Pelosi Will Be the Next Speaker, But Both Parties Should Be Concerned About What that Means
Lost amidst yesterday being one of the very worst news days of the Trump presidency (and that is saying something!) was that the reality that Nancy Pelosi is going to be the next Speaker of the House quietly began to set in.
Despite not currently having the 218 votes she ultimately needs, barring a “black swan” event, Pelosi is the only politically viable choice the Democrats have. While there are currently more Democrats who have pledged not to vote for her than she can technically afford to lose, since there is no other legitimate option, and because she has strong support from the right people, she will eventually get the nod.
What is more interesting is that, despite the raging, and largely fake, debate over whether Pelosi will eventually find a way to get to 218, there has been comically little consideration of the fallout that will ensue once she does. Specifically, both political parties face significant possible downsides with Pelosi back in her old job.
During the campaign, I argued that Pelosi, due to her extreme unpopularity, was a drag on Democratic hopes to regain the majority in the House. After “leading” (hiding?) her party to about a 39 seat gain in the House, her poll numbers are still, even among Democrats, exceptionally weak.
But Pelosi is extremely good at party politics and she has correctly calculated that you can’t beat something, no matter how flawed, with nothing. This is especially true when everyone with any real stature is terrified of taking on the Queen and losing their power if their coup attempt fails.
So, in the end, Pelosi will find the last few votes that she needs to win the day. She will be forcing her party to pay in the long run, however, a fairly steep price to restore her to power.
The Democrats’ decision on Pelosi reminds me a lot of those old Fram oil filter commercials with the tagline, “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” By avoiding the short-term mess that would be required to finally remove Pelosi from her throne, the party is assuring itself some (maybe a lot) of political pain in the long-run.
Pelosi has already been labeled and destroyed throughout much of the nation as a classic San Francisco loony liberal who is old, rich, and out of touch. Having her as a ready-made boogie monster to blame for everything is a blessing for Republicans in Congress, and possibly President Donald Trump as well.
In this highly fragmented media era, it is exceedingly difficult, time consuming, and expensive for Republicans to destroy a new Democratic political personality nationally. With Pelosi, their work is already done for them, and by forcing several Democrats who promised not to support her for Speaker to break their pledge, she is going to make the Republicans job in 2020 much easier than it would be if there had been a fresh face at the helm of the new Democratic majority.
Trump’s fans are so confident in the political prowess of their infallible leader (please don’t tell them he just got whipped in the midterms!) that they are sure he wants Pelosi to be the next Speaker for these very reasons. This is why when Trump promoted Pelosi for the position multiple times (an act of blasphemy from which no other Republican could have possibly recovered), they just laughed it off as yet another example of their genius outwitting his liberal opponents in a game of three-dimensional chess.
However, recalling former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s epic backstabbing of the California Republican Party (a betrayal as devastating as it was predictable), there is a another, very different narrative which seems at least as likely here. What if Trump desires Pelosi to be Speaker simply because he really wants her as the person who may decide whether he gets impeached, and thinks she may be willing to make pro-liberal deals with him so that he can avoid that fate?
Since Trump cares almost nothing about policy or principle, and is instead deeply invested in what is good for him personally, such a sellout to Pelosi would be very much in keeping with his modus operandi. But what is not known to many people (even my good friend, Democratic Rep. John Yarmuth from Louisville, was surprised when I recently alerted him to it) is the extent to which Trump has always admired, or at least supported, Pelosi.
In 2006, Trump gave $20,000 to her efforts to regain the majority, which was just one of the 174 times Trump gave money to Democrats since 1990, totaling $370,600. In 2007, when that was successful and she was voted the first female Speaker, Trump sent her a copy of The New York Times announcing that achievement and personally signed it, “Nancy, you are the GREATEST!”
If so many of them weren’t brainwashed “Cult 45” members, this revelation would scare Republicans more than seeing a series of poor people of color suddenly move into their neighborhood. For instance, Trump could easily decide to exchange a single-payer healthcare system (a proposal he backed early in the 2016 campaign) for Pelosi going easy on him regarding the various investigations that are sure to ensue with Democrats in control of the House.
Of course, Trump could be thinking that Pelosi as Speaker is a no lose proposition for him because, if she isn’t willing to sellout a good portion of her caucus which wants Trump nailed to the wall, then he can simply fallback to using her as a political punching bag again. This is just one of the many benefits he reaps from living in a world where your past statements have absolutely no meaning.
John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
[Photo via Getty Images]
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.