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Coro Fellows

As part of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs, these fellows are engaged in a full-time, nine-month, graduate-level leadership training program that prepares individuals for public-affairs leadership.

Things fall apart

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?

The following responses come from six of the fellows that make up the Coro San Francisco 2011 class.

A Change looking forward

How can Congress make the best use of the next two years? To answer that question it is important to note that the interests of the Democratic Party should not supersede the interests of our nation. Rather, our next minority leader must further bipartisan decision-making. As such, there is no need to look at whether Speaker Pelosi is the best person for the Democratic Party. The more important question is: who is the best person is for ensuring collaboration with the Republicans? Leaders are marked by their willingness to do what is best for the greater good. In a time where the importance of cooperation could not be more important, my fear is that Ms. Pelosi will further the polarizing effects she has had on Congress. As the Democrats attempt to rebuild, a fresh face will be more conducive to positive results and Speaker Pelosi should weigh her personal desires against the demands of the greater good. --Kimya Saied

Stick with what works

How is it that Democrats could ask Nancy Pelosi, perhaps the most effective leader and lawmaker in recent history, to step down when she is the only steadfast and very public champion for the Left? Her ability to manage the party and get the votes necessary to make law is what separates the Obama presidency from political failure. Additionally, while Democrats faltered across the board and saw district mandates slip or vanish, Pelosi actually made gains.Yes, it is true that she remains a lightening rod; however, Republican politicians who used the past two years of just-say-no politics would be remiss to forget that, with a majority, voters will demand action. Rather than just blocking legislation, they will be expected to make it. Rather than criticizing bill proposals, they will be expected to submit their own for public scrutiny. This is a process that Speaker Pelosi is all too familiar with. Given the opportunity to act as the leader of the opposition, Democrats should relish Speaker Pelosi's hunger to continue the fight. Party leadership should recognize it as an act of "true leadership" that assures that the promise of Democratic renewal that began in 2008 did not die in 2010. --Edit Ruano

Wave-riding elephants

The question's authors, like many Americans (and apparently the Los Angeles Times), falsely assume that the Democratic Party lost seats because, "something went wrong" with our country under Democratic control. Interestingly, we don't remember that the Republican Party was already marketing this message before the current president was even sworn in; and at the end of two years, they will do no better. New Republican legislators will go into Washington with lofty ideas and promises, but will have little lasting impact on the direction of the country. Yes, if something goes very wrong, a leader ought to consider stepping aside; but I don't think this is the question that crossed Speaker Pelosi's mind. If anything, this election was a wake-up call for stronger, more unified leadership for the Democratic Party moving forward, and Speaker Pelosi will fill this role perfectly. --Daniel Cheung

The competitive 'Angle'

Under pressure and time constraints, material lacking oversight slips out. Sharron Angle came under scrutiny for what some regard as racist comments in her statement to Rancho High School Hispanic Student Union as well as an ad released addressing Reid's stance on immigration. Although some may attribute these incidences to the lack of viability of the Tea Party, I would instead attribute it to its youth as a movement. The party's message and stances on issues may be too young to have crystallized to a point where they can capture middle America. That's where competition comes in. If competition can put party leaders in positions where they are vulnerable, then asking Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi to step aside borders on the ridiculous; because ultimately, their resistance to being ousted by their opposition will lead to more effective messaging and stances on issues in both parties that will appeal to the majority of Americans. I say let Angle come back, hone her message, and show America what's she's got. Just don't expect Democrats to get out of the way. --Alexander Tran

Leadership and failure

Leadership requires being able to move an organization though failure. When things go wrong, leaders should ask themselves two critical questions: "What could I have done differently?" And, "Am I the best person for the job?" In answering these questions leaders need to be honest, and should seek outside opinions to mitigate their own biases. The second of these questions is the most critical. Effective leaders refocus their organizations on the future to help them overcome new challenges. The validity of Pelosi's and Reid's choices, if they retain their leadership positions, will be measured by their ability to advance the Democrat's goals over the next two years. --Matthew Podolin

Getting things done

Spending too much time dwelling on past failures can be the downfall of any leader. Reflection is necessary, but only to find ways to improve and accomplish future goals. Nancy Pelosi got things done in her position as Majority Leader, but Democratic seats were lost under her leadership. She pushed forward the policy agenda set by the Democratic Party, but contributed to one of the most partisan Congressional environments in decades. So moving forward she needs to consider how to hold on to Democratic seats and foster bipartisan decision; not waste time regretting past failures and looking for somebody better for the job. --Ikenna Acholonu

By Coro Fellows

 |  November 9, 2010; 4:10 PM ET
Category:  Accomplishing Goals , Congressional leadership , Government leadership , Leadership personalities , Leadership weaknesses , Making mistakes , Political leadership , Politics , Succession , Women in Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Dems need new blood | Next: Pelosi deserves plaudits


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I agree totally with Matthew Podolin. Nancy Pelosi has to consider whether she is the best person to lead the Democrats through their wanderings as the minority in the House. I don't need to be convinced that she did a masterful job as speaker, but if she is perceived as the leader of the Democrats in the House for the next two years, then the Republicans will certainly blame her for any lack of progress on any front, and (rightly or wrongly) run against her in 2012. Perception matters in politics.

Posted by: oboe1 | November 12, 2010 12:38 PM
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I agree with Edit who said that it is important to stick with what works, and as a leader of the Democratic party, Nancy Pelosi should not back down to what will now be the Republican Party's strong agenda setting. I do value bi-partisanship but in a time when our country is so polarized on both sides of the spectrum, we need a leader that will balance the scales if we don't want to take drastic steps backwards.

Posted by: iachol01 | November 12, 2010 2:39 AM
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If this is the standard of leadership (Kimya excepted)coming through in the USA then it is no surprise the country has been unable to recover from a financial crisis. Only one of these "fellows" recognised that it was Pelosi's culture of complete disregard for the other side that caused the anger, not frustration, that decimated her party.

They mostly argue that Pelosi is the best person to fix the mess she created. In no other walk of life do we suggest that the perpetrator of the crime is the best person to fix the ensuing damage. A bad leader is simply that, a bad leader.

Pelosi's arrogance and vitriol (remember astroturf)alienated her from everyone except the extreme left. These things are not easily forgiven and, unless she becomes Mother Teresa overnight, will be remembered well into 2012.

Posted by: mckenna7 | November 11, 2010 4:44 PM
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