Will Pelosi’s Leadership Bid Help the Dems?

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced via Twitter that she will be running for Democratic minority leader of the next Congress. The move stunned many in Washington who had expected her to step down from the party leadership after Tuesday’s massive Democratic wipeout in the House. Traditionally, congressional leaders have bowed out after losing the majority in either chamber of Congress, prompting widespread speculation that one of Pelosi’s more moderate colleagues would take her place. But Pelosi’s liberal supporters have lobbied for her to stay on, and her candidacy effectively quashes any real competition for the post. Current majority leader Steny Hoyer says he will not challenge her. And though Blue Dog Heath Shuler has launched a quixotic bid to challenge Pelosi, the junior member is not seen as a threat, particularly as progressives now dominate the Democratic caucus. So the path for her new leadership bid is clear.

But will the return of Pelosi help the Democrats? Detractors argue that the Speaker helped embolden the tea party right and accelerate the GOP’s return to power, concluding that she’ll continue to be a liability for a deflated Democratic Party. Pelosi is certainly one of the most despised politicians in America today, in terms of favorability ratings: as the face of Obama’s Democratic Congress, her image was plastered all over anti-Democratic ads throughout the midterms. She was arguably the single biggest reason that health care reform passed the House, bringing it back from the dead after other Democratic leaders had all but written off its passage following Scott Brown’s upset win in January. Pelosi also forced members to take votes on measures like cap-and-trade that had a dim chance of passing the Senate before the midterms. Since the GOP used the Democratic agenda to scare voters into supporting them, the argument goes, the party needs a fresh start.

But for essentially the same reasons, Pelosi’s return could help revitalize the Democrats by giving the party’s disillusioned liberal base a reason to get excited again. “Speaker Pelosi’s decision to run for leader is the first bold move we’ve seen from Democrats since the election,” Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of Progressive Change Campaign Committee, wrote in a statement. Liberal activists argue that Democrats did themselves no favors by running away from the major accomplishments that Pelosi and other party leaders had shepherded through Congress. Even Blue Dog members who voted against major Democratic legislation and tried to keep the axis of Pelosi-Reid-Obama lost their seats, leaving only a tiny handful of conservative Democrats left in the House. In the absence of a strong message that sold the Democrats’ accomplishments to the public, the Republicans succeeded in demonizing the opposition.

In the aftermath of this year’s rout, Democrats will need to redefine themselves if they want to revive the party. And with Pelosi poised to be at the helm, the House’s Democratic minority will assuredly try to push the party to embrace, not shun, its liberal identity.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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