Nancy Pelosi: The real master of the ‘Art of the Deal’
Can we finally retire the narratives against Nancy Pelosi?
You remember the ones — they come up every election season. They’re false, they’re unfair, and after Pelosi stood her ground against Donald Trump, they should be put to bed once and for all.
She can’t be effective. Excuse me, but who led the fight for the Affordable Care Act, the type of health care legislation that Democrats had tried to enact for over 50 years? There were endless hearings about health care throughout 2009, and the original legislation kept getting pared down. When Democrats lost a Massachusetts Senate seat in January 2009, losing a cloture-proof majority, some Democrats were ready to throw in the towel. Even Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to President Obama, wanted to focus on a piecemeal approach.
It was Pelosi who insisted: “We don’t say a state that already has health care should determine whether the rest of the country should. We will get the job done. I’m very confident. I’ve always been confident.” And it passed.
She represents “San Francisco values.” Every election season, Republicans are likely to run ads about and show photos of Pelosi in local House races, telling voters that voting for a Democrat will put the evil Nancy Pelosi back in power. The GOP really revved it up this time. Of course, Republican operatives hoped that voters would think that “San Francisco values” would translate to evil, tax-and-spend liberalism.
Pelosi raised money and worked for Democratic candidates all around the country. And the Democrats flipped 40 seats. Sounds like those values are working fine.
She’s too old. This comes up every election, driven more by the media than anyone actually running. The Atlantic suggested that having a speaker as old as Pelosi (she’s 78) was the reason that that young, talented Democrats were fleeing the House. Um, hello? Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat who voted for Pelosi for speaker, is now the youngest House member in history.
Too many Democrats buy into that narrative, and the media, thinking it must be a major story, dutifully asked just about every candidate if they would support Pelosi for speaker. Several said no and ended up voting for her anyway. After three weeks back on the job, she successfully stood up to Trump as no other politician — Republican or Democrat — has had the guts to do. A story on Vox pointed out that Pelosi handed Trump “the most humiliating loss of his presidency.”
Trump found his wall, and her name is Nancy Pelosi.
As a woman who will be signing up for Medicare myself before too long, I always roll my eyes at the ageism attack. Women of a certain age know more than anyone else about the bias against middle-age and older women — try applying for a job if you’re over 55. But we’re the ones who get the job done.
As author Sady Doyle wrote in Medium:
Nancy Pelosi is old. Her Republican opponents have been spreading the word on that for ages: Donald Trump Jr. called her “tired old Nancy Pelosi” in a campaign ad. Sarah Palin and Lindsay Graham joked about her getting face lifts. Former House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy called her the face of “the old, old past” on Fox News. Beneath the competent, lifelong politician, these critics warn us, there’s a 78-year-old grandma with wrinkled skin — do you really want that making decisions about your health care? …
Pelosi herself has answered the critique many times over: “Oh, you’ve always asked that question, except to Mitch McConnell… It’s quite offensive, but you don’t realize that, I guess,” she told a reporter in 2012. Pelosi claimed that she has always worked to elect younger representatives to Congress and was particularly interested in electing young women: “I wanted women to be here in greater numbers at an earlier age so that their seniority would start to account much sooner.”
But, then, that’s the problem: “Women” and “seniority” are not supposed to occur in the same sentence. The act of building a life over time, of working one’s way up to leadership or securing a position as a respected elder, is denied to us. Age, experience, and authority are intrinsically connected for men; we’ve all grown up with images of sage, white-bearded elder statesmen. We still live in a society where men are supposed to age into power and women are supposed to age out of sight. …
Our drive to remove old women from positions of visibility and power is also a drive to obliterate female solidarity and deny the feminist movement any lasting legacy. We don’t want to just edge those women out of their positions; we want to deny that their work ever mattered in the first place. After losing the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton was not just told to shut up and go away every time she appeared in public; she was erased from the history books in one Texas school district. …
It does no good to support a young leader like Ocasio-Cortez now if we intend to drop her the second she gets her first gray hair. … Movements cannot progress if they cannot remember where they started, and when feminist movements eat their elders, we condemn ourselves to be forever running in circles. Nancy Pelosi is old. Every young woman will be old someday, God willing. We can only hope that by the time we get there, being old is no longer a reason to throw us away.
Thank goodness that enough people remembered that lesson to value the experience of leadership. And some are learning it all over again.