Just ask Nancy Pelosi.
An Animal House, all-is-well quality colored Nancy Pelosi’s Thursday press-conference postmortem of her party’s Tuesday defeat in Georgia.
“We reduced by 20 points what the advantage had been in that district for the Republicans,” the minority leader, imagining Democrats playing horseshoes or hand grenades, declared. “This is good news for us.”
If losing a race Nate Silver gave you a 70 percent chance to win comes as “good news,” does repeatedly losing winnable special elections amount to really, really good news? Remarkably, for Nancy Pelosi, yes.
By juxtaposing the relatively narrow margins of defeat in four 2017 special elections with earlier blowouts in those Kansas, Montana, South Carolina, and Georgia districts, Pelosi triumphally announced that the winnowing gap “adds up to over 71 points.” Pelosi claimed that “if you’re a Republican this is not good news for you.”
Sure, and the South emerged from the Civil War victorious because it registered more kills than the North and the king won the Glorious Revolution because he fared better than he did in the English Civil War. To borrow one of the favorite quotations from one of Pelosi’s least favorite late Democratic colleagues, “Beam me up, Scotty!”
A fine line separates turning lemons into lemonade and relabeling vats of urine “lemonade.” Pelosi, in an effort to mute grumbling over her poor leadership, crosses that line.
Her caucus does not uniformly imbibe her off-putting elixir.
“We need leadership change,” Kathleen Rice, a representative from New York, declared on CNN. “It’s time for Nancy Pelosi to go, and the entire leadership team.”
Fellow Democrat Tim Ryan, an Ohioan who challenged Pelosi for minority leader last year, offered the blunt diagnosis that “the problem is us, it’s the party.”
Republicans, unsurprisingly, agree. But they hear Huey Lewis singing “Yes, it’s true, I’m happy to be stuck with you” whenever they see his fellow San Franciscan.
“Endorsements of a candidate rarely help,” John Pudner, a veteran campaign consultant who now serves as executive director of Take Back Our Republic, tells The American Spectator. “But pointing out an opponent’s endorsements can really help a campaign.”
And Pudner, who launched Dave Brat’s successful insurgency against Eric Cantor, knows something about ousting unpopular untouchables from their privileged perches.
“The one-two punch that really kills Democrats is when it’s Pelosi plus Hollywood,” Pudner points out. “And Hollywood weighed-in heavily in Georgia. It’s this California combination.”
Pelosi, at 77, represents the wrong side of a generation gap. More importantly, the San Francisco pol strikes as the face of the party’s geography gap.
San Francisco is as middle America as Alpharetta is a metropolis. Startled visitors witness a live-action Night of the Living Dead starring hammer-wielding homeless people, a locale as devoid of children as any Ayn Rand novel, nice Victorian homes boasting the ugliest prices of any major market, and a sad anti-Happy Meal ordinance, store clerks charging customers a dime for a bag, store clerks charging for a dime bag, and permitted parades permitting nudity.
Its problems and plenty strike most Americans as alien. A politician marinated in that unique milieu can’t help but represent it and represent something quite foreign to people living elsewhere.
Democrats once understood that parochial figures did not belong in national offices. In the 100 years prior to Nancy Pelosi ascending in 2007 to the speakership, Democrats from Missouri, Illinois, Tennessee, Alabama, Texas, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, and Washington held the gavel. That diverse array of states helped Democrats hold House majorities for 70 percent of the time. In Pelosi’s 17 years in holding House leadership posts, Democrats sat in the speaker’s chair for just four years. Empowering a representative in the safest district made it unsafe for representatives in other districts.
While Pelosi misunderstands America, she knows politics. Her father and brother made their marks as mayors of Baltimore, and her well-liked brother-in-law, Ron Pelosi, whose nephew Gavin Newsom serves as lieutenant governor of California, won a seat on the San Francisco board of supervisors in the sixties and seventies. Her spot in the Congress, won via a special election victory now so elusive to her party, owes less to her own family than to the Burton family, a sort of Bay Area Borgia Brothers, who effectively legated her a seat in the House when Phil’s widow Sala passed away.
The minority leader won’t go down without a fight. And because she ranks as an effective and experienced fighter, she probably won’t face a fight. More likely, she endures a talk, orchestrated by party elders, of whom the Democratic Party overflows, noting the need for young blood for the good of the cause, which, they may need explain, remains liberalism and not Nancy Pelosi.
Democrats desperately need a fresh face as leader. Nancy Pelosi getting another facelift is not what they have in mind.
Photo credit: Lauri Shaull, Flickr, Creative Commons