Nancy Pelosi: The Power of Experience
The Democrats have won the House back after eight years, with new faces to show up on the Capitol Hill, in January. But can anyone really contest Nancy Pelosi’s dominance in the House, and in the Party?
One representative to rule them all
The role of the Speaker of the House is often discounted in the voters’ minds. It is, in fact, one of the most essential functions in the US government, as the Speaker is the second person in the Presidential Line of Succession. Meaning, that the Speaker of the House is the third most important person in the US.
The role, however, bears a very high level of power over the legislatorial proceedings in the House of Representatives. Even though there are no guidelines in the constitution, over the years a set of tasks and rights has been accumulated under this seat. The speaker, apart from representing the House, has a variety of roles, such as: performing an administrative function, maintaining the decorum, approving commissions, appointing chairs, choosing the order of bills introduced on the floor, controlling the House majority, and more.
This is the role Paul Ryan was performing over the past three years and the reason why he had so much power in the legislative process. Even though he was young for this role, and in comparison to Pelosi, inexperienced, he managed to influence decisions on issues such as the 2017 tax bill. The Democratic Party has high expectations from whoever becomes the Speaker, as that person will be the driving force of the Democratic opposition in Congress, to the Senate and President Trump.
Power from experience
If there is an elite among the Democrats, then Nancy Pelosi is its frontrunner. She has been continuingly serving in the House since 1987, representing three different Congressional Districts in California. When she started the president of the United States was Ronald Reagan, and the Berlin Wall was still standing.
In the 31 years, she has been in Congress, held the positions of Minority Whip (second in command in House Democrats; directing the Democratic Representatives to vote according to the platform) for a year. Later Pelosi became the leader of the House Democrats (2003), who she is to this day. She has grown to be one of the most prominent people in the US, which resulted in her being on both the Forbes and Times list of most influential people.
It is easy to see how much influence Nancy Pelosi has over the members of the Democratic Party, which is why when the Midterm Elections Results came in, she became the new speaker of the house. Do they truly have a chance against the Old Guard? As it turns out, the race had finished before it even started.
David vs Goliath
Two representatives contested the obvious candidate. Representative Marcia Fudge, from Ohio’s 11th Congressional District, is 12 years younger, and 21 years younger in experience. She was the first leader of the new faction among Democrats, contesting Pelosi’s bid for the Speaker’s seat. 16 Democratic Representatives declared that they will not vote for Pelosi and that while admiring her experience and history, there needs to be a change at the top.
The second potential leader willing to take on the Californian was a representative from New York’s 26th Congressional District, Brian Higgins. He is also much less experienced than Pelosi, which supports the Democratic opposition’s platform. The other 14 Representatives usually fit this description, however, in both the case of Fudge and Higgins, they stepped up against Pelosi the most, but lasted the shortest.
In the space of two weeks, both Fudge and Higgins declared their opposition to Pelosi - leading to both meeting with her (separately), and both of them yielding. Nancy Pelosi gave both of them promises that satisfied their need of change. In the case of Fudge, it was protecting voting rights, explicitly black women, while for Higgins it was infrastructure projects and Medicare enrolment age. In every case, both Pelosi and the opposition got what they wanted. But it is the Democratic Leader who comes out stronger.
One may think that through these consensuses Pelosi shows vulnerability, when in fact, it is the complete opposite. She is perfectly aware of the fact that there is no real opposition to hear. With the amount of power she bears, both in Congress and in the Democratic party, there is no real threat. Instead of erasing the competition, she invites them to talk, to work on the issues, and find a common solution. In return, it would let the opposition go back to their constituency as a winner.
While the contender gains praise from the electorate, she is spreading her influence, changing foes into friends. Due to being older than the majority of her colleagues, she needs a stronger hold over them, which cannot be acquired simply from experience and age. She is trading power, and compliance for decisions she usually would have made anyway. It is Pelosi that comes out as the quiet winner. In the end, she will be the one who wins the most.
The cases of the two Representatives may cause some people to think that their reasons for opposition may not have been the same as they advertised them to be. Both yielded after less than two weeks while promising to fight back against the establishment in US politics. Even though they both presumably gained something for their constituencies, in the end, they are the ones who look dishonest. At the same time, Pelosi only gains power and respect. Nancy Pelosi has shown to her opposition that her 31 years on Capitol Hill have a colossal weight.
Image Credit to Gage Skidmore