House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced today that in the wake of Republicans taking the House, she’s doing exactly what the octogenarian leadership class in this era of American decline does every time voters invite them to gracefully leave the stage: hold onto power.
The decision by Pelosi to not seek election as leader of the Democratic minority, choosing instead to stay on as a kind of speaker emeritus, means she will be effectively looking over the shoulder of her successor, be that Hakeem Jeffries or another unfortunate soul. She’s Democratic Speaker for Life in all but name. She will be feted by a sycophantic media, which will glorify her and build her up, even as she overshadows the people actually tasked with running Congress. But then, that’s mostly just the media anyway.
An eighty-two-year-old insisting it is too early for her to retire would be insulting if it wasn’t so common. Pelosi was the oldest speaker of the House, serving alongside Joe Biden, the oldest president in American history, and the oldest Senate minority leader in history in Mitch McConnell. Without Chuck Schumer’s intervention, we might have had a ninety-year-old senator in the presidential line of succession. It is a decrepit leadership class out of step with the times and the priorities of the American people.
Witness the ridiculousness of Maxine Waters, eighty-four years young, currently tasked with leadership of the House Financial Services Committee, dodging questions about the collapse of Democratic donor and crypto fraudster Sam Bankman-Fried’s FTX exchange. The woman was born during the Great Depression and now she’s in charge of the oversight of cryptocurrencies? And we wonder how things went wrong?
In her two rounds as speaker, Pelosi gained a reputation as a strong leader capable of wrangling her party to do her bidding. But her legacy is much less than what it could have been, absent the miscalculations of the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency. She passed massive economic stimuli under both Obama and Biden, the bank bailouts under George W. Bush, and of course the misbegotten Obamacare health care bill, which cut short her first speakership. Her second tenure was marked largely by opposition and resistance to Donald Trump, memorable for impeachments and the January 6 Committee.
What has to be the most frustrating failure for Pelosi is that she presided over the downfall of Roe v. Wade. Taxpayer-funded abortion on demand was something she frequently cited as central to her political career, and her position frequently prompted clashes with her fellow Catholics. Addressing a panel on the subject earlier this year in San Francisco, she described efforts to limit abortion as “an assault on women of color and women [in] lower income families [which] is just sinful. It’s sinful.”
The House Democratic coalition, which included multiple pro-life Democrats when she became speaker, is now reduced to just one, Texas’s Henry Cuellar. In part because of this, her efforts to dramatically expand abortion nationwide — framed inaccurately by the media as “codifying Roe” — proved unsuccessful.
Pelosi departs the speakership having lost the most ground on the issue she prioritized above all others. She is a Democratic media star, memorable more for tearing up speeches and Rolling Stone magazine covers with the Squad than advancing meaningful legislation in a time of need. But don’t worry — Nancy will still be hanging around, for as long as she wants.