Pelosi’s Marathon

I like Nancy Pelosi. She’s a smart, hard-working, progressive leader. But she’s getting old, so there have been calls for her to step aside.
That’s why her February 7th, 8 hour 10 minute filibuster is worthy of mention. When it counts, Pelosi still has what it takes.

Next month, Nancy Pelosi will turn 78. She’s been in the House of Representatives since 1987 (representing San Francisco) and the House Democratic leader since 2003. Since 2010, Republicans have focussed their wrath on her and turned her — and Barack Obama — into their hate objects.  Whenever there’s a competitive house race, Republicans routinely paint the Democratic candidate as a “Pelosi liberal,” someone who will “enact the Pelosi agenda.”

For many Republicans, Nancy Pelosi has become the face of the Democratic Party.  On the February 2nd PBS New Hour, conservative columnist David Brooks quipped, “And we get a false view of politics based on what Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi are screaming each other.”  (Liberal columnist Mark Shields came to Pelosi’s defense, “Let me just establish first at the outset there is no moral parity between Nancy Pelosi and Donald Trump.”)

Republicans like to attack Pelosi because she’s a San Francisco liberal — not a bad thing, in my opinion — and because she’s a woman.  (If we ever doubted that misogyny lies at the heart of Republican politics, we only have to study the behavior of Donald Trump — it’s hard to imagine a more sexist U.S. politician.)

Recently some Democrats have turned on Pelosi because of her age.  They’ve suggested that she should step aside in favor of some younger Democrat.  Not suprisingly, all the Dems suggested for Pelosi’s position are white men.

At the moment, Democrats are scrambling around trying to find leadership that can stand up to the Trump news juggernaut.  It’s a daunting task because Trump has the dual advantage of being able to use the White House propaganda machine and — as a reality TV star — being extremely media savvy.  Many have suggested that Nancy Pelosi and the Senate Minority Leader, Chuck Schumer, aren’t the ideal politicians to represent the Dems.  But there’s no unity on which Democrat should represent the Party.  (For their State-of-the-Union response, Democrats actually had five different responses; the official response was by Congressman Joe Kennedy — who did a good job.)

Early 2018 finds the Democratic Party in an unusual condition: the base is highly motivated — at least here in California — and the national leadership seems to be in disarray.  That’s why Pelosi’s marathon was important.

On February 7th, Pelosi spoke in defense of the Dreamers.  The Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/02/07/a-house-filibuster-like-the-one-nancy-pelosi-gave-hasnt-happened-in-more-than-a-century/? ) observed that Pelosi’s filibuster was the longest ever in the House of Representatives — the previous record was 5 hours 15 minutes set in 1909.  “According to our Washington Post team who was watching Pelosi, she barely took time to unwrap a mint several hours in and was not interrupted once.”  The Post also noted that during the entire 8 hours and 10 minutes, Pelosi wore “four-inch heels.”  (So much for the concern that Pelosi no longer has the energy to be an effective Democratic leader.)

All this would be notable, and amusing, if it was not for the fact that Pelosi was defending the Dreamers, the 690,000 young people who are legally adrift since September 5th, when Donald Trump terminated the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.  On January 9th, Trump promised that he would soon sign a “clean” DACA bill.  However, on January 12th, when presented with a bipartisan compromise, Trump reneged on his promise.  Since then the Dreamers status has been precarious.

On January 22nd, when Senate Democrats ended 2018’s first government shutdown, they forged an agreement with Republican Senate leadership that within a couple of weeks there would be a Senate debate on the resolution of the DACA issue.  Unfortunately, House Democrats were unable to get the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, to agree to a similar plan.  At the moment, Ryan has not agreed to let the House debate DACA or immigration in general.  (Many feel this is because if Ryan lets the full house vote on DACA, and immigration, the result is likely to be something that the White House does not agree with.)

On February 7th, Pelosi said she supports the substance of the pending Senate budget agreement — to avert a government shutdown — but wants to extract an an explicit promise from  Paul Ryan that he’ll bring a Dreamer bill to the floor soon.  (According to the New York Times, during her 8 hour 10 minute filibuster, “Pelosi read heart-rending testimonies from Dreamers who had written their representatives about their lives. There was Andrea Seabra, who is serving in the Air Force, and whose father was a member of the Peruvian Air Force. There was Carlos Gonzalez, who once worked as an aide to former Representative Michael M. Honda, Democrat of California. And there was Al Okere, whose father was killed by the Nigerian police after articles he wrote criticizing the Nigerian government appeared in a newspaper.”)

Some Democrats have issues with Nancy Pelosi.  Nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine any other Democrat doing what she did on February 7th.  Pelosi is a leader.  Hopefully she can lead Washington Democrats to a satisfactory resolution of the DACA crisis.