One of the weird takeaways from the Democratic freak-out following Jon Ossoff’s loss in Tuesday’s Georgia special congressional election was that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi must go. The reasoning was that even if Pelosi is good at the legislative and fundraising aspects of her job, Democrats can’t afford to have a liberal woman from San Francisco popping up in Republican campaign ads if they want to retake the House.
Representative Kathleen Rice, one of a handful of Democratic representatives publicly calling for new leadership, told the New York Times that Democrats should drop Pelosi because the right has vilified her —- though their depiction is unjust.
“The Republican playbook for the past four election cycles has been very focused, very clear: It’s been an attack on our leader,” Ms. Rice said. “Is it fair? No. Are the attacks accurate? No. But guess what? They work. They’re winning, and we’re losing.”
On Thursday afternoon Rice hosted a meeting to discuss the possibility of ousting Pelosi with about a dozen like-minded Democrats, including Representatives Filemon Vela, Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan, and Cedric Richmond. Ryan said they did not emerge with “any action items.” At this point a coup seems unlikely, though Vela said, “I think there was consensus within the room that there are other members within the caucus who feel just like we do.” Moulton added, “The takeaway from the meeting is that we want to win again in 2018.”
During her weekly news conference around the same time, a defiant Pelosi challenged the idea that she should go simply because the GOP base doesn’t like her, noting that the right tends to denigrate whatever Democrat happens to be in power.
“Senator Reid was a target, Senator Daschle was a target, Tip O’Neill was a target,” Pelosi said. “I am a target. And they always want to choose our leaders. And usually they go after the most effective leaders, because they want to take us, diminish the opportunity that we have.”
However, Pelosi said she welcomes the questioning of her leadership – while also suggesting that her critics are just seeking media attention. “When it comes to personal ambition and having fun on TV, have your fun,” she said.
Pelosi then offered up a few new soundbites for the next batch of negative GOP ads. “You want me to sing my praises?” she asked. “Well, I’m a master legislator. I am a strategic, politically astute leader. My leadership is recognized by many around the country, and that is why I’m able to attract the support that I do.”
“I think I’m worth the trouble, quite frankly,” she added. “I love the fray.”
After attending the meeting on Pelosi’s future, Representative Richmond, the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, suggested the solution might be changing the narrative surrounding the minority leader, not ousting her. He said defending Pelosi to voters would be an expensive endeavor, but it may be worth it.
“We’ve let people say that Nancy Pelosi is some horrible person for so long without defending her that people started to believe it. And at some point, the right thing to do … is to defend her and her legacy,” he said. “I don’t think anybody’s fighting back. I think we’re just sitting back and taking it. And at some point I don’t think we should sit back and take it.”