Op-ed: On round two, Nancy Pelosi loses her grip

After Democrats took the House in 2018’s mid-term elections, some expected that second-time Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) would deftly advance the Democrat agenda. One of those was Pelosi’s daughter, who promised that her mom could “cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding.”

Yet as Commentary editor Noah Rothman notes, things haven’t worked out that way. 

Part of this can be attributed to the outsized influence of “the Squad” — leftist Congressional newcomers Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), and Ilhan Omar (D-MN). The group was good at grabbing headlines, just not the kind Pelosi was looking for.

“The unanticipated celebrity of a triumvirate of progressive House freshman drew the spotlight away from leadership and its priorities and onto embarrassing debacles like the rollout of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez backed ‘Green New Deal,'” Rothman writes.

Losing her grip

“That cornucopia of progressive economic prescriptions dressed up as a climate bill so consumed media coverage of the 116th Congress that Pelosi was compelled to endorse a similar, albeit more realistic, version of the bill,” he goes on.

“But that was just the beginning of what The New York Times soon described as near ‘open warfare’ between Pelosi and her party’s progressive insurgents,” Rothman continued. Next came “a revolt within her caucus over health care legislation” culminating in “an effort by progressives to starve the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee of funds.”

Finally, there’s been the impeachment saga, a politically-fraught endeavor that Pelosi managed to avoid for months. Yet, Rothman noted, the speaker ultimately “yielded to the wrath of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing,” which has been trying to impeach Trump on one issue or another since he took office.

With polls flipping on impeachment, Pelosi is now stuck in a losing situation — either release the articles of impeachment to the Senate, where Trump will be quickly acquitted of the partisan charges, or not forward them at all, a plain admission that there’s no “there” there.

Not what she once was

All of this is a major departure from how the California Democrat performed during her previous speakership.

“When she wielded the gavel from 2007 to 2011, Pelosi had a demonstrated capacity to control her members, compel tough votes, and advance her party’s interests,” Rothman recalls.

“Either that capacity has atrophied or the Democratic caucus has become far more unruly than it once was. Regardless, political observers need to update their assumptions about the speaker’s relative acumen. The firm hand that once laid steady on the Democratic Party’s tiller,” Rothman concludes, “is gone.”

President Donald Trump has already said as much. “The whole [Democratic] party is taken over by the Left,” Trump said at a press conference in September as impeachment fervor heated up. “They’ve been taken over by a radical group of people, and Nancy Pelosi, as far as I’m concerned, unfortunately, she’s no longer the speaker of the House.”

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