Under the rubric, “The more things change, the more they remain the same,” California Democrat Nancy Pelosi appears to be only a stone’s throw away from retaining the august post of Speaker of the House – again. Despite numerous political blunders, including – but not limited to – SalonGate, a dramatic ripping up of the president’s State of the Union speech, and the likely loss of a dozen or more Democratic House seats, Nancy is the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes. Such as it is, she is headed for re-election as the woman to wield the gavel when the 117th Congress convenes in January.
Remarkably, no one stepped up to challenge Pelosi for the speakership, save one brave soul, Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), who valiantly tried to talk some sense into her colleagues. That effort will likely mean she will be banished from holding any position of significance in the House. With such minor opposition, Pelosi will probably sail into a fourth term as speaker. Still, politicos warn that this time around the California Democrat has little room to maneuver.
A Trifecta of Trouble Ahead
First, there is the issue of keeping the rabble in line. To move things through the House, Pelosi will need a simple majority of like-minded representatives. But the numbers are getting tight in the House. According to the most recent election results from the Associated Press, it was 232 to 197 in favor of the Democrats before November 3, but that number has dwindled to 220 to 204. Races for the 11 remaining seats have yet to be called, but Republicans lead in several of them. With 218 the magic number needed for a majority in the House, the margin has become razor-thin. The last time the Democrats dealt with a blue line this narrow was during the 78th Congress of 1943. This means that just a few defections among Democratic ranks could cause turmoil for Pelosi.
Minnesota Congressman Tom Emmer (R-MN) spelled out the challenges Pelosi faces. He told the Wall Street Journal, “When you have such a slim majority, and you do have vulnerable members that somehow made it through this cycle and will be at the front of the line as targets for the next cycle, you’re going to have to work with Republicans.” Working with the GOP has never been a strength for Pelosi.
Trouble Ahead Part Two revolves around the ideological split in the Democratic Party between progressives and mainstreamers. The progressive flank is already grumbling. A tweet from Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) exemplifies this disconnect and comes with an increasingly shrill tone. “My residents walked by blighted homes, closed schools and breathed in polluted air, to vote for President-elect @JoeBiden & VP-elect @KamalaHarris,” Tlaib tweeted. “They don’t deserve to be silenced. We must honor our communities that showed up.”
Progressives have never been Pelosi fans, and that is unlikely to change even if there were to be a party switch in the presidency. As speaker, Pelosi is better at ruling with an iron fist than playing nice, though thus far, she has managed to keep the wolves within her party at bay.
The third and final obstacle that the speaker will have to overcome is the speed of the House election cycle. Running for office every other year can be challenging if your base has not been pleased with the party’s performance. Should Joe Biden ferret his way through multiple election challenges and become president, history demonstrates a loss in the president’s party is almost unavoidable in the midterms. So, the pressure will be on Pelosi to deliver the goods and fast – otherwise, just a few losses in 2022 will see the lady who is large and in charge kicked to the curb.
Should this happen, nothing would please conservatives more than watching the unsinkable Nancy go down with the ship – except, perhaps, a Trump win now or in 2024.
Read more from Leesa K. Donner.