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Girl from Baltimore, wildly unpopular, wins high office

Nate Silver at Five Thirty Eight turns his attention to post-election polling finds: "this just in: Ms. Pelosi is not very popular with the American public.", she remains the Democratic party leader in the House; Johnathan Allen and John Harrisdetail "five reasons why what may look like a self-defeating move by Democrats actually made perfect sense to lawmakers gathered in the spacious caucus room of the Cannon House Office Building Monday."Read more: own view: if she were a white male, people would be drooling over what she accomplished against tremendous odds. She's not a white male, sooo.....

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Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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I think that there was and is, no question that Nancy Pelosi is by far a much, much more effective leader and ally for President Obama that the totally drippy Harry Reid. In health care, she delivered big and was able to bring her party together and get votes in what was a tough bill. She navigated her own parties and did not have to engage in any of sleazy tactics that Reid did (e.g. Louisiana purchase, Nebraska, etc.). The end bill was better.As a politician she does the most important thing a politician can do - get the job done. That is what you want in a leader. It is not Pelosi who is not popular - it is the agenda she forwarded. Agree or disagree - that's politics but it has nothing to do with her effectiveness or abilities.

In another post, you characterized the Speaker's performance as "terrific," and went on in the comments to suggest precisely what you have articulated in a more prominent position above, viz. that the underlying source of discontent with respect to Pelosi is the fact that she is not a white male. I am curious to hear you expound upon this indictment of so many Americans, particularly members of the Democratic Party of which the Speaker is a leader. Is it sincerely your belief that we are that debilitatingly bigoted?Following on the "terrific" descriptor, you now indicate that what she accomplished was so achieved "against tremendous odds." As Speaker, she boasted the largest majority the Democrats have held in decades, an extraordinarily popular and charismatic President in the White House, and the confidence of her colleagues in Congress. What, precisely, were these "tremendous odds," she overcame?Disclaimer: The Speaker strikes me to be an earnest public servant of substantial intelligence and relatively high integrity (so far as I can tell from her public appearances, given that I do not know her personally), so I do not mean to impugn her personally.That said, I struggle to understand what, to your assessment, she has done so exceptionally well, when it seems that nearly everyone was disappointed with the results of the energy bill, financial reform, and, obviously, healthcare.

Wow! a lot of questions. Be assured that I do not know Nancy Pelosi personally either, but I know people like her, and I know how hard they work. Your assessment of her "an earnest public servant" seems a little stingy, but okay.The tremendous odds were the Blue Dog Democrats in the House, Harry Reid (D.-NV), and the rest of the Democratic Senate. I don't share the media view that there was a Democratic juggernaut at work in this Congress, but a fractured party in both House and Senate. Pelosi kept count, and gave the country the best health-care reform bill we'll ever get--not that I think it was the best we could have hoped for. What made it out of the House to the Senate and then to Conference seemed to me to reflect her finely gauged calculations of how to get the most votes without giving more away than she did.The other odds against her were Republican nihilists and a media that can't remember what it reported last week. That so many (not everyone--read Nate Silver) were disappointed in her says more about public image making than about the substance of what was achieved. Still, I have been astonished at the animus directed at Pelosi. I have come to the conclusion that part of that is driven by the fact that she is a woman, smart, effective, well spoken (though not exactly candid). Am I wrong in that conclusion? And though she is on the outs with at least some Catholic bishops, I think her policy instincts represent much that is good in Catholic social teaching.

if she were a white male, people would be drooling over what she accomplished against tremendous odds. Shes not a white male, sooo..-----------Agree. She's a Democrat. A woman. Small. Old. Italian. Catholic. More than enough to arouse the hatred of many. Those who follow the lead of professional haters find security in being part of a gang.

And the pope agrees with her: "VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI and other church leaders said it was the moral responsibility of nations to guarantee access to health care for all of their citizens, regardless of social and economic status or their ability to pay."Access to adequate medical attention, the pope said in a written message Nov. 18, was one of the "inalienable rights" of man." [and it goes without saying, woman]

Would you forward that quote to Mr. Boehner?And maybe to the uSCCB?

They take the pope seriously when he agrees with them, otherwise not.

Oops, just saw this twist in the thread, after having posted above on the pope's address. Anyway, onward here or there...

All the naysayers about Nancy Pelosi, should note she gets 80% of the votes in her district [which is mine too]. Most of the naysayers couldn't get 80% of the votes in their own extended family.

For my money, there's no question sexism is responsible for much of the virulence with which Pelosi is attacked, and a lot of the content of those attacks as well. Of course, the GOP wouldn't like anyone in her position who got the job done, but the way right-wingers have made a villain out of her has been very personal. The Pelosi-haters are the extreme, but without their vitriol she might be perceived more positively by everybody else.

The best quote I've seen is "they take the pope seriously when agrees with them." They also know they can get all the votes they need from pro life people, and if they get elected, they'll never have to do a thing about Roe vs Wade. If there all so sincere, why didn't this come up during the first Bush administration, rather they concentrated on starting a war. I'm sure it was a pro-live war.

"I have been astonished at the animus directed at..."Sarah Palin is similarly attacked...because she is a woman? Or does the female victim card only function for liberals?

Margaret,Many thanks for taking the time to respond to the comments of myself and other posters. I am grateful to dialogue with someone both knowledgable and passionate. If my description of Speaker Pelosi as an "earnest public servant," (you omitted the immediately following words, "of substantial intelligence") struck you as "stingy," they were not intended to have that effect. Quite the opposite. At a point in American history when much of the population dismisses our elected officials as insincere, self-aggrandizing narcissists who aspire to political office more out of a thirst for power than a genuine desire to improve the lot of its citizens, I cannot, in my mind think of a more important compliment than to describe one of those persons as an "earnest," viz. not merely putting on an act in front of the camera, "public servant," a term that, to me, bespeaks a proper understanding of the role of a career politician. I wish I could describe more individuals holding elected office as "public servants," rather than "politicians."It seems we have reasonable disagreement over the content of the bills she helped get passed and the degree of obstacles she encountered. I do not share your assessment that the Blue Dogs were an impediment--I think they were a welcome source of reasonableness on matters like fiscal pragmatism and reaching out to persons uncomfortable with a change on the extant detente with regard to abortion. (Predictably, for this, many suffered defeat this go round.)I agree that the health care passage is historic and that it represents an improvement over the previous state of affairs, but I do not believe it was the best that could have been accomplished. The same goes for the financial and energy overhauls. I do not think Congressional Dems did a particularly good job of communicating the contents of these bills to the American public and failed to gain the confidence of the country in pursuing their agenda. Like yourself, I never bought the depiction of the Democratic Party as a monolithic juggernaut--to my eyes, it is less a single political party and more a fractious coalition of progressive causes ranging from environmentalists to teacher's unions. It requires incredible aplomb and finesse to herd these proverbial cats on anything, and I think she did an adequate job, but (and here is where perhaps you might label me stingy) I would feel uncomfortable labeling it "terrific."Regardless, I assure you that ours is a substantive disagreement over to what extent her tenure was effective and whether or not her style is best suited to leading Congressional Dems in the next term; it is not because she is a woman. (I simply wish to have it registered that there are people who oppose her continuing as Speaker, but who would not do so on anything approaching a basis of misogyny.)

MB: "I simply wish to have it registered that there are people who oppose her continuing as Speaker, but who would not do so on anything approaching a basis of misogyny." Point taken...The obvious question then: Who do you think should have become the Democratic minority leader in the next Congress? MB: "I do not share your assessment that the Blue Dogs were an impedimentI think they were a welcome source of reasonableness on matters like fiscal pragmatism and reaching out to persons uncomfortable with a change on the extant detente with regard to abortion." This may be a semantic issue: Who is a Blue Dog? The Democratic sweep in 2006 and 2008 obviously brought House members from districts that probably leaned more Republican than Democratic. How much Blue Dogs were focused on their next campaign on how much fiscal pragmatism is a matter of conjecture. Was Bart Stupak a Blue Dog? I admired his strenuous efforts to keep abortion from being funded in the Health Care Bill. I think ultimately he succeeded. Nancy Pelosi, who might not have agreed with him, gave him room to maneuver. Yet the bishops and their allies (I refrain from identifying them as only "pro-life") beat the s..t out of him. I would guess that we may agree about some of this and disagree about some. My view: There is a health-care bill that will not use federal funds for abortion--that is my view. Nancy Pelosi's political skill made that possible.

PF: Sarah Palin loves being attacked. Wasn't she a point guard in HS basket ball. You're comparing apples and oranges.

Margaret,Again, many thanks for your willingness to engage in conversation with us posters! "Who do you think should be the next Democratic minority leader in the next Congress?"I must confess at the outset that I am not intimately familiar with the current membership to feel qualified to offer an adequately informed opinion, but I would suggest that someone outside the existing leadership like NDC leader Joe Crowley would make an interesting pick. It strikes me that someone with his background would make an excellent Congressional companion for the White House given the at-times disunified and discombobulated "collaboration" of this past session, and it would signal to Americans that Democrats had put economic recovery above all other legislative priorities. (It may well be hopelessly quixotic of me to suggest Crowley, but I think he would be a good choice.)"How much Blue Dogs were focused on their next campaign on how much fiscal pragmatism is a matter of conjecture."It seems to me that this is a conflation of two different items: their public policy stance and their underlying motivation. Whatever their reasons, they were were insisting on some degree of fiscal discipline. It matters less to me why an individual advocates a particular policy position than what that position is... if we begin systematically investigating whether politicians are supporting Israel; decrying charter schools; establishing faith-based initiatives; or opposing alternative energies because they are "pandering" (for lack of a better word) to respective constituencies as part of their re-election campaign, we may well find that we do not much like the results of our more assiduous inquiry. I believe Speaker Pelosi yielded to Stupak et al's concerns on abortion funding not out of some underlying desire to achieve a morally appropriate compromise, but out of a sheerly pragmatic desire to wrangle sufficient votes to get the bill to pass. (This is not meant as a criticism; I am merely describing what I observed.) I think the Bishops did an excellent job on this whole debate (Cardinal Mahony's December 2009 op-ed in the NYTimes, "Coverage Without Borders," and Cardinal George's phone call to John Boehner instructing Congressional Repubs to allow the vote on the Stupak rider to leave committee, as reported by Politico, are two particularly heartening examples of ecclesial "interference" in the political process), right up until the last minute, when Bishop Murphy's voice was quashed by Cardinal Rigali's and the USCCB revealed its ugly partisan proclivities. I am every bit as disturbed and disappointed as you that they bent to more "conservative" voices within the conference.I likewise concur that the Bill does not alter the status quo with respect to abortion funding, and I decry the efforts of uncharitable ideologues like Deal Hudson who, in so dramatically un-Christian a manner, have targeted sincere and thoughtful individuals like Carol Keehan. (The Susan B. Anthony's campaign against Kathy Dahlkemper was a particularly odious bit of work.) I served as a researcher for a couple members of President Bush's Council on Bioethics, and oddly enough, I do not recall these same pro-life groups decrying President Bush's Executive Order in 2001 as similarly unacceptable. But I'm sure that had nothing to do with party loyalties. (After all, the NRLC is unqualifiedly above the partisan fray, right?) Thanks for your ongoing insights and for fostering conversation over an important topic!

Nancy Pelosi may be unpopular with many, but those of us who do like her, really, really like her. She's my favorite politician right now.

Michael Bayer's candidate for minority leader: Joe Crowley per Wikipedia. Early life, education and career: Crowley was born in New York City, the son of an Irish-American father and an immigrant Catholic mother from County Armagh, Northern Ireland. A paternal uncle was also a politician. Joseph Crowley attended private New York City Roman Catholic schools, including Power Memorial Academy, and graduated from Queens College with a degree in political science.[1] He worked briefly as a legislative aide.[edit] New York Assembly; In 1986, aged 24, he was elected to the New York Assembly.[edit] U.S. House of Representatives[edit] Committee assignments * Committee on Foreign Affairs o Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia o Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere * Committee on Ways and Means o Subcommittee on Social Security o Subcommittee on Select Revenue MeasuresCrowley serves as a Chief Deputy Whip in the House and is the fifteenth highest ranking New York House Democrat.[when?] He is the Chairman of the New Democrat Coalition, who describe themselves as a "moderate, pro-business group", and a Vice-Chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.[when?]Crowley's cousin, New York City firefighter John Moran, was killed as a result of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Crowley authored a bill that provided the 9/11 Heroes Medal of Valor to all emergency works who died as a result of the terrorist acts. He also created the Urban Area Security Initiative, which directs money to prevent terrorism toward regions that are seen as the most threatened.On October 10, 2002, Crowley was among the 81 House Democrats who voted in favor of authorizing the invasion of Iraq.Crowley joined Bronx Representative Jose Serrano in 2008 when proposing legislation to help clean up PCB-contaminated schools.[2] live in New York City and confess I have never seen a reference to him. Anyone else?

Crowley covers a funky district, I thought it was just the East Bronx, but he also covers parts of Queens. Very ethnic, with great diversity, a big middle class and a lot of homeowners. You don't hear much about him, but he was in the news last week; he wrote a letter to Boehner & McConnell urging Republican lawmakers opposed to government funded health care reform to give up their own govt-funded health coverage.

Thanks Irene...are you in his district?

No, I'm way over on the other side of the Bronx in Riverdale, Engel is my Congressman. Crowley covers Morris Park, and Throggs Neck and those neighborhoods over by the bridge (in Queens he represents Wooodside, which used to be all Irish immigrants), Sunnyside and a couple other neigborhoods.

Also on Crowley, from Who Runs Gov, a venture of the Washington Post:Crowley is Chair of the New Democrat Coalition, a group of 70 moderate, pro-business Democrats from around the country. They support a robust foreign policy that includes trade, as well as a fiscally-responsible government. (Rahm Emmanuel was a member of the NDC while in Congress, and President Obama has expressed to the Coalition that he shares the majority of their views.) Crowley sees trade as central to US economic recovery, and pointed to the bilateral agreement with Peru as an example of how it is possible to respect foreign laborers and protect the environment, in contradistinction to NAFTA, which he has criticized for its lack of labor standards.Crowley authored the 2008 bill banning imports from Burma as a way of using economic leverage to apply political pressure to the Burmese military junta, and he was a leader of the effort to award a Congressional Medal to Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi,Crowley aligned himself with the more moderate Steny Hoyer in the latter's failed bid to become Majority Leader during the previous term, and he currently serves as Chief Deputy Whip under James Clyburn. Observers have speculated that Crowley's climb up the Democratic ladder was stalled due to his conflicts with Pelosi and her supporters.

Crowley sounds like a very decent and honorable "public servant," and perhaps down the line he will have higher office within the Democratic party. Since it's one of my keen interests--U.S. policy toward the Israel-Palestine question--do you know where he stands? Or is that a foolish question?

And this is completely tangential, but is relevant to the NDC: Rahm Emanuel. He seems a mixed blessings for the Democrats. The big losses this midterm are due in part to his recruiting relatively marginal candidates who won in 2006 and 2008. Of course, without some of them Pelosi would never have had the votes. Emanuel's tenure in the WH is getting mixed reviews right now (poor follow up, and bombastic outbursts), and I can't help wondering how much Obama's muddled policy toward Netanyahu got caught up in Emanuel's own complicated relationship to Israel. Good that he left; I hope he calms down in Chicago. But what stamp did he leave on the NDC?

Re: Crowley on Israel-PalestineI don't know anything beyond what's listed by his own House website, indicating that he has voted annually for, and considers himself a strong supporter of, the annual package of military and economic aid to Israel. He also indicates that he wishes for aid packages to Palestine to be tied to transparent audits of where funding is used, and that he supports a two-state system. Not sure of any additional specifics. Re: RahmHe's certainly been a mixed bag. I don't think that the loss of the moderate Dems he helped recruit and who bloated the Democratic contingent in Congress was ineluctable. As incisively lampooned in a satirical Onion Article (link: ), House Dems did an abysmal job of communicating to average Americans precisely how they were benefitting from complicated and impenetrable pieces of legislation like financial reform and the healthcare overhaul. I don't think that voters in these swing districts disagreed with what the Blue Dogs (and other similar candidates) actually did while in office, so much as they disagreed with what the Republican campaign machine quite effectively characterized (i.e. caricatured) as their tenure in office.To clarify, Emmanuel was never a leader in the NDC; simply a member. But I reiterate that electing a leader from a pro-business group that focuses on economic growth, coupled with international trade and sound foreign policy, would send a clear message to the electorate that the Dems understand why the mid-terms went the way they did, and that they intended to address those concerns with all possible haste and vigor.

P.S. Completely unrelated to this thread, but it's being reported that the Pope has announced approval of the use of condoms in the fight against AIDS in Africa. This is truly an incredible development...

Sure enuf! ROME Pope Benedict XVI has said that condom use can be justified in some cases to help stop the spread of AIDS, the first Vatican exception to a long-held policy condemning condom use. The pope made the statement in a series of interviews with a German journalist, part of an extraordinary effort to address some of the harshest criticisms of his turbulent papacy.

"House Dems did an abysmal job of communicating to average Americans precisely how they were benefitting from complicated and impenetrable pieces of legislation like financial reform and the healthcare overhaul."Michael Bayer --This has been the biggest political failure of the Democrats in the last two years. When they should have been taking bows, they were ducking unfair criticisms from the GOP. With the Republicans now having to actually make good on their promises to cut government spending -- which means cutting entitlements --) the public might finally catch on to what GOP control actually entails. So I'm not nearly as pessimistic about 2012 as most folks are.

AO: "With the Republicans now having to actually make good on their promises to cut government spending which means cutting entitlements ) the public might finally catch on to what GOP control actually entails. So Im not nearly as pessimistic about 2012 as most folks are."I don't think they will have to "make good on their promises." The final ballots hadn't even been counted on Election Night, and the victors were already tempering expectations in an extraordinarily shrewd political strategy: remind everyone that the Dems still controlled the White House and that they would be unable to save America from these imprudent Democratic policies until the political overhaul was completed in 2012.I am one of those who is more "pessimistic" than you seem to be, because I recognize (and respect) the GOP for boasting the unquestionable efficiency it does, vis-a-vis talking points and campaign strategy. All Republicans have to do for the next two years is lament the fact that Congressional Dems and President Obama are failing to listen to the needs of the American people, and to assert that the only way to achieve full economic recovery is to complete the two-part involuntary evacuation of Dems that began in 2010. If I were tasked with helping Republicans win the White House and take firm control of both Chambers next go-round, I'd instruct all of my members to introduce preposterous legislation with zero chance of Democratic support, then complain loudly on national television that the Dems have zero interest in working together to fix this economy and that President Obama has conspicuously failed to deliver on his promise of a post-partisan political paradigm. I would obstruct every single major Democratic initiative, all while moaning that Dems hadn't reached across the aisle for Republican input on the respective bill in the first place. The strategy strikes me as both obvious and inevitably effective. I don't see how the current Democratic leadership could successfully counter it.

Michael, I think the Democrats could counter such a strategy by putting START, middle class tax cuts and unemployment benefits extension up for a vote. Democrats still control the Senate; they can legislate, too. Let the Republicans block those and every other reasonable piece of legislation; if nothing gets accomplished, then they'll all be out in 2012.

And... Reid has appointed Schumer chief attack dog. Will that make a difference?

Just want to say that the (vitriolic) attacks on Pelosi were mainly driven by ideology, not sexism (which is used as a canard to defend Palin -see Rove "lack of gravitas" or Barbara Bush (she should stay in Alaska.)And ideology will continue to dominate attempts at shaping perception!

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