Monday, November 8, 2010

Catch of the Day

Greg Sargent, who also gets some very sensible quotes from Norm Ornstein about Nancy Pelosi's prospective strengths as Minority Leader, notices in the wake of today's NYT editorial about her:
One other thing: It turns out this isn't the first time The New York Times has opposed Pelosi for minority leader. Back in 2002 the paper editorialized against her candidacy on the same grounds as today, noting archly that she "isn't a powerhouse on television."
As Sargent goes on to say, none of that stopped the Dems, with Pelosi as Minority Leader, from winning the 2006 elections.  

Overall, I don't think that House Minority Leader is a very important job...what's more at stake here is who would become Speaker if the Democrats have a rapid comeback in the next cycle or so.  Still, there are a couple of obvious things to point out.  First, what really matters in any of these positions is how effective leaders are inside Congress, not on TV.  The GOP just won a huge landslide despite having, as far as I can tell, practically no one among their politicians who could effectively make their case on television.  Surely not John Boehner -- I think he's a good pol, but can you imagine anyone more poorly suited to leading a populist charge than John Boehner?  And surely not Mitch McConnell, either.  Just as neither Harry Reid or, perhaps, Nancy Pelosi was a terrific messenger in 2006, and it didn't matter at all.

Second, I'm not much for shows of backbone, but I do think it would be foolish for Democrats to drop their leaders any time they become controversial.  That's just an invitation for Republicans to choose Democratic leaders, disqualifying anyone who appears effective.  The Times claims that "If Ms. Pelosi had been a more persuasive communicator, she could have batted away the ludicrous caricature of her painted by Republicans across the country as some kind of fur-hatted commissar jamming her diktats down the public’s throat."  But that's simply not true for those who listen to Rush and Beck; it doesn't matter a bit how well Pelosi sells her message, since those people are not listening.  As for the rest of the nation, Pelosi is unpopular to the extent that people are unhappy with a terrible economy and people generally don't like Congress, anyway.  Replace her with someone else, and that person will promptly be demonized, as well.


  1. I won't disagree with your analysis of the importance of the Democratic leader generally, how important will a Minority Leader Pelosi be to critical elite groups within the party? While we've heard a lot about her strength among those that compose the Democrats' left flank, her role in managing 2012 Congressional races seems overlooked. How will a Minority Leader Pelosi do in convincing top-tier candidates to run or in opening checkbooks for both the DCCC and for individual races?

    While Minority Leader Pelosi won't really matter from a national messaging perspective, district attorneys and state representatives--and the local political donor communities they hope to tap--probably feel differently after the TV and direct mail they've recently witnessed.

  2. First link is broken.

    The minority leadership was pretty important back in 2005-2006, when Pelosi managed to block social security privatization in the House. But I can see how it'll be less important this time with a Democratic Senate and White House to do all the blocking.

  3. Thanks, link fixed.

    I really have to read a good account of the SS fight. My sense of what mattered seems to be fairly seriously off kilter with what most people think, and I'm open to the possibility I just didn't follow it closely enough.


    The problem is that whoever succeeds here is apt to be rapidly demonized as well. Unless you believe there's something about her that makes her an especially great target, but I don't really think that's correct.

  4. Jonathan,

    There is no doubt that a Pelosi successor will be demonized, but that seems to be a symptom of an era where Congressional races are more nationalized. If larger partisan swings become part of what we see in the short to medium term, why wouldn't it follow to have shorter shelf lives for party leaders?


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