The drumbeat of mainstream media excoriating the Democrats for keeping Pelosi shows both the shallowness of 99.9% of people who write about politics professionally, and their babylike petulance when the narrative they are trying to jam down everyone’s throat is resisted.
The psychiatric explanation quoted below is beneath contempt, but since this germ is so widespread, let me take a different, slightly less noxious (but no less wrong-headed) iteration of the narrative, from Time’s Jay Newton-Small, and break it down.
1. “They clearly didn’t get the message. Yesterday, Senate Dems reelected the same leaders and today the House is expected to follow suit. In fact, as I type this post the Democratic caucus is meeting to vote Nancy Pelosi in as minority leader. Nothing says change like electing the same people you just threw out.”
Let’s note the obvious: none of the Democrats in Congress this coming term represent districts that threw out the Democrats. They were sent to represent Democratic values, not those of swing voters in other districts.
As for this “message”: as we well know, 37 million fewer people voted for Congress in 2010 than in 2008. This drop-off accounts entirely for the Democrats’ loss of majority in the House. And among those who turned out, about 47% voted for Democrats for Congress, perhaps a five-point drop from 2008. So this “message” comes from a sliver of a fraction of the public.
Obama’s approval rating is polling at 45%, not a fantastic number, but expectable for someone who has spent political capital achieving major — but controversial — goals, during a slow and rocky recovery from recession.
The voters in 2010 who voted for change got change. It’s called the Republican Caucus.
2. “Can Democrats really ignore the loss of one in five of their seats?”
Obviously not. But should they hold the Speaker responsible? The same Republicans who demonized Pelosi are just as quick to call the past election a referendum on Obama. And they are right, he is the face of the party. Was Speaker Dennis Hastert a significant Republican spokesman under Bush? When the president is of the same party, the speaker’s job is not to be the public face of the party, but to get legislation through.
Nancy Pelosi is a master of getting legislation through. That’s why the Republicans and the moderate mafia in the press (who feel that health care reform “went too far” and that the Democrats should have reined in their goals) are screaming so loud: not because keeping Pelosi would doom the Democrats, but because it’s the only prayer of holding the Democrats together and mounting an effective strategy on behalf of the goals Democratic members were elected to pursue, rather than caving in to the “get the message” drumbeat.
The Democrats’ fate in 2012 will depend on Obama, not Pelosi. He was supposed to be the “fresh face.” Soon we’ll find out how well he can deliver. But his odds are increased by having Nancy Pelosi on hand. All the locker-room bravado about taking the hit and going down with the ship and coaches getting fired after a losing season is coming from people whose real complaint about Pelosi is that she is effective.
Why didn’t the Dems sack Pelosi? One theory: They’re masochistic and delusional
After the House Democrats’ drubbing, keeping Pelosi on is “an act of electoral self-wounding that calls for psychiatric intervention,” says Clive Crook in The Atlantic. If they chose her because they think her ideas are right, that would be somewhat “admirable.” But they seem to think Americans agree with them, and that “calls into question [their] sanity,” and their seriousness about winning back the majority.
Other theories exist, of course. But I kind of like this one.