Pelosi would bring Democrats back to left

    Lately, congresswoman Nancy Pelosi has been no stranger to criticism from conservatives on Capitol Hill. They say that she’s too liberal and that she won’t be able to do her job because of it. They say that she’s too far to the left — too far from the moderate mainstay that has become the norm of the Democratic Party. Conservatives and moderates across the board are lining up with accusations of the dangers of her polarizing ability. But all of that is a misinterpretation of what could be the best thing to come out of a dismal midterm election for the Democratic Party.

    When Dick Gephardt (D-Mo.) told fellow Democrats on Nov. 7 that he would step down as the party’s House leader, it put Pelosi on the brink of becoming the first woman to serve as party leader in Congress. She’s already the highest-ranking woman in the history of U.S. Congress, serving as the minority whip. She’s gained respect by winning every consecutive election for California’s eighth congressional district since she was first elected in 1987. She’s already earned a reputation for running a collegial whip operation, recruiting Democrats from across the spectrum to sway rank-and-file lawmakers and round up votes on behalf of the party.

    And she’s the favorite to win.

    It isn’t just gender that makes Pelosi an exciting candidate. It isn’t just history that will be made if she wins this election — it’s also the chance to shatter a stalemate of overly politicized persuasions that have kept the party deadlocked and incapable of action. Pelosi is about as liberal as a Democrat can be these days, and she has the political background to support her stances.

    Pelosi appeals to a variety of people across demographic categories. Being the first woman to serve as a congressional intermediary between the president and the Capitol has won over handfuls of women voters. She’s an Italian-American with five children and five grandchildren. Pelosi’s allies point to her ability to work across partisan lines, notably in her role as the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. She’s led a charmed political life. She was hand-picked to run for Congress by the dying Rep. Sala Burton, whose seat Pelosi won in a special election in 1987, and she hasn’t lost an election since.

    In addition to representing San Francisco for the past 15 years (which is all the reason most conservatives need for labeling her an inexcusable leftist), Pelosi has cast votes against the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq and in support of domestic initiatives, such as needle exchange programs for intravenous drug users aimed at stopping the spread of HIV and AIDS.

    This is exactly what the Democrats need. If there’s one thing that the Democratic Party has been able to prove during the recent midterm election, it’s that it lacks leadership. It’s a party that’s stratified by different levels of liberalism, divided among itself regarding the best method of getting anything constructive done in a time when something really needs to be achieved as far as the leftist agenda goes.

    The criticisms regarding Pelosi being too far to the left are really her greatest assets as a leader capable of unifying the liberal side of Capitol Hill back into what it should have been all along: liberal. Pelosi may bring her party back to the left, to snap them out of the mind-numbing bickering that has kept the Democrats from using the political power that they lost in this past midterm election. They had every chance to criticize and complain, every chance to mobilize against a president who struggles to form complete sentences. Instead, they deliberated and debated without achieving a damn thing.

    That isn’t to say that a full-on political war would have been merited (think back to when Newt Gingrich shut down Washington for a week or so in 1995 and the melee that ensued), but the Democratic Party proved completely ineffective in capitalizing on one opportunity after another to voice some real concern over the Bush administration’s latest political shenanigans.

    Some say that nothing important happens when elections are approaching — except maybe retaining control of the Senate. The reason that Democrats lost the only branch of office that was liberal was a lack of leadership. Certainly a president with disturbingly high approval ratings doesn’t help — but neither does a lack of cohesiveness in one’s own party.

    Pelosi isn’t likely to be a cure-all for partisan politics. To some extent, the conservatives are right — it might be politically smarter to have someone lead the Democrats who’s a little more moderate, a little more capable of lending him- or herself to either side of the political see-saw, and a little more lenient when if comes to playing both sides of the partisan struggle. But the same steadfast adherence to a liberal platform that has conservatives smirking at the likelihood of alienating moderates could be just what the Democrats need in order to form a politically active unit.

    Even if Pelosi is ultimately unable to reach out to the right, she just might be able to reach out to the left. She just might be able to gather enough liberals together and create a solid political agenda. She just might be the best thing that happened to the Democratic Party in a long, long time.

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