity. The blue dogs have been all but obliterated, and for the first time since 2006, the Congressional Progressive Caucus enjoys almost total power over the direction of the party. With House Minority leader Pelosi and Minority Whip Clyburn at her side, Pelosi can move the democratic party through the internal divisions that devastated the ability of the party to campaign effectively in 2010. Although a sweep back into power in 2012 is unlikely, I would consider it a near impossibility with a democratic party that has turned into a diet-GOP. A stronger left, pushing for an expansion of healthcare reform with a public option and middle class tax cuts is exactly the unified message voters need to have trust in us once again. The party of No may be the ones at the helm today, but if we ever want to have the reigns again, we cannot suffer from the internal divisions and ideological spats that sent an unclear and decentralized message to a largely angered voter base.
So, enjoy your final session as speaker, Ms. Pelosi. If the privilege of that gavel won’t ever be yours again, know that your district, your party-members, and your country witnessed those four amazing years as ones that “broke marble ceilings” everywhere. You’ve shown the American people what we can do, and you’ve been effective to boot. So Speaker Pelosi, don’t be down when you hand that gavel to Mr. Boehner in January, to all of us, it’ll never truly belong to anyone but you.
Our Newest Articles