Nancy, I think her name was? A year ago, typical press coverage on Speaker Pelosi pondered whether she was the most powerful woman in American history. This morning's Washington Post had the latest in a series of articles pondering Nancy Pelosi's diminished role and future as House minority leader:
Pelosi can no longer get things done in the House — or stop them. She and her diminished caucus have been rendered all but irrelevant as President Obama and congressional Republicans accelerate the fight over spending, taxes and debt.
Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), a close confidant of Pelosi’s, acknowledged the tensions between the White House and House Democrats. “Not great. Not great,” Miller said. “Listen, this is a rough-and-tumble world, but I think their relationship with the caucus has not been good.”
Indeed, Politico reported in April that the White House didn't want Pelosi involved at all in talks over the possible government shutdown, so supposedly ill-suited is she to compromise. The point is hammered home in the Times today, where she is directly contrasted with Boehner and her predecessor, Dennis Hastert, for her
"top-down," rather than "bottom-up" management style. Even her push to get Anthony Weiner out of office was, in the end, interpreted as a sign of her diminished power ("It took weeks," notes the Washington Post; "Republicans note that in contrast to the situation with Representative Weiner, Mr. Lee, who sent a shirtless photo to a woman via the Internet, was gone within hours of the incident," wrote the Times. And while once Pelosi profiles marveled at her ability to power through the day on chocolate and chutzpah, the telling details now seem a little undermining, a woman running behind the curve ever so slightly, and maybe out of time: She just got a new iPad, but her "favorite use for it is viewing pictures of her grandchildren," the Washington Post says.
And yet, Pelosi is still beloved by the left, and reviled by the right — which means that even if she's pushed to the side in an era of compromise, she's a fund-raising draw for the base on either side. (Washington Post: "The then-speaker had a starring role in 72 of the 112 campaign ads the GOP produced last year ... Her name remains an applause line — and not in a good way — in Republican campaign speeches.") Pelosi, it seems, is more useful as myth than anything at the moment, and in some ways, she herself seems willing to embrace a symbolic role. Pelosi says she stayed as leader not just because she wanted to make sure her legislative legacy stayed intact, but also because "it’s important to me that women young in politics — they’re coming out of the kitchen as I did — are not deterred because of sexism or chauvinism [or the idea that] you can say or do anything about a woman and people will believe it.” So, speaking of believing narratives: Should we accept the narrative that Nancy Pelosi is headed for pasture? After all, some of this is all out of her hands — unlike the Senate, the House doesn't have the filibuster option, and so the party out of power really is out of power. If the Democrats retake the House in November, and Pelosi remains "diminished" — or gets pushed out for another speaker — maybe then there will be a new story to write.