Who is the premiere national politician of the post-Reagan era? For me, there is only one candidate. I’m talking about the Mother of Dragons, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, the leader of the House Democratic Caucus, the gentlewoman from California, U.S. Rep. Nancy Patricia Pelosi.
I think of Pelosi as Crazy Horse, war leader of the Lakota Nation, who was a brilliant strategist, an extraordinary leader and a lethal adversary. But don’t take my word about Crazy Horse, ask the ghost of Colonel George Custer and the 7th Cavalry.
First elected to Congress in 1987, Pelosi served on the Appropriations and Intelligence Committees. By 2001 she was the minority whip, and in 2002 she became the House minority leader, the first woman to be the legislative leader of a major party in United States history. She made history again in 2007 by being the first woman elected as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and then again in 2019 by becoming the only second person to be elected speaker twice (the legendary Democratic Speaker Sam Rayburn being the other).
I would argue that becoming speaker of the House is more difficult and requires more skill than becoming president of the United States. In fact, any fool who can make a speech and raise a few million dollars can get elected president.
Like the great speakers before her, she has governed from the speaker’s podium. Her most historic accomplishment was the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Presidents propose, but the Congress disposes. President Barak Obama authored the Affordable Care Act but it was Nancy Pelosi, along with her pugnacious partner U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who passed it. No Speaker Pelosi, no ObamaCare.
During her second tenure as the minority leader she outlasted two Republican speakers, forcing both into early retirement by taking strategic advantage of the insane machinations of House Republicans. Since regaining Democratic control of the House, she has stopped most forward legislative movement of Trump and the neo-fascist Republican agenda. She has facilitated the emergence of younger, more progressive, more diverse Democratic faces and voices (despite undeserved slams to the contrary) while preserving the role of veteran Democratic leadership.
This historic success is a function of a rare combination of political skill and a natural talent for politics. She is the daughter and sister of Baltimore mayors from back in the day, as well as a politically active mother. You could say she was born into the game.
I offer this assessment because of the political moment we find ourselves in and her role in the unfolding drama. The reality is the United States in 2019, where we’re locked in a cage in a political death match with only one winner permitted. This is not a moment for Rodney King (“why can’t we all just get along?”). Democrats, you’ve got to come big or go home. Fortunately for Democrats, Nancy Pelosi is the real leader of the Democratic Party until November 2020.
To date she has managed the impeachment fever brilliantly by making it a controlled burn, letting the progressive wing of her caucus vent rage while protecting her vulnerable moderates. Because of that she now has a Democratic caucus united in the position that impeaching Trump is not only the right thing to do, it’s politically the most strategic thing to do.
I predict she will spend the next several months building public case that will effectively indict Trump for his obvious unfitness for office. The second-string politicians who are the House Republicans will be reduced to dogs chasing their tails in defending America’s mad King George. Then she will deliver a unanimous Democratic vote to impeach Trump – and may even pull in a few Republican rats leaving the sinking ship.
Senate Democrats will put Trump on trial while 22 Republican senators up for re-election have to defend the indefensible. This will give Democratic presidential candidates the opportunity to run high-road campaigns while Congressional Democrats kneecap Trump. By August the Republican Party will be in disarray.
In this critical political moment, the Democratic war effort is led by the best politician of this generation. There is no Republican answer to Pelosi. With the right Democratic ticket – which means you can’t pick a white male establishment standard bearer – November 2020 can be the battle of the Little Big Horn, with Trump as Custer and the rest of the Republican Party as the 7th Cavalry.