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Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

Democrats should stick with Pelosi and Reid

Question: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week confronted a dilemma faced by many leaders: whether to step aside when things go wrong. What should be the criteria guiding such a decision? Did Pelosi make the right choice? Should she have offered to resign but let her caucus make the decision? What about Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid?

Although the majority of Americans who voted repudiated the Democrats in Congress, viewed through the lens of cultural anthropology, the picture is more complex. Fifty-six percent of young voters (18-29) supported Democrats as did minorities and people living in large cities, while older and rural voters strongly supported Republicans. Viewed another way, states that border the Pacific (California, Oregon, Washington) and the northern Atlantic (Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York) where Democratic senators and governors won seem like different cultures from those of the South and Midwest where Republicans dominated.

As the Democrats lick their wounds and plan their future, it would be a mistake for them to try to regain support from the Independents who put Obama in the White House at the expense of renouncing the policies that gained them support from the Democrat voters. Their constituency now combines people making less than $50,000 who believe they have been helped by Democratic policies with liberal intellectuals and young people who believe that these policies will benefit the country in the future.

The Republican constituency of 2010 combined a majority of people making more than $100,000 with the majority of older voters (those above 60 were 34 percent of voters) and with a middle class that does not believe it has benefited from Democratic policies. From what I hear and read, I conclude that many of these people believe they will suffer because of the Obama policies. This constituency included registered Republicans and a majority of Independents.

Both Obama and Pelosi have been effective leaders for the Democrat constituency. Neither has connected with the Republican constituency. Would other Democrats do better? Should Pelosi be replaced by a Democrat considered more centrist? The danger is that this would alienate the Democrat constituency without either gaining Republican support or responding to the concerns of Independents who supported them in 2008 but abandoned them on November 2.

My advice to the Democrats is to stick with their leadership; but for Obama, Pelosi and Reid to turn their attention to the needs and fears of those voters who once put their hopes in them.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  November 8, 2010; 5:51 PM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Congressional leadership , Crisis leadership , Government leadership , Leadership personalities , Leadership weaknesses , Political leadership , Politics , Women in Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: 'How sweet it is to wear the crown' | Next: There is no dilemma


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The Democrats have nothing to gain by getting rid of Pelosi. They don't have to please the Republicans. Sooner of later the American people will realize the Republicans are only there to try to help Big Business and themselves.

Posted by: rash67 | November 14, 2010 12:22 AM
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Custer wasn't a quitter either. Sometimes that is not a worthy trait.

Posted by: robert17 | November 12, 2010 7:26 PM
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Make no mistake about it: Republican leaders are on the warpath, intent on incinerating the Obama Presidency, and if America goes down with it, that's fine with them. This is absolutely a war. They mean to win, no matter how they do it. If they have to lie, they will. They prove it every day.

In a war like this, there are always a handful of people who can be trusted to stand up and fight, no matter what.

Leader Pelosi is one of them. Harry Reid is another. I'm not as sure anymore about President Obama, who seems to be cowering and caving in to those who want to destroy him politically...

Posted by: StevenK3 | November 11, 2010 6:53 PM
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Pelosi has a positive approval of around 8%. Her congress has the lowest approval rating in history. If this is the case nationwide then she is despised by 92% of the population, and rightly so.

Many Democrats are despondent at how far left she has taken the party. In order to be effective in government a party requires the support of Independents and Pelosi has thrown them under the bus along with the "blue dogs".

As for a previous comment that accused "baggers" of using fear and hatred, perhaps your use of an offensive term shows where the fear and hatred lies. Pelosi stoked this fear and hatred with her astroturf comments and the crocodile tears when she announced "I have seen this violence before in the 60s".

Pelosi is a net negative to the USA and a major drag (no pun intended) on the Democrats. She has to go.

Posted by: mckenna7 | November 11, 2010 5:24 PM
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We Democrats lost sight of the prime directive in 2008 - IT'S THE ECONOMY STUPID. We forgot messaging. We forgot main street and maple street. Instead we caved, compromised, and washed the legislation till it was unrecognized and that we ourselves weren't necessarily proud of. We lost how to fight and who we are. Hand it to the baggers, they focused on hate and fear and won. But hate and fear will not govern, only make people run, but not walk upright.

Posted by: mjcc1987 | November 11, 2010 4:48 PM
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What I think many people don't seem to realize is that all elections are decided by turnout. We don't have elections where %100 of people who could vote, actually vote. We live in a country where even those that could vote don't always do so, and therefore it is about turnout.

In order for Democrats to turn the tide so to speak, they need a leader who is effective, and Nancy Pelosi has been just that. The critisms I have seen of her are non substantive, and they seem to be based on perception alone.

Democrats have to stop pandering to independents. Independents don't vote all one way so you should run on your message and try to convince as many people as possible, but pandering to the supposed independents is foolish. Either way, it would be best for the democrats to not hitch their wagon to independents, they should seek to drive their base out to vote. If all of the democrats were to vote in an election and republican and independent turn out remains about the same, the democrats could win their races.

Posted by: whiteha1 | November 11, 2010 4:03 PM
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"Should Pelosi be replaced by a Democrat considered more centrist? The danger is that this would alienate the Democrat constituency"

Umm, really? How many folks do you know that are THAT dedicated to Pelosi? I can name NONE. Ok, now that I know your opinion, I can name ONE.

She's been divisive, she's been partisan, she is the very symbol of what got the Dems tossed on their arses. Her constituents may like her, but the rest of the country (including this uber-liberal) is DONE with her.

Posted by: FredEvil | November 10, 2010 12:38 PM
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It frustrates me as a voter that independents are viewed as throwaways or collateral damage while the hyper-partisan demagogues go about "governing" a shrinking piece of the pie.

Posted by: morattico | November 9, 2010 8:48 PM
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Everyone is trying to focus on the losses in the Congress. What everyone should be looking towards are the base accomplishments, many of which are still being held up in the Senate's arcane rules. If more of what the Congress has already passed, we would have even more progressive ideas enacted into law.

Posted by: jrubin998 | November 9, 2010 3:25 PM
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Is this commentator certifiably insane?

Dems just got hammered and he suggests more of the same. When you get slaughtered, as the Democrats did, you have to look at the reason why. To suggest it was "not our fault" is akin to burying your head in a hole as deep as the Chilean miners faced. Yeah you might get out of it, but what are the odds?

Do Obama, Pelosi, Reid and the Democrats want to be in the same situation as those courageous men? I don't think so, apart from Pelosi, they do not have the cojones to survive.

Posted by: mckenna7 | November 9, 2010 1:37 AM
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