Time for Pelosi to call it quits as Democratic figurehead?
After a stinging defeat in the midterm elections, with a loss of some 60 seats to their Republican foes, one might expect Democrats in Congress to be making some major changes to their leadership. But Nancy Pelosi, who became the poster girl for the Democratic party's policies as Speaker of the House, is choosing to remain in power.
In making the decision to remain the face of Democrats in the House, Pelosi confronted a classic leadership question: Is it showing bigger leadership to continue to fight for your beliefs and your accomplishments after a historic loss, or to step aside amid controversy that hurts the greater good and let others take the reins?
There's not an easy answer. But in this case, symbolism wins out. Pelosi has become such an extraordinary lightning rod that she could very well make things even worse for her party than they already are by sticking around.
No doubt Pelosi believes she is doing the right thing. Her own reason for retaining the post, from her Twitter announcement, was that she was "driven by the urgency of creating jobs" and protecting two of her party's big accomplishments--health-care reform and Wall Street reform--along with Social Security and Medicare.
Her supporters point to her effectiveness at passing major legislation, her fundraising skills and her reputation as one of the few Democratic voices who can stand up to Republicans in Congress--who have already shown that their appetite for compromise is slim. Some are even giving her kudos for staying in the fight and not pulling a Sarah Palin and quitting her post.
But no matter how much fight she may have in her or how effective she may be, she is profoundly unpopular. A recent Rasmussen poll found that 60 percent of likely voters have an unfavorable view of her, even higher than Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. During the elections, she was the face of countless negative campaign ads from the Right, and many of her colleagues did their best to distance themselves from her. Not even President Obama is as polarizing as the California Democrat.
For better or for worse, selecting leaders is a very symbolic act. Someone may be an effective fundraiser, or a brilliant manager, or a seasoned negotiator; but if they are the wrong face for the wrong time, they have a much harder time being any of those things. With President Obama talking compromise and greater back-and-forth (he hopes) with the newly empowered Republican party, having Nancy Pelosi as the figurehead of the Democratic Congress sends the message that things are unlikely to change.
November 8, 2010; 10:06 AM ET |
Federal government leadership
Women in leadership
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