Pelosi‘s legacy – with a difference
“Now, the hour has come for a new generation to lead the Democratic Caucus that I so deeply respect. I am grateful that so many are ready to and willing to shoulder this awesome responsibility,” tweeted Nancy Pelosi after seeing that Republicans have been able to finally win a razor thin majority in the House. So, she has eventually vacated the chair of Speaker – not an easy moment for a person whose name had become synonymous with this position for almost two decades.
She will no longer be heading the Democratic caucus, and the new composition of the Democratic caucus has been announced, but she will continue to represent her California district in the lower chamber of Congress. She is perhaps one of the most well-known House Speakers in recent American political history. She is rightly compared with Sam Rayburn for her agility and influence in driving the momentum of Democrats in the working of the Congress.
Unlike most of her predecessors, who preferred to keep a low profile during their tenures and afterwards, Pelosi is an entirely different entity. There is general consensus, even among her detractors that Pelosi redefined the role of House Speaker in a very different context and, being the first woman to acquire the coveted position as third in line to the presidential accession, she has also played a very impactful role in organizing the Democratic leadership.
During her speakership tenure, she was projected by her opponents as the toughest because of her ‘ruthless’ determination to deliver on her party’s top legislative priorities, even at the cost of being subjected to worst kind of trolling by Republicans.
“History will note she is the most consequential Speaker of the House of Representatives in our history. There are countless examples of how she embodies the obligation of elected officials to uphold their oath to God and country to ensure our democracy delivers and remains a beacon to the world,” said President Biden to pay tribute to his closest ally within Democratic elite. She did not hesitate to employ arm twisting of the fellow House members to take a bill over the finish line.
Pelosi played a very crucial role in maintaining a fantastic alignment of Democratic caucus and the disparate factions of Democrats within the House who were perpetually engaged in wranglings over trivial issues. Her real test of nerves was witnessed in her last two years speakership of Biden administration, where despite having a tissue-paper thin majority, she oversaw a plethora of important pieces of Biden’s legislation agenda.
She was perhaps the most influential Democratic leader who was able to maintain a reasonable discipline among the ranks of Democrats.
Obama was also quite generous in his tweet after her retirement announcement: “Speaker Nancy Pelosi will go down as one of most accomplished legislators in American history — breaking barriers, opening doors for others, and working every day to serve the American people. I couldn’t be more grateful for her friendship and leadership.”
Even after leaving the speakership and the House leadership of Democrats, she is expected to remain very active in the internal proceedings of the House as well as remain busy in the international arena to help President Biden. However, some of her close friends are expecting that she may tone down her political activities for some time because her husband Paul Pelosi is still recovering from his surgery and injuries.
Last month, in an unfortunate incidence, Paul Pelosi was attacked at their San Francisco home with a hammer by a fanatic who actually wanted to kidnap Nancy Pelosi and break her kneecaps. This incidence at the twilight of her career has shocked everyone. Some Republicans tried to play it down jokingly with their sarcastic remarks, but the fact is that this small incidence has exposed the growing polarization in American politics. A sense of alarm has grown after the attack on Paul Pelosi and analysts have started talking about looming dangers to democracy in America in the form of introduction of violence.
Some of her critics among Republicans allege that she tried to use the attack on her husband to win the sympathy votes for Democrats during the midterm polls – an allegation sternly denied by Pelosi. In fact, the incidence of attack on Paul Pelosi Indubitably, she has always been a very aggressive Democrat and, though she never participated in the debates on important legislation, but a lot of aggressive legislation was done during her speakership.
Some of the landmark legislations were done during her tenure. The overtly aggressive manner in which she was active to launch impeachment proceedings against former President Donald Trump was enough to incite severe disliking for her among the Republican circles. During her tenure, the House impeached Trump twice, but both times he was acquitted by the Senate. Not surprisingly, over her two decades leading the Democratic caucus, Pelosi has become an obvious target of Republicans’ ire, frequently featuring in election-season attack ads and becoming synonymous with the progressive values that have become an object of derision on the right.
She is leaving behind a legacy that equates and even eclipses some of the former presidents. She transformed the Democratic leadership in a very different way. In her last assignment in the recent midterm polls, she did her best to effectively interject the rising red wave under the leadership of Donald Trump who is vying for the 2024 presidential contest.
Apart from managing the House as Speaker, in the last few months, she was also engaged in serious jet diplomacy in different hotspots to help support President Biden in the international arena. She is certainly a contentious political figure that has affected the internal culture of the House. Her legacy will keep influencing the domestic political fabric of America for a long time. She also had weak moments and committed mistakes, but she has carved herself very effectively as a symbol of extreme commitment towards democratic values and philosophy. She will remain in the headlines in the coming days, for sure.
Dr. Imran Khalid wrote from Karachi, Pakistan.