Following a few days of speculation that she might step aside as House Minority Leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced on Wednesday that she would instead seek another term. She first delivered the news to a meeting of the Democratic caucus, as reported by Fox News:
“The message is clear from the American people,” she told the caucus meeting while lauding the diversity of the new class of Democratic lawmakers, according to a Democratic leadership aide. “They want us to work together to get things done. And that’s what these folks are here to do. Just like all of you.”
Speculation that she would resign her post because the Democrats failed to retake the House in 2012 always seemed off-base. Pelosi overwhelmingly won re-election against a credible challenger, Rep. Heath Shuler of North Carolina, after the Republican wave in 2010. Nothing happened in 2012 that would make her position less secure; the Democrats gained eight seats in the House, when early projections anticipated they would lose a few. The end result for House Democrats in 2012 may be a bit disappointing, and fall short of Pelosi’s promises, but it’s hardly the kind of outcome that makes a caucus break out pitchforks and torches.
Some have pointed out that Pelosi’s ugly partisanship and tendency to drop easily caricatured sound bites are liabilities for the Democrats going forward, particularly since (as Pelosi herself said to the Democrat caucus) they’re trying to advance a narrative of “working together to get things done.” But the media never paints Pelosi as a stubborn partisan, and Democrats don’t think “bipartisanship” means they make any big concessions at the worst of times, never mind in the triumphant afterglow of big White House and Senate victories.
Because America is all about tribal politics these days, Pelosi held a press conference on Wednesday morning in which she surrounded herself entirely by female Democrat representatives. “If America is going to reach its full fulfillment as a nation, we must have the further empowerment of women,” Pelosi declared, after boasting of such achievements as the Lily Ledbetter Act.
“When women came to the polls last week, they registered their support for those who understand the challenges women face,” Pelosi continued. She said she made the decision to remain as Minority Leader to expand the size of the Democrat women’s caucus in the House, and ensuring that women are treated “fairly” when Democrat policies finally start delivering prosperity and job growth, which should start happening any year now.
Pelosi said that her decision to announce another run for Minority Leader was delayed, not by concerns that failure to retake the House meant she should step aside, but because she was still waiting for some close races to be decided after the election, and the general good news for Democrats at the polls kept her busy. As she observed, the phones ring a lot after a good election, while things are much quieter following a bad one.
No one should grow complacent over time-honored conventional wisdom about the ebb and flow of electoral cycles, but it is generally thought that the opposition party does well in mid-term elections. Stepping aside as Minority Leader might have left Pelosi with a better “legacy” than losing the position after another 2010 Republican wave, if that’s what rolls into the polls come 2014. But remaining as Minority Leader is a good way for Pelosi to signal that she’s confident such a wave will not materialize, and that’s probably worth more to the morale of the Democrat caucus than giving “new leadership” (which would have most likely come from loyal Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who has been in the House since 1981 and is actually older than Pelosi) a turn at the wheel. There will be plenty of time to cultivate a new generation of leadership later. The current generation is clearly in a mood to double down, instead of hedging its bets.