Saturday, October 04, 2008

Leadership At Five Minutes To Midnight, Nancy Pelosi October 2008 by Anthony McCarthy

Nancy Pelosi deserves a lot more respect than she’s given. People on leftist blogs, particularly the boys, constantly slam her for not delivering what we want, seeming to think, somehow, the Democratic Speaker of the House hasn’t delivered what a sizable portion of Democrats and others want because she doesn’t want to. Well, let’s again review her reality.

She is the farthest left of anyone in the direct line of succession of the presidency in the history of the United States, a remarkable achievement for anyone in 2008. I’ve pointed that out here before. She gained that position at a time when ‘liberal’ is a dirty word in the wider culture. She gained it by dint of her own hard work and intelligence. No one handed it to her out of the clear blue.

She holds that position by the fact that Democrats hold a slim majority in the House of Representatives, a majority won during her leadership. That is something her male predecessor couldn’t seem to achieve. Least anyone forget, Nancy Pelosi is also the only woman who has ever been in direct line of presidential succession, the only one to lead either of the two houses of the legislative branch.

Her majority depends on a number of marginal seats held by conservative Democrats who could easily lose the next election and who are quite aware of that. The full array of Republicans, from the fiscal pirates to the religio-fascist wings of their party will be doing their best to unseat these understandably skittish Democrats. If anyone has forgotten, in the 2006 election the Republicans never lost a chance to remind everyone across the country that Pelosi is from San Francisco. That is Republican code for “fag lover”. Only, since everyone with a brain understands it, it’s not code.

She is also in opposition to a Republican president, the most unscrupulous and dishonest president of our times, part of an administration which has shown it will do anything in order to grab power and use government to both exercise illegitimate power and to attack their opposition. After the past month of the McCain campaign, it’s plain that all Republicans are Rove Republicans now. There is no reason for any Democrat to rely on the present day Supreme Court to not act in a partisan way on behalf of Republicans, twisting the most basic legal fabric past raveling to do it. They have shown themselves quite willing to go so far as install a Republican as a result of a corrupted election in an entirely unprecedented action that in a real Republic would be grounds for their impeachment.

And if that isn’t enough, she knows that the corporate media, essentially all of the American media, is in the pockets of the Republican one-corporate-party-state, Party. She’s got few who will even give an unbiased look at Democrats. Those few are mostly in print, which is of nearly nugatory political effect.

If those weren’t the prevailing conditions, Nancy Pelosi would be able to deliver a lot more of our agenda than is possible today. I sincerely believe she would like to. Yet she is constantly attacked by the left as well as by the Republican right. Her gender is one of the features of those attacks, often just barely concealed, frequently not. With a greater record of failure to deliver, her predecessors, all male, usually suffered less personal abuse. And while we have often discussed the sexism of the blog boys when it is flung against other women, the constant attacks against the woman who has done the hardest job of all and gotten something done, is hardly noticed.

Maybe that’s because she and her supporters have not constantly used the fact that she is a victim of virulent sexism in her defense, never mind as an excuse. Maybe that’s the difference between a woman of real substance and one who allows herself to be a symbolic prop for a man’s faltering presidential campaign.

The speech for which Nancy Pelosi was attacked by the Republicans this week was exactly the one she was supposed to give as the leader of House Democrats. It is her job to rally Democrats to take what she believed was the most responsible AVAILABLE* course of action on that day. She almost certainly knew the vote would be close and it was her job to convince Democrats to her point of view. It was a difficult bill to support. Is it any surprise that Republicans resent the Democratic leader for doing her job? As always, they are only happy when Democrats roll over and play dead. Too bad so many on the blogs aren’t happy with her under any circumstances.

Listening to her, how could anyone not hear her deep anger at being forced to accept the thing. The Republicans have screwed things up so badly, done the most irresponsible and dishonest things with full warning, that she is forced to float a measure she knew was deeply unpopular and which she couldn’t have really liked. I think it was a genuine expression of her fury at having this forced on the country, the Democratic members of the House, the relevant Democratic leaders and herself. And she was certainly aware that the Republicans would be hypocrites intent on some kind of treachery. And, being what they are, the Republicans delivered on that most predictable treachery.

No one in the world honestly believes that a single Republican was going to be swayed by anything she said. As always, they weren’t looking for a reasoned argument, they were looking for political advantage. Have you seen the list of the 12 Republican crybabies yet? Since they must have declared themselves, otherwise how would the Republican leaders know their number, you would think they would come forward and identify themselves. If such a list of duplicitous disciples actually existed.

Well, I’m happy to confess I’m a Nancy Pelosi fan. I’m proud of her and of my party for having her as the leader of The House. I think she’s doing the best job she can, it’s almost certain that the list of obstacles here is only part of what she has to contend with. She deserves more support than she gets.

* Yeah, the bail out stinks to high heaven but not nearly as much as the decades long deregulation and creation of instruments of legalized theft that got us here today. We do seem to forget what life was like under Hastert. The original Paulson plan would have passed intact, with scads of other, horrible items attached. Look at what the Senate did to prevent a filibuster after the antics of the House Republicans earlier in the week.

Republicans would have seen it as an opportunity to liquidate the rest of the treasury and a chance to run up another two trillion in debt. There would have been no cap on executives pay, no equity stake for taxpayers (no less than the new creditors), no talk of mortgage readjustment (which should be done as soon as possible, if it becomes possible). Apparently the collective memory of the blogosphere doesn’t extend as far back as two years ago. The Republicans are the ones who made the mess, Pelosi and the rest of the Democrats working on the rescue were trying to keep things from falling apart in October of this year.

The jocks on the blogs also seem to think Democrats have a free hand to push through their agenda, ignoring all of the points made above. But then, they seemed to think they had that power in the minority, before they had the shaky majority of today

Does anyone forget, Bush is still in office, his appointees are in charge of all of the relevant executive branches, Republicans hold a close minority in both houses and there is an election just coming up. Nancy Pelosi should be seen as a realist who is juggling an enormous number of balls all at once. One of the most important of those is her responsibility to Democrats in the House and at large. It’s her job to try to get a bigger majority in the November election. Given the limits of her present reality, it’s one of her biggest responsibilities.

Sometimes I wonder what the blogs would be like if more people with less leisure time and lower incomes could comment more. It all looks so easy and simple when you’re not the one who actually has to get something done. And you wonder what things would be like if so many weren’t, eternally, children.

Note: The electronic media seems to understand that it is just possible that Democrats might win big this time and get the chance to exercise real power. There seems to be a minor start at covering their contingencies, especially on some of the cabloids.

Don’t buy it. They need to be legally required to serve the public interest and they need to be broken up and their ownership diversified. There has to be a modification of laws so that it is only a free standing media company that should be allowed to use that most limited of publicly owned resources, The Peoples’ time. Any media operation that is a subsidiary of a conglomerate will always serve the interest of their parent company. That corruption of the fourth estate has to be ended if anything like self-government is to survive. Freedom of the press to misinform and distort for the owners profit runs a distant second to the right of The People to cast an informed vote. The press is as dependent on that as The People are dependent on accurate information. We can’t continue to pretend this isn’t a basic fact of life.

They’ve fully earned our distrust for the past forty years, there is no reason for Democrats or others interested in democracy to allow them any leeway.