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Bob Burnett

Bob Burnett

Posted: November 5, 2010 10:15 AM

Desecrating Nancy Pelosi

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Imagine that a "company" faces hard times and the management "fires" one of their three top managers. You'd be surprised if the manager that was removed was the top performer of the three, the highest rated in terms of management criteria. You'd be shocked if that manager was the only woman; you'd suspect sex discrimination. But that's exactly what happened on November 2nd, when voters "fired" Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi was the Speaker of the House of Representatives, second in line to the Presidency; the highest governmental position a woman has ever reached.

Over the past two years, Pelosi has been most effective Democratic leader. Yet she's an unabashed liberal; the most effective progressive voice in Congress.

In the run up to the 2010 mid-term election, Republican specifically targeted Pelosi. They spent an astounding $50 million attacking her. Ran ads ranging from the humorous "attack of the 50-foot Pelosi" to the disgusting ad showing her face at the bottom of a urinal.

Pelosi was the number one Republican target because she did her job so well.

As Speaker of the House, Pelosi had two primary tasks. Hold Democrats together in order to advance the President's agenda, and raise money for her fellow congresspeople. She did a superb job at both.

Particularly in 2009, Pelosi moved the full range of the Obama agenda through the House. She was personally responsible for the fact that the 111th Congress was extraordinarily successful. Far more legislation was passed in the House than was passed in the Senate. (While some of the Senate's failure can be blamed on the damnable Senate closure rule - which requires the consent of 60 Senators to vote on anything - much of it is due to the inability of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to get Democratic Senators in line.) The House passed healthcare reform months before the Senate did. The House passed a "cap and trade" bill and the Senate never did. In fact, 420 bills were passed by the House only to die in the Senate.

Pelosi did a superb job as leader of the House Democrats.

And Pelosi did her job raising money for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. For the campaign cycle, the DCCC outraised its Republican counterpart, the NRCC. The reason why Democrats lost 60 House seats wasn't inadequate DCCC fundraising, it was GOP-affiliated outside groups that spent millions on this election.

All told, Independent political groups spent more than $270 million on the mid-term elections and GOP-affiliated groups raised the overwhelming majority of the funds. Two of these, Karl Rove's Crossroads group and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, spent more than $70 million and $32 million respectively. (The watchdog group PUBLIC CITIZEN reported that 59.9 percent of outside funds came from undisclosed sources.)

In October, independent political groups spent an estimated $50 million to change control of 50 Democratic-held House seats. On November 2nd PUBLIC CITIZEN reported that outside spending benefited the winner in 58 of 74 contests where power changed hands.

Nancy Pelosi did her job as "fundraiser in chief" for House Democrats. But she was undone by a well-coordinated two-year Republican strategy. The NEW YORK TIMES revealed that House Republican leaders began planning their comeback on January 9, 2009. As reported by Congressman Pete Sessions, the head of the NRCC, "Our mission statement was to retire Nancy Pelosi. That was the whole mission statement."

Not only did Republicans begin recruiting compelling candidates and raising money, they began using "guerilla tactics" targeting Democratic congresspeople throughout the US. They began harassing them at public meetings, chasing them with video cameras, and, well before the election, running negative advertisements in their districts. (Republicans collaborated with GOP-affiliated outside groups to fund and direct the Tea Party movement.)

As a result of the coordinated Republican attacks, Nancy Pelosi's favorability ratings plummeted. Two years ago she was at 42 percent favorable, 41 percent unfavorable. In the most recent GALLUP POLL, her ratings were 29 percent favorable and 56 percent unfavorable.

Between the obscene amounts of money and the virulence of the attacks, the results were inevitable: on November 2nd, voters "retired" Speaker Pelosi.

It's a tragedy because it means that the most effective senior Democratic leader won't be a featured player the next two years. It's a tragedy because liberals' most articulate spokesperson will be on the sidelines. And it's a tragedy because witch hunters have driven out the most senior woman in American politics.

Over the last 30 months we've seen the two most senior Democratic women, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, sidelined by sexist Republican attacks. Hopefully American voters will take note of this and recognize that, once again, the GOP is establishing itself as the Party of rich white guys.

Hillary Clinton made a remarkable comeback and it's likely that Nancy Pelosi will do the same. I hope so. These are difficult times and we need a leader like Pelosi guiding Democrats.