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Nancy Pelosi's problem

pelosilong.jph.JPGIf Democrats get wiped out in this election, it'll be because the base stayed home. And the conventional wisdom on the base's apathy is that they've had to compromise too much, swallow their pride too often. They lost the public option. They shaved more than $100 billion off the stimulus. Further stimulus proposals were much too small. Cap-and-trade is dead.

But none of that, as Jonathan Cohn points out, is Nancy Pelosi's fault. The health-care bill the House passed had a public option. Her chamber also passed a cap-and-trade bill, hundreds of billions of dollars in further stimulus, repeal of Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell, and more. Cohn continues:

There are obviously a lot of people out there who really don’t like Nancy Pelosi and what she stands for. There are also a lot of people who are simply angry -- about the economy, about the way Washington works -- and to them Pelosi is a symbol of the status quo. Fine, fine. You expect these people to vote against her and her party. But, come November, it may be the disillusionment of progressives that keeps House Democrats from holding the majority and forces Pelosi out as Speaker. And that seems more than a little bit ironic.

It's not Pelosi's fault Congress didn't produce more liberal legislation. But she, not Harry Reid or Barack Obama, is the one most likely to lose her job because of that failure.

Photo credit: Melina Mara

By Ezra Klein  | October 14, 2010; 3:00 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
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Comments

This is a good point on Pelosi. And it's clear that many progressives are disillusioned. But do we actually have data that the Democratic-leaning voters that are staying home are predominantly disillusioned progressives? Or is it just that the Democratic coalition of 2010 is filled with voters who typically don't vote in midterms anyways, and as a result, the "enthusiasm gap" appears particularly large? That's not to say that Democratic turnout was always a fait accompli, but I'm just asking whether it could have more to do with long-standing trends than simply policy choices.

Posted by: vvf2 | October 14, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

Actually, it's pretty clear Harry Reid has the best chance of losing his job by not being re-elected.

Posted by: Hopeful9 | October 14, 2010 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Hopeful9 beat me to it. While Nancy will loser her speaker position (and this upsets me so) its Harry Reid who will be unemployed from this.


I'd also argue that you're assuming that its just the base staying home that will cause Dems to lose their majorities in the house. I'd contend that that's up for debate. I'd contend that its also disillusioned independents that in 2006 and 2008 voted AGAINST Bush that are now voting against Democrats. That to me is what's causing the wave but Ezra doesn't get paid to worry about what independents and conservatives think now does he.

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 14, 2010 3:18 PM | Report abuse

Had Miz Nancy been able to implement the entire progressive agenda, the base may have been energized, but they'd be the last Democrats standing. And the wipe out would have been even uglier.

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 14, 2010 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Pelosi moved legislation and got 'stuff' done on the House side which made her a target of the GOP. The reason why Democrats are looking weak going into the mid-terms is because the Senate and to a lesser extent Pres. Obama disappointed their base by not getting 'stuff' done. There's your enthusiasm gap.

Posted by: tuber | October 14, 2010 3:25 PM | Report abuse

The swinging temperment of the American voter amazes me. 2 short years ago the tables were completely turned. Sure the Dems had some bumps along the road, but their accomplishments, while seemingly short-ended or imperfect, must be noted and appreciated. Its an imperfect political system, so accomplishments will always be incremental and weak appearing. I suppose frustrating for the incumbants, but perhaps this is a good thing-particularly if the Republicans regain power. Their zeal will need to be tempered, lest we lose everything to corporate profits.

Posted by: Woodstockct | October 14, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Pelosi is an extremist, too extreme for the majority (non-Progressive members) of her own party. See http://thehill.com/house-polls/thehill-poll-week-2/124177-the-hill-poll-swing-district-voters-more-likely-to-see-dems-as-dominated-by-extremists-

The cited Hill 2010 Midterm Election Poll "found that 44 percent of likely voters say the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, whereas 37 percent say it’s the Republican Party that is more dominated by extremists. [...] More than one in every five Democrats (22 percent) in The Hill’s survey said their party was more dominated than the GOP by extreme views. The equivalent figure among Republicans is 11 percent."

Posted by: rmgregory | October 14, 2010 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid lead the least popular government institution in the United States of America according to the Gallup Poll.

The American people are mad enough for the third election in a row to hold their elected officials accountable at the ballot box. Perhaps those officials will notice that the anger keeps getting worse.

http://www.gallup.com/poll/141512/Congress-Ranks-Last-Confidence-Institutions.aspx

Posted by: NVaSkeptic | October 14, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

"It's not Pelosi's fault Congress didn't produce more liberal legislation. But she, not Harry Reid or Barack Obama, is the one most likely to lose her job because of that failure."

Sure, but this is just a particular expression of the general fact that our system apportions negative political consequences in a manner roughly the inverse of actual responsibility for those consequences.

A Prime Minister Pelosi would have made her own bed, for better or worse. Speaker Pelosi must lie down in the one prepared by the Senate (including the Senate minority) and the White House.

This is, not say the least, an unpromising way of getting good policy outcomes.

Posted by: amileoj | October 14, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

There is factual inaccuracy here. To say that the Pelosi led House passed a health-care bill with a public option misses the point that when push came to shove she accepted the Reconciliation option. If she wanted the public option she never should have accepted the Senate's bill for reconciliation. Leadership! Ha!

Posted by: gomer3 | October 14, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Who is this "base" we're always talking about? I have a good hunch the vast majority of Democratic voters have no idea what cap and trade is and certainly don't follow the vicissitudes of House and Senate reconciliation bills. The progressive voters who do represent a fairly small percentage of the base, and most of those will vote for Democrats in the end. Of those who don't, it may make a difference in a few very tight races. But I think this analysis based on a "progressive base" is fairly overblown. I'd worry far more about those blue-collar voters who were never all that on-board in the first place, and first-time voters who just aren't in the habit of voting in midterms.

Posted by: JJenkins2 | October 14, 2010 4:59 PM | Report abuse

gomer3: Yeah, because Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Joe Lieberman would have flip flopped and supported a public option if Nancy Pelosi would have only dragged things out a few extra months. *rolls eyes*

Posted by: vvf2 | October 14, 2010 5:09 PM | Report abuse

JJenkins2, I suspect you're right. There aren't a ton of people out there who are paying attention enough to know that the stimulus was $100 billion too small who aren't going to vote at all next month. Although I do believe disillusioned progressives in the media and in activism do have a trickle-down effect on enthusiasm among the less informed in the base. But I think that effect is relatively small compared to the points you mentioned.

Posted by: vvf2 | October 14, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

Are ya kidding me? The 'boys club' is still alive and well in DC. If they're gonna blame anybody it's going to be the 'woman' who they think shouldn't be there anyway. C'mon.

Posted by: Mego1 | October 14, 2010 5:21 PM | Report abuse

vvf2: But I think that effect is relatively small compared to the points you mentioned."

Importance of flag bearers or standard bearers?

Posted by: tuber | October 14, 2010 5:27 PM | Report abuse

So glad that Harry will have to bite the bullet...it is a shame that Nancy isn't on the same place. Still blame STUPAK for mess. If he had not caved to the pressure, we might have a more palatable system.

http://www.eclecticramblings.wordpress.com

Posted by: my4653 | October 14, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Too bad for Harry...sorry Nancy is not in the same boat!

www.eclecticramblings.wordpress.com

Posted by: my4653 | October 14, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Cohn misses a HUGE point, as usual (he really just should stop writing about progressives, he knows nothing of them.)

Nancy Pelosi was by far the loudest voice saying over and over that there would be a public option, no matter what. Don't you think that might have contributed to progressives losing motivation? That said, I hope that doesn't happen, because I don't have a problem with how Pelosi played any of it and think she will go down in the history books as the most successful Speaker in history.

Posted by: michaelh81 | October 14, 2010 5:35 PM | Report abuse

vvf2: we didn't need those DINO votes. 50 votes for reconciliation.

Posted by: michaelh81 | October 14, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

That's merely an accident of the 2 year vs 6 year term.

If all 100 senate seats were up Democrats would not win 50 of them.

Posted by: krazen1211 | October 14, 2010 6:51 PM | Report abuse

vvf2: we didn't need those DINO votes. 50 votes for reconciliation.

Posted by: michaelh81 | October 14, 2010 5:38 PM | Report abuse

and then its useless because too many major provisions sunset after 10 years. Sheesh, do we have to relive this AGAIN so soon?

Posted by: visionbrkr | October 14, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Ya think that's why it's called "the peoples' house"?

Posted by: PEHodges | October 15, 2010 1:53 AM | Report abuse

Ya think that's why it's called "the peoples' house"?

Posted by: PEHodges | October 15, 2010 1:54 AM | Report abuse

disallusioned is a fancy word for ashamed.these people who are going to stay home are those that thought they knew more and ahve now realized they have been bamboozled.they are afraid to vote democrat again and not brave enough to admit a big booboo and vvote for a teaparty conservative or as i have alwways voted ,for the best man. as an independent i always vote for the man/woman i feel is the best for ths country i fought for in 3 wara to keep safe from usurpers ,,to no avail but with the outlook for november it may be that these poor disillusioned soul will correct their greivous error of 08.it will help to restore my faith in our system.my logo is REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER VOTE THEM ALL OUT.

Posted by: colbeau85 | October 15, 2010 11:47 AM | Report abuse

disallusioned is a fancy word for ashamed.these people who are going to stay home are those that thought they knew more and ahve now realized they have been bamboozled.they are afraid to vote democrat again and not brave enough to admit a big booboo and vvote for a teaparty conservative or as i have alwways voted ,for the best man. as an independent i always vote for the man/woman i feel is the best for ths country i fought for in 3 wara to keep safe from usurpers ,,to no avail but with the outlook for november it may be that these poor disillusioned soul will correct their greivous error of 08.it will help to restore my faith in our system.my logo is REMEMBER IN NOVEMBER VOTE THEM ALL OUT.

Posted by: colbeau85 | October 15, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

@colbeau85

Independent voters are shortchanging themselves by not voting in primaries. That's where the parties figure out which direction they want to go in. If you actually voted in a primary, then you have a better chance of influencing the direction of your party (more/less progressive, more/less conservative).

As an individual, you are quite powerless. Politics is about coalition-building. "Independent" voters are fooling themselves by not aligning with a specific party.

(Note: you can always vote "for the other guy" in the general election.)

Posted by: nickthap | October 15, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

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